Need a little holiday shopping inspiration?
Check out Dance Informa’s Christmas Must Haves guide full of great gift ideas for the dancers and dance teachers in your life.
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Merry Christmas readers!
Posted on 03 December 2012.
Need a little holiday shopping inspiration?
Check out Dance Informa’s Christmas Must Haves guide full of great gift ideas for the dancers and dance teachers in your life.
Click on the image below and get shopping!
Merry Christmas readers!
Posted on 02 August 2012.
By Deborah Searle.
Bloch Star and Royal Ballet Principal Sarah Lamb is an inspiration to all. The Royal Ballet is world renowned and the opportunity to see the company perform is a treat, let alone dance in its ranks. After growing up in Boston and becoming a Principal dancer for the Boston Ballet, Sarah moved to London in 2004 to join the Royal Ballet, being promoted to Principal just two years later.
On being a Principal ballerina Sarah says, “The best part of my job is that I love what I do. I dance in many ballets, for many different choreographers and in many different styles. I love working and rehearsing, and in the end I perform onstage in the leading role. It is the most wonderful position.”
Being a Principal dancer is a dream come true for the talented artist, however it’s not an easy job. “I can rehearse up to seven ballets a day!” she explains. “A typical day will start with class at 10:30 and I will get in early to stretch and do some exercises. Rehearsals start at 12. If I am lucky I will do my major ballets first at the beginning of the day when I am fresh. So I have an hour and a half for Swan lake or Sleeping Beauty, then another ballet, and then maybe a break if I am lucky! I have had days without breaks. Those are very, very hard and exhausting, but they happen sometimes. Rehearsals finish at 6:30 unless there is a performance and then they finish at 5:30 and the performance is at 7:30.”
With such a busy and strenuous schedule it can be hard for Sarah to find spare time, but when she does she likes to read and go to the beach. “I don’t have as much time as I would like. I used to draw a lot, but haven’t for a while as I am always sewing shoes if I have some free time,” she shares. With a flair for drawing, would Sarah have become an illustrator or designer if her career in ballet hadn’t taken off? “I would like to imagine I could be a lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, or ACLU, or the Innocence Project,” she says, which seems so far removed from dance or drawing, but is another interest of hers.
With so many varied interests, what inspired Sarah to become a dancer? “I must just love to move”, she explains. “Whenever I hear music I have an innate need to react to it.” With a natural sense of movement, Sarah was sure to be successful, but natural talent can only take you so far in the ballet world. “I am where I am because I have worked very hard. I believe that this is why I am a principal dancer.” Although she looks like absolute perfection to us as she graces many gorgeous advertising campaigns as a face for Bloch dancewear, Sarah confesses, “I am not naturally physically perfect for ballet (no one is), so I have had to work to achieve what I am today.”
But surely she must have a secret to her success? “I would say contemplation and self-awareness have helped me enormously. You are the only person who can really improve yourself. If you can realize this, constructively critique yourself and analyze your movement and your technique then you can improve all the time.” But self-evaluation isn’t the only thing that will bring you success, she explains. “It is not something that you can achieve just by trying. A lot has to do with the timing, if there is a position available, and if the director sees something in you he/she likes. I cannot say there is one thing or a few things that can guarantee success. Ballet is very difficult, and in order to join a major company a dancer must really think hard about what he/she wants. Focus, dedication, determination and intelligence make you much more likely to realize your aspirations.”
So has Sarah achieved her career aspirations? “It is very hard [to pick one career highlight],” she says. “Perhaps my debut as Manon last May (2011) with Rupert Pennefather – that was a very special performance for us and it was incredible.” But after having danced so many ballets and roles there are still some works Sarah would love to perform. “I would love to dance ‘Tatiana’ in Onegin, Giselle, and Chris Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux. I would also love to have a ballet created on me”, she shared. “But above all I just want to continue enjoying what I do.”
For more information about Sarah Lamb and some exquisite photos visit www.blochworld.com/all-stars/sarah-lamb
Photos of Sarah Lamb courtesy of Bloch.
Posted on 25 July 2012.
By Dolce Fisher.
Sydney Opera House
July 22 2012
What another successful year for the McDonald’s Ballet Scholarship, held by Sydney Eisteddfod! Once again an array of young talent graced the Opera House stage competing for individual and jazz troupe honours.
If you are not familiar with the amazing opportunities that are associated with the scholarship the overall Ballet Scholarship winner receives a prize of $18,000 and the runner up takes home a prize of $12,000. Both dancers also receive a photographic portfolio sponsored by WinkiPoP Media, Bloch Vouchers and the amazing opportunity to take class and view rehearsals with many of the world’s leading companies. These prizes help propel the young talent into exciting careers in dance.
After judges Rani Luther and Colin Peasley viewed 144 entrants and went through a tedious process of elimination, they chose just six finalists that continued into the final classes and then performed at the Sydney Opera House where the Australian Ballet’s David McAllister joined the judging panel.
This year’s outright winner was the gorgeous Kelsey Stokes. Currently based in Queensland, she is a student of Prudence Bowen Atelier. Originally from New Zealand, her whole family showed their support for Kelsey’s dreams by relocating to Australia just so she could study under Miss Bowen’s guidance. This move definitely paid off! Kelsey performed her classical solo, Giselle’s Variation Act 1, with a gentle innocence and an enormous amount of control and her contemporary solo showed her versatility.
Runner up, Aaron Kok, hailing from McDonald College’s Australian International Ballet Academy in Sydney, was well deserving of second place. He showed the most maturity of the male finalists. In his variation, ‘Prince Desire’ from Act 3 of Sleeping Beauty, he showed much elevation. His contemporary solo was also strong with wonderful expression that made him a stand out amongst his male counterparts.
As the evening is somewhat of a gala performance, the packed Concert Hall also enjoyed the Open Age Jazz Finals and a series of guest performances selected from this year’s dance eisteddfods.
The Jazz Finals made for a tough competition with every group packing the stage with dancers in tight unison. There were a couple of more creative performances from Paws and Ev & Bow, but unfortunately creativity didn’t seem to be what the judges were after this year. All the place getters were what you’d usually expect from a large group competition performance: kicks, leaps, turns and way too much acrobatics.
First place was awarded to Brent Street Group B for their piece Control and Village Performing Arts Group A came in second. Their tight, fast choreography was packed with great moments and was very entertaining. Third place was awarded to the Newcastle’s National College of Dance.
The guest performances were packed with young talent. The Dance Spot gave a delightful ballet performance to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade. Winners of the Open Age Lyrical Group dance division, Dance Junction, gave us a taste of our Anzac history with Only 19 and North Shore Prep School made everyone giggle with their hip hop number. From the student performances, the highlight was Dubbo Ballet Studio’s open contemporary group dance inspired and set to music from the movie, Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It was full of fun and laughs and was very entertaining. The choreography came across as though it was quite simple, yet it actually had much detail.
Former scholarship winner Stephanie Hancox, now dancer with the Bavarian State Ballet, performed an excerpt from The Taming of the Shrew with partner Matej Urban. Both performed their character roles wonderfully and it was well received by the audience. With the evening somewhat of a gala it may have been nice to see a piece of repertoire that had a bit more bravado.
The Scholarship’s experience and exposure definitely helped propel Stephanie Hancox into her dream as a dancer and Australia should be proud to be exporting dancers of such a high standard. We hope that this year’s winners and finalists will be just as successful.
Top photo: 2012 Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Ballet Scholarships finalists. Back row: Kenji Wilkie (Alegria Studios, NSW), Brydee Lyttle (Christine Walsh, VIC), Charlotte Price (Sonja Shepherd,WA), Laura Atencio (Tanya Pearson, NSW), Aaron Kok (McDonald College, NSW). Front row: Kelsey Stokes (Prudence Bowen, QLD), Liam Morris (Christine Walsh, VIC) and Robyn Begg (Beth James, WA)
Posted on 20 April 2011.
Pointe shoe tips from the industry’s leading dancewear specialists.
By Rebecca Martin
The time has finally come. Your ballet teacher has said that you can go up en pointe and you need to buy your first pair of pointe shoes. So what now?
Talk to your teacher
The first thing you need to do is have a discussion with your teacher about what they want you to buy. Some teachers and schools are very specific about brands, models, ribbon sewing, ribbon type, toe pads, colour, shape, … it can be overwhelming if you don’t get a little guidance from your teacher!
Prepare your feet
Pointe work is hard, occasionally it might be uncomfortable, and it can be costly if you don’t take care of your shoes. So it is important that you start looking after your feet now and are prepared prior to your fitting. Trim your toe nails in a straight line. Speak to a physiotherapist or podiatrist to ensure that your feet and legs are ready for pointe work as they may be able to give you extra exercises to strengthen your muscles. If your bones haven’t formed significantly, you may end up with injuries. Do lots of rises and pick up a Thera-Band from your local dance shop to increase the strength of your feet and lower legs. All dancers should learn that pointe shoes are meant to provide support, but that strength in the feet must be developed from the beginning if proper technique is to be achieved.
Call ahead before your fitting and schedule plenty of time
Some dancewear stores will require a fitting appointment, so make sure to call ahead. Pointe shoe fittings, especially first ones, can take quite a bit of time, so don’t pop into a dance shop after school on your way to ballet class. This will be a disaster for many reasons:
- You won’t be dressed properly. The pointe shoe fitter will need you to do pliés, tendus, rises, and relevés, and you need freedom of movement without the restriction of a school uniform. Avoid overly baggy clothing as the fitter will want to look at the student’s placement through the body. Any long pants will need to be rolled up as the fitter will also need to look at the student’s ankles.
- Your feet will be hot and a little swollen after a day in socks/stockings and school shoes. To get the most accurate fit, it is preferable that you arrive for your fitting earlier in the day to avoid this.
- After school time is the busiest for dance stores, so you may have to wait to be fitted and there may simply not be enough time for a proper fitting.
- There may not be a qualified pointe shoe fitter available when you arrive.
Pointe shoes should always be fitted in the store the same way they are going to be worn in class or performance and the fitting should always be conducted on a solid floor. Carpet will cushion any ‘feeling of the floor’, and rolling off the platform cannot be easily noticed. As a result what felt comfortable in the store on carpet may not be comfortable in class on a wooden floor.
Once you arrive at your local dance store, you may find yourself overwhelmed with choice. For this reason, it is important to ensure you are being serviced by someone who has a good knowledge of what’s required in pointe work and understands the products well. Most renowned stores have highly trained staff available at all times so choose a store that has experienced pointe shoe fitters by asking about their experience when calling ahead.
Establish what kind of toe pads, if any, you will be wearing as this can affect the fitting. While every foot and every need is different, padding should be kept to a minimum in order to ensure you can feel your feet in the shoes. Many pointe fitting specialists recommend lambswool as it adequately protects toe joints, is breathable and can be washed and re-used. Capezio also suggests Bunheads’ Ouch Pouch Junior. If blisters are a major problem Energetiks suggests the Energetiks Pro Pointe Pouch. There are quite a few brands of gel products on the market that you can try.
First fitting tips
All the industry professionals we spoke to recommend gentle stretching of the feet and ankles in preparation for trying on pointe shoes. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself! You may want to try on a variety of brands and styles to find out which shoe feels the most comfortable and looks the best until you find something that works for you. All brands of pointe shoes are different, and some will suit certain feet better than others. Sansha, Bloch, Energetiks and Capezio all agree that usually a softer shoe is best for your first pair. Your pointe shoe fitter will be able to advise what models are suitable for beginners.
Bear in mind that pointe shoes should be firm but NOT tight as your toes must sit flat in shoes and not be scrunched or curled. However growing room is not an option as this will increase the likelihood of blisters, injury, and falling off pointe. Pointe shoes WILL stretch over time, so a firmer fitting is best. There’s nothing worse than a sloppy pair of pointe shoes that make you look like you aren’t stretching your feet!
Ribbons and Elastics
Once you are happy with a pair of shoes, ask the fitter how to sew the ribbons and elastic on if you are unsure, and don’t forget to buy some ribbon as pointe shoes require a thicker type than your ballet flats.
Show your teacher
No matter how much you are dying to put your new shoes on the minute you get home or to the ballet studio, DON’T. Show them to your teacher and make sure he or she is happy with the style and fit. Most stores will allow you to return the shoes and exchange them if the teacher is unhappy with the fit but only if they haven’t been worn and are brand new. Pointe shoes aren’t cheap, so don’t risk it by dancing around in the shoes before your teacher has seen them.
Once your teacher has approved your purchase, your ribbons have been sewn on and you’re ready for your first class, refrain from manipulating the shoes with your hands. Your teacher will show you how to soften the shank and toe box if necessary, but in most cases you will be taught to wear in the shoes by doing rises and other exercises at the barre.
Pointe Shoe Care
After each class, take your toe pads out of your pointe shoes as the sweat will soften the shoes and decrease their lifespan. Hang the shoes on your bedroom door handle and let them air out between each wear. To restore the shape of the toe box, gently stuff this area with absorbent paper for a short period of time and place the shoes in a dry, warm and well ventilated area, remembering to change the absorbent paper frequently. This will prevent moisture remaining in the box of the shoe which can lead to the premature softening of the paste and the shoe drying out in a distorted manner.
Blisters are common, so if you get one use a band aid or better still Spenco Second Skin blister kit to protect the raw skin. Over time your feet will toughen and blisters will be less of a problem. To help toughen the skin to prevent a blister you can bathe your feet in warm water with either Epsom salts or methlayted spirts added. You can also try Bloch Foot Essentials to help take care of your feet.
Keep your toenails short.
If blisters, corns, bruised toe nails or general foot pain persist, consult your pointe shoe fitter, teacher or health professional.
Continue using your Thera-Band and keep up the rises as strength is essential to good pointe work.
Be kind to your feet and your shoes.
Make sure to visit your nearest Sansha, Bloch, Capezio or Energetiks store for all your dancewear needs, or ask for these brands at your local dance shop.
Posted on 02 December 2010.
By Nicole Saleh.
To all the tap dancers who’ve wanted the rhythmic precision and brilliant feet of Jason Samuels Smith, you’re now one step closer!
In a highly innovative collaboration, the Australian brand Bloch, who are experts in technical dance footwear, have partnered with Jason Samuels Smith, one of the world’s greatest tap dancers, to create a professional tap shoe to meet the needs of today’s tap dancer.
It’s taken over four years to perfect, countless hours of research and testing to develop the Jason Samuels Smith Professional Tap Shoe SO313. This beautifully crafted tap shoe is not only comfortable and stylish, it also produces an amazing sound like a well tuned instrument… but don’t take my word for it. You can now try it out for yourself!
On his recent trip to Australia, Jason officially launched the SO313 at Bloch’s flagship store in Sydney. I caught up with him during his whirlwind visit to learn more about this uniquely crafted tap shoe.
As a Tap Dancer, how important is it to have good tap shoes?
The tap shoe is your instrument and it’s an extension of your foot, so it’s very important that it’s made well and has a decent sound that you prefer. It needs to be comfortable enough to wear for a long period of time and stylish enough to be presentable on stage. Tap dancers deserve a good shoe to accompany the art form. Tap dancing is too amazing not to have an instrument that can deliver.
How did your relationship start with Bloch?
Some Bloch representatives approached me four or five years ago at a national tap dance event. They had been keeping track of me and were very aware of my career, and were interested in developing a professional tap dance shoe. I knew I wanted to create a shoe but I didn’t know how I was going to do it, so when Bloch approached me it was perfect timing. They were really open to the idea of allowing me to have full creative say over the design of the shoe, and were willing to make whatever changes I asked.
How involved were you with the design of the tap shoes?
I was completely involved. In the beginning Bloch sent me a model of their top professional tap shoe that looked more like a steel-toe boot than a dress shoe. I gave them a shoe that I liked in a classic Hollywood 30’s or 40’s style and once they had the core design we kept altering it.
I had seen a clip of Coles (Honey Coles) and Atkins (Cholly Atkins) tap dancing and they’re wearing shoes that have a straight cut across the toe and the toe is in a different colour to the back of the shoe. I always liked how this looked and so we have done two versions of the stitching for our shoe. One has the hard cut that goes across the toe – that’s the ladies version. The other one cuts across and has a sharper cut that goes to the back. So there is slightly different stitching on the shoes, which gives more options in terms of customisation.
So you have a female version and a male version of the shoe?
Right now we have a basic design for a male and a female shoe, where the sole, the leather and interior are all the same. The female shoe has slightly different stitching but it’s not necessarily gender restrictive. I know guys that have bought the female shoe because it’s a narrower cut of the male shoe. My foot is naturally wide and Bloch designed the shoe based on my foot, so the male shoe that comes out of the box is wide.
What was the most important thing for you working on this project?
The main thing was to create a professional high quality tap shoe as a complete package which to me means a shoe that is a total entity and lasts the distance. We worked on the durability of the shoe and the style, and it was also important that the shoes have their own distinctive sound.
The shoe also needs to be comfortable. If you’re teaching three or four classes a day, your feet are just throbbing by the end of the day. Bloch really attacked this, even before I approached it. Their shoes are some of the most comfortable dance shoes in the world, so I was really happy about that.
Sound is an important aspect of tap. What process did you undergo to ensure the shoes produced an exceptional quality sound?
At the beginning of the whole process Bloch did a focus group. They called in a bunch of tap dancers: Derrick Grant, Michelle Dorrance, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Chloe Arnold, Dianne Walker, and myself. They had taps from the past and the present and we tested the sound independent of the shoe, and also on the shoe, and every dancer would say which tone they preferred. I was really feeling confident with the shoe and we were at the end of the process when Bloch wanted me to try these new bigger taps that covered the entire surface of your toe to the ball of your foot. The sound was really unique and the tone produced by the bigger tap was so rich, deep and base heavy that I loved it immediately! The sound I can produce with the taps is actually my favourite part of the shoe.
Are the shoes designed only for professional dancers? What are some of its unique features?
It’s a comfortable shoe that any level tap dancer can use. If you’re buying a tap shoe it should come as a tap shoe with taps on it already. With our shoe it’s ready to use straight out of the box, and it doesn’t have a long break in time. It also comes with optional pieces of rubber for the sole of the shoe. I don’t particularly like the rubber because it limits your ability to slide, so we have given this as an option.
The shoe comes with a build up (additional half soles on the toe and heel), which changes the tone giving it a deeper base and helps to balance the bottom of the sole. The build up also gives a richer sound and more versatility, so if you want to use the top edge of the toe, you have more surface area to create that sound or to do a toe stand.
My mission was to develop an instrument that can withstand the force that we use to create our sound. When we’re tap dancing we’re destroying our shoes and tearing them to shreds. My goal was to create a long lasting shoe. We’ve really tried to reinforce the stitching over and over again so people will get the most life out of it. It won’t obviously last forever but I believe in business, if you do the job right the first time, people are going to come back the second time. I also think the shoe will make a lot of tap dancers happy because it’s made for tap dancers by a tap dancer.
What is your hope for the Jason Samuels Smith Professional Tap Shoe?
One of my dreams for the shoe is for every tap dancer on the planet to try them once, and hopefully they will like them and continue to support them. Personally I want to continue to make the shoe better like we have done over the last four years. I want people to give me feedback because it’s not about what I want, but about what we (the tap community) want.
To get your pair of Jason Samuels Smith’s Tap Shoes SO313, contact your nearest Bloch retailer by visiting www.blochworld.com
Jason Samuels Smith’s tips on buying Tap Shoes
1. What are you are trying to accomplish in your tap shoes?
Are you buying them to perform, teach, practice, or because they look nice?
If you’re a teacher and you teach sixteen classes a week you need something that is comfortable and immediately feels good. You should never have pain when you start wearing a pair of shoes and you don’t want to have to break them in. If you can feel your toe at the tip of the shoe and it’s uncomfortable, then it doesn’t fit and you need another size. It’s got to be comfortable!
2. It has to produce a sound you like, so you need to test it out on a wood surface to get a feel for the sound.
3. It needs to look good. But it doesn’t matter how it looks, if it doesn’t sound or feel great.
Top photo by Michael Higgins