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July 24, 2010 / ballerina2thepointe

Putting on Appearances

I’m just about ready to give my seminar (actually, I prefer to think of it as a workshop) on “appearances” tomorrow at Miami City Ballet School. I’ll be talking about stage vs. studio in the areas of makeup, hair, and overall personal presentation.

For me, the easy part will be demonstrating the process of stage makeup application. After all these years, I’ve practically gotten it down to a science. I think I even manage to shave a minutes off of my routine with each season that goes by! Each dancer does have their own special tactics and personal pre-performance routine, but the basics all remain the same, and those are what I’ll be passing along tomorrow.

The harder part will be trying to explain the proper way to present oneself in class, and for auditions…where there are significant choices to be made. Right or wrong, like it or not, appearance, looks and “togetherness” makes a big difference in the world of dance…especially ballet. There are so many details to think about; what leotard to wear (or t-shirt for boys), high bun or low bun, pink tights or black, skirt or no skirt. Seems silly, right? It may be, but while a brightly colored leotard could help you stand out at an audition, one with a bad cut could easily leave you tugging on yourself for the entire class. It all comes down to choices.

Then there’s the makeup. I remember being sixteen and thinking that one could NEVER have too much mascara or lip gloss… true if you work on Hollywood Blvd., not so true if you’re a young ballet student. Thank goodness my mother and ballet teacher were strict about this one. I didn’t believe it then, but I absolutely believe it now…LESS IS MORE!!! A little mascara never hurt anyone, nor did a light dusting of blush or lip shimmer; on the contrary they can enhance your features and make you seem just a little more “alive”. But do keep in mind that we in the front of the room want to be able to recognize who you are! You want to be noticed for your dancing, not  for your eyeliner, lipstick or nail polish!

Like in any other profession, and perhaps even more so in ballet, how we present ourselves tends to determine how seriously we are taken by those who are in a position to judge. My overall goal tomorrow is getting the students to understand how beautiful they all are, and how presenting themselves neatly and appropriately, taking pride in their appearance, not only shows that they are serious students who respect their art form, but also shows that they respect themselves as young ladies and men…both inside the studio and out.

July 20, 2010 / ballerina2thepointe

Words of Wisdom

 

I was inspired to write this by reading a blog post made by a fellow dancer and friend Rebecca King. She has been working with a wonderful teacher and coach, Geta Constantinescu, teaching Swan Lake excerpts to some of the Miami City Ballet School summer intensive program. Geta is always full of wonderfully inspirational stories and great advice, and she’s always trying to draw out the absolute best in everyone. She is amazingly respectful of each and every dancer as an individual with different qualities to offer, and she has always made me feel like I should dance every role confidently and honestly, as myself, without the worry of emulating someone else.

Rebecca recently posted a quote from Geta in her blog which, to me, is the epitome of brilliant advice for all dancers and students:

“It is so easy to get pulled down by the drama around us; to let our egos get the best of us and worry about who got what part, who got promoted, or who is doing well in a company. But all dancers, students and company members alike, need to remember what brings us to the studio every day. It is the love of dance. When dancers are onstage they must assume that it is their last show, as we never know how life will turn out. Perhaps an injury is right around the corner and you may never dance again. That is how you should treat each and every day.

“There is a reason why ballet dancers who move on to different fields of work tend to excel. It is because we are perfectionists and our brains are programmed to learn. We must use those skills to our advantage and treat every part in a ballet as if it is a principal part. Every rehearsal, find something new to work on; a new feeling to find. Dancers must be patient and wait for their moment to shine. This will carry a dancer through their career, healthy mentally and physically.”

After reading this bit of wisdom, I immediately shared it with MY students. In doing so, I realized just how valuable it REALLY is, and how much I could benefit by applying it to my own career. It seems so easy to tell the kids in my class not to worry about who is chosen to dance the solos, not to let their egos get in the way of learning, not to dwell on what their friends are doing or not doing…but it would be advice well taken for myself as well. All too often I worry about casting, what roles I may or may not dance (and when), instead of being grateful for the many roles that I AM fortunate enough to dance.  It’s easy to tell them that they should be more lively, attentive and energetic in their morning technique class, but how often do I complain about being tired and achy before company class every day? It’s rather easy to remember how much we love to dance while we’re on stage in the midst of performing, but I think it’s something that we all need to try and focus more on during the grueling hours spent in the studio as well. Our sweat, tears, pain, and the hours of our lives that we dedicate to the dance everyday all stem from the amazing and rare combination of passion and desire.

We’re all a little bit crazy. We have to be to do what we do; and it is a beautiful thing. Sometimes we have to force ourselves back down to the real world though and think: How many people are really truly passionate about something, and how many that ARE have the opportunity to study it? How many that have the passion, the drive and the fortune to study are then healthy and talented enough to become professionals and earn a living at it? How many that do become professionals are then dedicated and strong enough to make a long and successful career for themselves?

I’ve really been pondering these questions the past couple of days, and it’s given me new inspiration to start this, my 16th season with Miami City Ballet ( also the company’s 25th anniversary season) with a whole new outlook and approach… APPRECIATION and GRATITUDE.

July 15, 2010 / ballerina2thepointe

Jennifer’s Summer Update on MCB Blog

http://www.miamicityballet.org/blog/2010/06/22/jennifers-summer-update/

Here is a blog post I wrote for Miami City ballet talking about my summer vacation with my husband, and fellow principal dancer, Carlos Guerra. Rest, relaxation, and recooperation after a LONG, HARD season of dancing is such an important part of a dancer’s life…

July 13, 2010 / ballerina2thepointe

Working on Balanchine


This summer, my great friend and fellow MCB dancer Patricia Delgado and I are teaching and working on Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15 with our MCBS students.

Choreographed to Mozart’s beautiful score of the same name, it was made for eight principals (three men/five women) and eight corps de ballet girls. Because of the clean lines and precise musicality, we’ve chosen to teach the “Minuet” section of the ballet, as well as three of the five female variations. It has been quite a challenge, but we’re both enjoying the process! It is fascinating to see the information we give be absorbed into the students’ minds, and then help them try to translate it all into the physical movements. I am watching them get stronger every day as the steps begin to settle themselves into their bodies.

I am very fortunate to have danced Divertimento No. 15 several different times with Miami City Ballet. I danced the corps de ballet for two different seasons, and the third principal lady for three different seasons of performances. The wonderful thing about revisiting a piece of choreography that you’ve already performed is that you learn something new every time. Each time that I danced it, I discovered different nuances in both the choreography and the music. I hope that my students will take what they are learning this summer, digest as much information as they can, keep working on it after they leave, and continue discovering the simple intricacies of it for years to come… 

Follow this link to learn more about the background information of  Divertimento No.15 : 

 http://balanchine.com/content/site/ballets/22

July 3, 2010 / ballerina2thepointe

Summer “INTENSE”-ives

 

  Summer study programs, especially those for ballet, can be a wonderful change of atmosphere for students, but can also tend to be a bit overwhelming. Personally, I spent my summers “intensively” studying with the same teachers who trained me year-round. I did this for all but one summer, when I went to  the S.A.B. summer program in NYC (just a subway ride away from home). I was never a big fan of summer sleep away camps, though now as an adult I’m painfully aware of all the fun I probably missed out on! I was really quite content staying right in Queens, NY with my parents and ballet school family. The program and classes did intensify though, and quite a bit at that. This is what I find (other than the occasional homesickness) to be the most challenging obstacle for my own students to face.

Technique classes tend to be longer than what is “normal” during the school year; ranging from an hour and forty five minutes to two hours. They are often preceded by a stretching class, and followed immediately by a pointe, partnering, or variations class. A lunch break is usually an hour or two, then there are repertory rehearsals or other classes, like jazz. If students are not prepared to handle such a rigorous schedule, they can easily burn out, or in the worst case scenario, injure themselves.

There are some things, that as a teacher and dancer, I can recommend to help young dancers ease their way into the heavy-duty summer schedule and help them make the most out of  their time in a new school:

Hopefully, before the kids arrive, they and their parents have researched the school well, and are comfortable with the intensity level of the program as well as the training style. That said, as a teacher, I want my students at the Miami City Ballet program (as well as others whom I’ve taught) to know that I look forward to helping them grow as dancers. I want them to leave after the four to five weeks feeling that they are stronger, and more knowledgeable dancers than they were when they arrived. I don’t expect miracles, but I do expect that the students will give me their undivided attention mentally and physically while they’re in my class. I expect them to WANT to learn, and not be afraid to try new things. I know that not all of the students come from a Balanchine background, and that’s perfectly OK. That is the style that I teach, however, and though I would never try to “change” a student’s way of dancing, I hope that they would be open to learning the Balanchine style as well. This will only strengthen them, and enhance their versatility. I had two students last summer, sisters in fact, who were trained primarily in the French style. They were completely unfamiliar with  the Balanchine technique at first, but were refreshingly open to learning and practicing it. They were never afraid to ask questions whenever they needed something clarified. When the program ended, they left with a beautiful new quality of movement.

It really helps, from both a dancer’s and teacher’s point of view, to warm yourself up a bit before the class begins. This not only helps to prevent injury, but if your body is ready to go right from the start of class, then you can immediately start working on improving your technique. The teacher can give corrections right away, and dancers with a warm body can apply them much more efficiently. One also never knows the teacher’s lesson plan for the day. The barre may not be quite as long as one is typically used to, so students should be physically prepared ahead of time.

Injuries are an inevitable part of a dancer’s life. Please don’t hide them! I would much rather a student be honest and tell me if something is wrong than have them push too hard and hurt themselves more. I also take insult if a student neglects to tell me about an injury, but comes to my class with “junk” covering up the ailing body part. There is a dress code, and I expect the kids to stick to it. I will allow them to keep the affected area warm, of course, but I like to be told at the start of class that there is in fact a problem.

One thing that I DEMAND in all of my classes is that the students respect one another. If there is one important thing that dancers need to understand it is that we ALL have something beautiful and special to share, and that we can ALL learn something from each other. I learn new things by watching my students every single day! I ask my students to pay attention to EVERYONE’s individual corrections, and try to apply them to themselves. There are so many kids in each level, and a teacher can’t possibly give personalized corrections to everyone in each class.Chances are, there are a number of students all making the same mistakes. Each and every student is there to learn and improve, and nobody is perfect. Though ballet can tend to be quite competitive, I urge all young dancers to be tolerant , patient, and KIND to one another. This is something that is all too often forgotten in the professional world. (Thank goodness Miami City Ballet is an exception to the rule. I don’t know how I would have survived so many years otherwise!)

One particular subject always seems to be somewhat of an issue each summer…NUTRITION. I have seen some students go crazy eating all the junk food they can find while away from home, and others trying desperately to diet, and stop eating properly altogether. Dancers must remember that thier body is their instrument, their tool, and it needs properly balanced nutritious meals to keep it fueled; especially with the intensified summer schedule. Students should try their best follow the same healthy eating habits that they adhere to while at home with their families. This will insure that energy levels stay high, while keeping illness and injury rate low.

Do try to take advantage of your downtime, both physically and mentally. I love when my students go back to the dorms, ice their tired feet or take a hot bath and think about corrections I’ve given them, or review choreography. It prepares them for advancing further the next day. I DO NOT expect them to do that all evening, however! Remember that this is, afterall, SUMMER VACATION…part of it should be dedicated to HAVING FUN!!!! The main thing is to find a balance between hard work and play. I love it when kids come back refreshed and ready to work after a weekend of fun. They are in a better mood, and tend to be much more focused, which makes my job all the easier!

I hope these few hints will help young dancers (especially those new to summer intensive’s) in programs everywhere to make the most out of their time away from home. I hope those reading will join in a discussion, adding comments, questions, or helpful hints of their own! HAPPY SUMMER 2010!!!!

June 30, 2010 / ballerina2thepointe

Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg | Principal Dancer, Miami City Ballet

Photo by Joe Gato

 

Balanchine’s Rubies….One of my favorite ballets!

http://deballet.com/artists/jennifer-carlynn-kronenberg

.Click on the link above to view my page on deBallet.com. Register and become a fan!

June 19, 2010 / ballerina2thepointe

Hello world!

I never imagined that I’d become a blogger. What could blogging possibly have to do with a dancer’s world? As it turns out, A LOT. I’ve been quite the reluctant one in accepting and conforming to the technological advances that society has made over the last few years ( I STILL don’t have an iPhone ), but it has become clear to me that if I have something important to say, this is the best way to be heard.

I’ve just begun my sixteenth season dancing with the Miami City Ballet, and I couldn’t feel more excited. It’s the company’s 25th Anniversary season, and there are so many great ballets in store for us all this year. Some old favorites of mine, like  Balanchine’s Bugaku and La Sonnambula, as well a bunch of exciting new ones. The one that I’m most looking forward to is John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. Juliet is a role that I’ve been waiting my entire life to dance, and I am certain that it will be an unforgettable experience, a mile marker in my career.

I am also about to begin my sixth summer as a teacher for the Miami City Ballet School Summer Intensive. The past few years of teaching, plus my love of the students, and my joy of writing, have inspired me to write a book entitled “So, You Want to Be a Ballet Dancer?”, which should be published electronically very soon. In the book, I talk about all the things aspiring dancer’s need to know, but are rarely taught…handling the auditioning process, stress, dietary habits, stage makeup, injury prevention, stage layout and backstage etiquette, etc. I find it extremely important for young dancer’s to hear the good, the bad, and all of the “in’s and out’s” from someone who is successfully handling the daily issues that dancer’s face today.

I hope that this blog will serve as a supplement to my book, a place where I can post weekly updates about professional issues that I am facing, as well as a place where young dancers (or anyone) can make comment, add their own advice, or ask questions about handling whatever obstacles they are encountering.

I look forward to starting a whole new wave of communication throughout the ballet world, and I hope that all of you aspiring dancers, teachers, parents, and balletomanes out there will join me on my continuing  journey as a Principal Dancer in one of America’s most respected ballet companies, where I am still growing, learning, inspired by things on a regular basis!