Category: dancers

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Me performing in Busch Gardens’ Miracles in 2015

I miss performing so much!

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Me performing in Busch Gardens’ Miracles in 2015

I miss performing so much!

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The caterpillar in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice in Wonderland

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The caterpillar in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice in Wonderland

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Performing with Elevate tonight in a Greatest Showman themed performance! I love my job. It was SO fun!

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Performing with Elevate tonight in a Greatest Showman themed performance! I love my job. It was SO fun!

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Eric Underwood, soloist with The Royal Ballet, came to ballet as a teenager, which is relatively late for a professional. He was raised in a low-income family in a suburb of Washington DC. At home, he was nurtured and loved, but says he would hear the sound of gunshots outside every day. “It stressed my mother out and she would make us lie on the ground until the shots finished.” One night, somebody was killed outside their flat.

His mother wanted him to go the nearby performing arts school, a more promising bet than mainstream school. “One day she said, ‘OK, we’re going to make you an actor.’ She got a book out of the library so I could learn an entire monologue for an audition.” But on the day, he got stage fright and forgot all his lines.

That might have been the end of it, but as he was leaving Underwood saw some girls practising ballet in the next room. “I couldn’t walk out of that building and say to my mum, ‘I didn’t get that’. That was a no-no.’” Underwood walked in, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and insisted the teacher give him a go. “I felt like I could be great at this, and that I could change my family’s destiny if I got it right.” The experience was a baptism of fire, with the teacher shouting out specialist dance terms (tombé and glissé).

“I knew nothing, but I said, ‘If you show me, I can do it.’”

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https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-3fPL_TZAM4

Documentary: Dance of the Little Swans: The Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet auditions young dancers

Worth the watch y’all. It’s terrifying, inspiring, intense, tragic, triggering and ummm…intimidating? The world of ballet is so wild. And the honesty of some words spoken in this is shocking. There’s no sugarcoating of anything. They speak to children like they are extremely thick-skinned adults. But, I’m upset at how far it’s taken at times. It easily crosses the line into childhood emotional abuse, and this is what we see ON camera.

I will say, my goodness, the children are so wise, well-spoken and intelligent. Far beyond their years. And they treat one another and speak of one another so well.

My main concern after viewing—Nikolay Tsiskaridze seems to be an evil dictator-like sociopath run amok in a place with no power balance checks and absolute worshipped authority. 27:17 (in this vid player it’s 20:50?) is very disturbing (along with some other sections). The kid in front of him is standing like everyone else and also clearly standing to the side of the stairs to let Nikolay pass through. Nikolay aggressively screams in his face a command in front of all his peers “SIT DOWN” to which he follows, defeated and misunderstood. The kid’s face is so sad and embarrassed after, he hears laughter behind him and doesn’t join, likely believing it’s about him. The kid did nothing wrong and should not have been spoken to like that. And no one speaks up for him. There’s no defending it whatsoever. He’s on a power trip, and if you have any intuition concerning human behavior you’ll see it watching this documentary. It’s as if he does it for his own amusement at times. He shouldn’t be around kids as a mentor and leader.

And that part where that lady gives positive reinforcement to the not overweight 9/10? year old for losing weight. (“Lost weight, Milana?” “Yes” “I can see, well done”.) Sick. There’s no defending that either. Ballerinas are 7 times as likely to have anorexia than the general population. And in a world where you’re sacrificing everything, you’re away from your family and feel powerless to authority continuously, these moments stick and shape you.

There’s a way to be brutally honest and borderline harsh/cold and strict and there’s a line that takes it too far and fucks up a kid’s mental health. There’s a lot of evidence it’s taken too far in this. These kids are entirely reliant upon and submissive to the authority of these adults who hold their futures in their hands. And I get it, ballet is hard. Harder than hard. I know first-hand that becoming a professional takes blood, sweat, tears, dedication, obsession and discipline. But the line can be crossed. Don’t glamorize emotional abuse.

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Daphne Lee

Photo by Luc Jean-Baptiste

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(Just learned I can GIF myself!?)

Me live painting a canvas with my body at an event with Elevate in Charleston, SC.