Question from Tara (name has been changed)
I hope all is well with you. I had a couple of questions! I am 23 years old and am looking to get into dance. Obviously not professionally, but more recreationally. I would like to achieve a dancer’s body. I do have probably 40-50 pounds to lose, maybe more, but thought dance might be a good way to start losing weight. I am looking to take ballet. What would you suggest I do? What should I concentrate on? Any tips for someone semi-new to dancing? Specifically ballet? I was thinking of maybe taking yoga too. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I really admire you and your passion for ballet. Any tips you may have, I would really appreciate. Thanks for taking the time to read this message!
I’ll try to be a s helpful as I can. I think that ballet is definitely a good idea, recreationally or otherwise. I don’t think though, that in a beginner class you’ll be able to have the kind of intensity required to achieve significant weight-loss. Improved posture, muscle-tone, confidence, for sure, but for the goal of 50 pounds you’ll have to combine it with something. That something in my book has to be an adjustment in diet and a high intensity workout regime. I think that if you eliminate most foods that are obviously bad for you (i.e soda, candy, pastries) and do something like a hip-hop or zumba class, maybe kickboxing or ‘insanity’ you’ll be sure to achieve significant results fairly quickly. Running is also a good plan. Either way, you have to be challenged. If you sail through the workouts, it means they are not getting you closer to the afore-mentioned goal.
Let me know if you have any further questions and if I can be of any help :)
Questions from Amanda Vallow
1. Have you always wanted to be a dancer?
Vio's answer:I guess so. I wanted to be a ballerina pretty much ever since I can remember myself.
2. What do you like better teaching ballet or going out on stage and performing it?
Vio's answer: It is impossible to compare because the rewards the two offer are fundamentally different.
3. Do you have rituals before a show?
Vio' answer: Not rituals really, but there are some routine things you must do before a show. Getting your hair, makeup and pointe shoes ready. Any costume fixes, and of course, warm up.
4. When performing you burn a lot of calories; what is your diet like before a show and during rehearsals?
Vio's answer: I personally do not have a special diet, I just try to be healthy. Fruits, veggies, and yoghurt are staples because they are not heavy. The schedule gets very hectic around shows and I always end up eating a lot of bananas because they’re easy. After a season is over I can’t look at them for at least a month. But I know some people who eat pork days before a show for the sole purpose of getting the body ready. It comes down to the individual, the role and how many shows they have.
5. Where was your favorite place to travel to and perform at?
Vio's answer: Probably the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Also The National Opera in Sofia, Bulgaria. And every once in a while some small, unknown place where the audience is underserved. It really reminds you how bringing art to someone can be the most uplifting experience.
6. What advice would you give an up and coming performer?
Vio's answer: Stay true to yourself.
7. What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Vio's answer: There have been few highlights, in fact every milestone is of significance to me. I’ve gotten a lot of what I want, so I’m grateful! I’ve been able to try a lot of things and they say variety is the spice of life. In the grand scheme of things I have a career that is unusual, it has taken turns and kept me on my toes, not letting me get complacent, kept me challenged.
8. Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
Vio's answer: Where every dancer wants to see themselves – dancing happily the roles they want.
9. What is the age when many dancers have to “retire”? What do you think you would do after that happens?
Vio's answer: There isn’t a set age for dancers to retire. Some people have done it before hitting 30 for personal reasons. There are ballerinas in their forties who dance not a day over 35, if not better, so it’s about the person and the company they’re dancing with.
I already love teaching, so I plan to continue with that after I stop dancing (hopefully not before the age of 45).
10. Has there ever been a choreographer or director that was difficult to work with? If so, how did you overcome the challenge?
Vio's answer:Of course there are choreographers and directors that are difficult to work with. You just do you best to understand what they want, perform to their and your own satisfaction and find common ground.
11. Is there a particular type of music or artist that you like to listen to when you’re practicing?
Vio's answer: I like almost any kind of music, but we dance mostly to classical music. Of the top of my head right now I can think of Tchaikovsky, Minkus and Verdi. They move me. Literally and figuratively speaking.
12. Do you have anyone or anything that inspires you?
Vio's answer:A lot of things inspire me. People, pictures, books, feelings. My own dreams... Things change, alternate. I think no artist can be inspired by the same thing all the time.
Question from Ernest Leibov, MD
I was very interested by your pictures and clips but to see you on the stage would be much more intriguing. So, next month in NYC.
Do you speak Russian?
I am very impressed by your interest to teaching. Many years ago I worked as a Dr. in Russian ballet school. So I would like to know your educational concept. Thank you.
Vio's Answer Hi Ernest, Thank you for your kind words! Yes, I do speak Russian. My view for classical ballet education is a mixture of Russian, French and American schools. No rigid views, but very much built on tradition. As to contemporary ballet education - a bit more integrated. Elements of sports, theatre and cinema. If you'd like more thorough answer, let me know.
Question from Antonio Barreca
How do you define "ballerina"? There was an article on this a couple of years ago in Pointe magazine where some of the greats (like The National Ballet of Canada's Karen Kain) tried to define this term and address the uses and abuses of it.
Vio's Answer I am sitting here, in Starbucks, two blocks away from Lincoln Center. That place is most definitely one of few you might think to go see a "real" ballerina. I mention this, because while there certainly are many ballerinas there, many will tell you not all of them are "real". And here lies the problem of defining ballerina. For hard-core ballet people just being a professional dancer in a ballet company is not sufficient to claim the title. In fact, for some just the one dancer, dancing the principal role is "the ballerina". Personally, I am amused when people tell me their niece, who danced for five years until her sophomore year in high school was a ballerina, but others take offense. Nowadays, when strippers call themselves dancers, it’s necessary to find a distinguishing title for dancers, who may not be on top of the proverbial ballet food chain, yet would be insufficiently described as "dancers". And that is it – they are ballerinas, though most companies and professionals call them dancers. And that would be ok, if it wasn’t for the obvious disconnect between the amount of training and dedication required to produce a ballerina – a dancer of ballet and a dancer of another dance form. In the National Dance School the years required to graduate the professional ballet course is nine years. For modern dancers that time is cut in half. And while exceptions to the rule certainly exist most dance academies operate this way.
Now let me move to what I think defines a ballerina. I’d have to start with – life-defining commitment. Even after the training is done, regardless of how strenuous it was, the nature of the profession is such, that without continuous commitment one can not live up to a respectable level. That is not to say one has be a ballet-nut, a bun-head, a psychotic bitch or whatever you wish to call it. So now that the word psychotic has found its way into this answer I would kindly ask you to read the last paragraph from my answer to Mr.Tsonev below. It deals with the image of a ballerina the very popular movie "Black Swan" put forward. I wrote that before Mr.Aronofsky-the movie Director made a fool of himself from the British Acedemy of Film Awards stage, saying that his star "became a Prima Ballerina in one year". In my opinion that was far more offensive than the aunt thinking her niece’s afterschool dance classes made her a ballerina. He knew better. He must have, after spending ten years in preparation for the film.
The other prerequisites for the title of ballerina in my book are exceedingly simple: a level of technique just to the title and a basic acting ability. Coaches have said you also have to be smart; in my opinion it's of help but not really necessary, and there is evidence to support that. Of course, it is wonderful if the ballerina should also possess remarkable qualities as a person, but that's only a bonus; an extra; if available...
In conclusion I have to say what I haven’t heard anyone say. The afore mentioned hard-cores would usually give the title to someone they consider a "good ballerina" and the truth is that even star dancers can be a "bad ballerina". If you have been to a ballet show you may have overheard people spill disgust over the performance of the lead dancer while the program spells her decades of achievements. So here we are, back at art basics. Black square anyone? Defining a ballerina is subjective. It’s about refinement, it’s about passion.
Question by M.Meislan
just read "Girls" in your blog. Nice to see that writing is another art you're really good at. After reading this I asked myself what you think about men in ballet. In the past I did some amateuer lessons in classical ballet, so I surely know about prejudices and stereotypes about that matter. Ok, surely ballet is not typical male, because in ways of behaving, moving and clothing the male dancers have to show some of their female side. Of course they have adorable trained bodies and excellent control and power, but the same time they are often considered effeminate and gay. So what is your experience, Vio? How are the male dancers? Do you like them? Do you consider them "real" men? How many of them are gay or bisexual? And, what I asked myself more than once: Are maybe also more girls in ballet lesbian or bi-sexual than in the overall social average? I would be pleased if you share some thoughts and opinions with me.
Thank you for your kind words, I’m glad you like my blog.
Yes, I consider male ballet dancers "real men". In my opinion profession, looks or sexual orientation are not the qualities that hold the makeup of a "real man". Also, technically speaking every man is a real man. We could play and consider some women "real men", but they probably won’t appreciate it J.
Obviously, I have friends and colleagues that are gay. But that wasn’t always the case. There are companies that have very few gay members. Some have none. So that is to say – how many men in ballet are gay depends on the place. In comparison to other professions I think the stereotype is right – there are more gay men in ballet, but maybe we all observe that because ballet is a visual art and the people are meant to be looked at. If someone made a study the percentages might actually show that say, more dentists were gay, or PR managers, or florists, I don’t know...
I know only few lesbians in ballet. So for myself I’d say – there are not as many gay women as there are men in the field.
Question from M.Cifuentes
Hi I am Maggie Franco(Margarita)
I live in Guatemala and I love ballet because I am a ballerina but I am little because I have 11 years old.
Please respond me the message what I can do to be a best ballerina?
I ask you because you are a ballerina and you look like a perfect example of a beautiful dancer. I ask you because I want to be the best ballerina in my group pleace respond me the message because it is so importante for me (Sorry if I have a misspeling because I don't speak english).
Thank you very much :)
Hi Maggie or should I call you Rita J
You sent me a very sweet message and I'm glad I am an inspiration to you. To be the best ballerina you can be you need to be driven, devoted and patient. You are still very young so for now you need to focus on your training!!!
Best of luck!
Question from Bianca Fragosa
Hi Violeta. I have a question (sorry if this is really random): I'm going to be starting pointe at the age of 16. Is that too late for a professional career? Thank you so much. You are a great inspiration!
Thank you Bianca!
16 is a little late, but if you have determination and talent nothing is impossible. Also talk honestly with your teacher. Evaluate what you want and where you are with your ability.
Best of luck,
Question from B.Fragosa
I messaged you before and you gave me some great advice and I really appreciated it! :D I have another issue: My parents can not afford to send me to dance classes this year. What should I do? Should I buy videos and do ballet at home? I am really concerned because I NEED to get on pointe next year. How will I ever know if I can go on pointe? The teachers told me I needed one more year. But I still can't just go buy pointe shoes even after doing the videos everyday for year. I might hurt myself!
I don't know what to do. I feel like I will never fufill my dream of being a Prinicipal dancer with the New York City Ballet or even getting into The School of American Ballet by the age of 17. What should I do? Thanks soo much! You are so great! You are on top list of favorite ballerinas!! :) You and others inspire everyday to be my best!
I am sorry to hear you can not go to ballet classes. Maybe you'll be able to get away with it. You are young.
I don't think you can substitute class with a teacher, but if you really want to dance study on your own as much as possible and don't limit yourself to one source. Also if your parents can not pay for ballet class ask them to free up some space for you to exercise at home. Maybe in the garage if you have a garage. Also use the gym at school. Really try to see if you can get a scholarship, because without classes it will be very difficult.
Best of luck!!
Question from J.Phillips
Violeta, You balance in the "DonQ" pas was phenomenal. I always try to balance as long as possible, sometimes unsuccessfully. You are a beautiful dancer, and I was wondering what shoes you wear. They look like Freeds. I would like to get out of Capezios, but regret every time I try something new. I have wide feet (bunions) and short toes. Thanks for friending me, I will watch for your performance.
Thank you for sweet message and kind words.
Yes I dance in Freeds mostly, the DonQ is in Freeds, like you thought. Capezios are a little sturdier and if you switch to Freeds you might need to glue them. It all depends on your needs in your dancing. Some peeps don't like too hard shoes. As to fit you can go to the Freeds place in Long Island City and have a fitting, which will accomodate the lenght/width of your foot and toes.
Question from I.Tsonev
One questions, I finally managed to see "Black Swan", I like and respect the director, and out of curiosity as well, I forced myself to watch (took me 2 days and a few fastforwards to get to the end). Kind of liked it, kind of appreciated it, especially the new look at the ancient concept of duality of human nature. Still, in my opinion the best in the movie was the ... soundtrack ... :)
What do you think of this movie - good, bad, OK, not important?
Asking this because a friend of mine, a professional dancer (but not classical) was very dismissive and then, in the very next moment she did exactly what the movie showed (how a dancer "eats" a cake - it was a birthday party over the weekend).
What came to my mind was a lovely, funny line from another movie. The line, "Eat your ice cream!", the movie "Little miss sunshine" :).
"Black Swan"? Ok.
If you just want the "good, bad or ugly" I’d say – all of the above + pretty. So where do I start...
I feel that anything that puts ballet at the forefront of public consciousness is welcome. More ballet in popular entertainment is a good thing. People absolutely should see it. Even with its shortcomings it
comes far above habitual Hollywood releases. Say - silly romantic comedies or apalling violence glorifiers, aka actions.
Mr.Aronofsky obviously has an attraction to self-destructive characters and he chooses niche environments to take advantage of and highlight such qualities. Some say it’s his "formula". Not a problem. But he hits you over the head with it. The clichés were too exaggerated... The set-up for the drama could have been more subtle.
Watching the movie I felt just like when I was reading the script a year before – the beginning was barely tolerable, but it got progressively better. The ending I love! I was blown away when I read it, although that took away from the movie theater experience because I knew what would happen. I enjoyed this film. As a ballerina though, some moments made me laugh out laud and fellow moviegoers were confused.
I don’t know who wrote the story, but I must mention them – the resolution is genius I think. The conclusion is not too bad either J.
Mr.Aronofsky also benefits from the genius of Tchaikovsky’s music. It was blasting on full volume for much of the last quarter.
I have only nice things to say about the actors. And I understand Mr.Aronofsky’s choice to use only actors. Maybe there weren’t dancers that could act well enough. I don't know.
I have tremendous respect for Ms.Portman. That was only confirmed after reading a pre-premiere interview with the actress. She explained she would not have signed on to the project if not for her arrogance to think she could easily do it. Later she realized it was much harder than it seemed and I can tell she worked a lot to train her body. I commend such honesty. Her acting in the movie is one of her best performances, she is very pretty and that really helps the story. What did not help the story were the few shots showcasing the fact that she is not a real dancer and for that I blame the director. He could have presented her better. Running up the ramp anyone? Twice! It looked terrible, one of the few scenes in which it was unpleasantly obvious the ballerina is not even a ballerina, much less a great one. And it could have been avoided. The other two moments were: a duet rehearsal scene in which Nina and her partner are shot head to toe, from above, without cuts for quite a while. It gives us too much time to focus on her dancing. It should have been the body double. And lastly - the absolutely ridiculous Black Swan entry in the performance. It becomes comical. Odile is powerful, yes, but also conniving and beautiful. This Black Swan tells you straight away she is out to get you. Vicious bird which hisses at you with eyes that are about to pop out of her scull. Hellishly unattractive instead of seductive and mysterious. Every time I saw it in the promos on TV I went "WHAT!" and after I saw the movie I go "WHY!".
Vincent Cassel, playing the Company Director – Great! He really sells the funny lines and exaggerated material they’ve given him. The other supporting actors also do very well. The film’s "Swan Lake" production however is total crap. It's only a background to the story though, so not a big deal.
The truth is – some of the things depicted in the movie will never happen to many professionals. Psychotic mothers, sexually aggressive bosses, antagonistic colleagues (Ok, that happens all the time:), vomiting. Some ballerinas might, just might not be characterless, underdeveloped children; in their twenties they might have boyfriends, or dare I say – husbands, or, goodness gracious – even children of their own; they might live in normal rooms rather than pink explosions of stuffed animals; and they also might eat normally (vomiting just once a week, on Sunday). But they are a tough sell. Any more movies featuring the opposite and even I will get convinced they don’t exist.
Question from Kitty Belle
This is my second year on pointe. I was just wondering if you could give me some pointers for a good arch, being all the way on the box, ect..
I know that it all depends on your foot type, but all help that you give will be used to it's greatest potential. I know that you are very busy and have many messages from people that are closer to you than I am, but it would give me great pleasure to have your help.
Second year, huh.. That's when things start being more fun J.
First I’d say – do a lot of releves and make sure you are going through demi pointe at least on the way down. Exersizes like picking up a pencil with your toes (but not between the toes) or flex and stretch with a Thera-band are all going to yield benefits. Start with a number you can handle and increase repetitions every week.
Being all the way on the box really should not be a problem if your shoes are properly broken in, if you have proper strenght for a second year pointe student and if your foot is not completely unsuited for ballet, which I’m sure it’s not.
So, Good luck with everything! Work hard, but careful and don’t forget to enjoy.
Questions from Jade Mcneill
- How long does it take to be a professional dancer?
AnswerMost of the time from five to nine years.
- Is it hard to get into college to be a professional dancer?
AnswerI wouldn’t say so.
- Do you have to go to college to be a dancer?
Answer No. The majority of dancers opt to dance instead of commit to full time studies after high-school.
- When did you start dancing?
AnswerVery early as a kid.
- Is your job stressful?
Answer Often it is, but it also depends on the individual.
- What is one thing you love about your profession?
Answer Joy of dancing.
- What is one thing you dislike about your profession?
Answer I can’t name one specific thing. Mostly it has to do with pitfalls of the industry.
- What are the qualities to be an instructor for dance?
Answer Good eye, patience and communicative skills.
- Do you get paid to be a dancer? If so how much?
Answer Of course one gets paid. How much depends on the company.
- Could you make a living off that money?
- What is the best type of dance to take?
Answer That depends on the individual and what they love.
- Is it easy or hard to express yourself in a dance?
Answer Usually not.
- What is some advice you could give me?
Answer Know what you want and don’t pay attention to what other people want.
- How do you perfect a tilt jump?
Answer Just like everything else - work on it. Though hardly anything is ever perfect.
- How can you strengthen your toes in practicing for a toe rise?
Answer Demi-pointe is as much in the ankle as in the toes if not more. Theraband exercises, various resistance exercises, very articulate tendus and making sure the ankle is in proper demi-pointe position should be the check points to pay attention to most. For a full pointe toe rise strengthening start picking up a pencil with your toes (but not between the toes) in addition to the other things we already mentioned.
- What are ways I can improve my spotting when doing turn combinations?
Answer Turn a lot in all kinds of positions and shoes to improve your vestibular system's response to turns.
- How can I succeed in a leg hold turn?
Answer Since I’ve never seen you I can only say - practice.
Question from Katarina Satalic
Hi Violet, my name is Kate and I'm from Zadar, Croatia. I started dancing when I was 9 and I danced contemporary dance. I was good at it but something didn't seem to be right in it... One year ago Vinka Klaric opened a school for classic and modern ballet. I love dancing classic ballet, I love that feeling when you are at your pointe shoes. Now im 16 years old and in less then two years from now I have to leave home if I want to dance in my life because here in Croatia we don't have academy. I would like to go in London but I need someone to help me choose the academy there. I hope You could help me because You are professional and You probably have more experience than anyone around me... So I would be grateful if You could take five minutes from Your day and help me a little.
Best regards, Kate. :)
You are welcome! It would be my pleasure to offer the best that comes to mind. In terms of quality of education the academies that are connected to the major ballet companies are usually the better option. But I am not sure of their policies regarding late admission. You have to inquire with each of them separately and you might even get a scholarship if they see you as a promising young dancer! Academies that are privately owned and run often offer as good or better training, but may not look as good on a resume and usually have less or no scholarship options. As to London – I like London a lot, but I’ve only stayed for a week or two and can’t testify how it is as a permanent/long term residence. I lived independently when I moved to Vienna from Sofia, but a lot of students and their parents especially, feel more comfortable with a boarding school. I am wishing you the best of luck and send you hugs!! I am sorry I did not name a specific academy, but I have not seen you dance and may misguide you. Apply to few and see what options you get! Then choose.