A dancer’s Profile with Alisha Brach, dancer with Royal Swedish Ballet

” When Jill asked me to write a bit about my life with dance, and the importance of having a healthy lifestyle to match, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity because I truly feel the two are completely entwined. I think many of us as young inexperienced dancers learn the hard way how essential it is to have a good warm-up regimen in the morning, and how what we put into our bodies affects our energy and performance.”

Name: Alisha Brach

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Opera House

Vocation: Professional ballerina with the Royal Swedish Ballet, part of Kungliga Operan.

Defining Moment on Stage to Date: I cannot say that I’ve had one preeminent defining moment onstage. I do not search for one feeling or moment, but instead enjoy the process and time as a whole. What I always hope for is the feeling of being at home on stage- a place where I feel proud showing the audience what it is I do each day, showing them my passion and happiness. This confidence doesn’t happen over night, and is developed as a result of preparation and hard work in the studio. And having an excellent rehearsal coach is half that battle! If I had to chose a highlighted performance, I would go (way) back to the time I performed Dark Angel in George Balanchine’s Serenade (at the young age of 13!). I felt free and accomplished, and for the first time I felt strongly that I was going to become a professional dancer.

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In NYC

Favorite Style of Dance: Contemporary ballet is my favorite style of dance, if I had to choose one. Forsythe, Kylian, Jorma Elo for example. However, when classical ballet is done well, by those with the purest technique and artistry, it is absolutely captivating.

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Theatre details

Favorite Dance Wear Brand: When it comes to dance wear, I want to be comfortable and confident in what I wear. I am biased though about my favorite brand, because my best friend Julia Cinquemani has her own line, Jule Dance wear. She makes a supportive, well-fitting product and she puts a lot of thought into each of her designs. I also like Elevé dancewear– made by a former dancer of the Kansas City Ballet. The dancer can customize a leotard in just about any way imaginable, and she offers many fun, unique patterns from which to choose.

Favorite Energy Breakfast: I begin my day with a breakfast of yogurt, granola and fruit although sometimes if I feel I need extra protein that day I have eggs with hearty toast. Here in Scandinavia it is very popular to have cheese, caviar or smoked fish with breakfast and so I sometimes follow such traditions. Think ‘smörgåsbord’ – a word of Swedish origin, and you get the idea. I like to keep an open mind when it comes to food, especially since it varies from culture to culture.

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Breakfast

Favorite thing to do on a “day off” from Work: When I have a day off from work, I honestly enjoy sleeping in the most. I also enjoy going to the farmers market, supporting local farmers and their produce. I am lucky to be living within a 10 minute walk of the neighborhood farmers market here in Södermalm, in downtown Stockholm. On an ideal day off, I would go to the market, then for a swim and sauna, and walk home afterwards. It’s the perfect way to decompress from a difficult dancing week. If I am needing some dance inspiration, I watch video of dancers or companies that I admire, see a performance or visit a museum.

How do you blow of steam: Traveling is a sure dose of inspiration, as is a chat with family or friends.

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The gold foyer room in the house

Why do you think integration of dance and health is needed: A dancer becomes better if she thinks of her health. In a pragmatic sense, looking at a dancer who is on the verge of breaking is scary. Knowing that a dancer takes pills whenever experiencing pain, or seeing a dancer struggle with an eating disorder … it does not translate into a long, happy career (or something pleasant to watch). The nature of ballet today is so athletic and demanding. From the injuries that I’ve worked through, to the anatomy/kinesiology courses I have studied, I have developed a deeper understanding of my body and it’s limitations. Although injury is devastating, the positive is that a dancer comes back wiser, more sensitive and in tune to their body. This translates into the quality of their dancing.

What’s next for you: My time here with Royal Swedish has only just begun, and I am eagerly looking forward to what lies ahead. I am excited to work with Christopher Wheeldon, when we dance his Alice in Wonderland in late spring. We are lucky here to experience the different pedagogies of teachers and choreographers from all over the world, so every couple weeks we can learn from someone new. This is something for which I’m really grateful.

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Pilates

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A Dancer’s Profile: Featuring the sweetly fierce Sarah Chun from Kansas City Ballet

Name: Sarah Chun

Vocation: Company dancer with Kansas City Ballet (4th season).

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Photo shoot featuring Eleve Leotards. Photo Credit: Kenny Johnson

Defining Moment on Stage to Date: The moment I danced Todd Bolender’s “The Still Point” was a defining moment on stage for me. I performed it this past May and it was a ballet that really let me express the hardships I was going through at the time. It really reminded me why I chose to become a professional ballet dancer.

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Septime Webre’s, Alice in Wonderland (2014). Photo Credit: Steve Wilson

Favorite Style of Dance: I appreciate all styles of dance because I love how each style makes me feel and grow differently. But I think my favorite would be contemporary/neo classical work. Even though I am classical trained, I feel that I can really let go and express myself to the fullest in contemporary movement. I have not performed Helen Pickett’s “Petal” yet but Kansas City Ballet had just learned it recently, and the movement in this ballet is very enjoyable to me.

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Inspiration: My inspiration would definitely be my parents. They immigrated from South Korea and worked for everything they have today. My parents are the most hard working, humble, supportive people I’ve ever met. They drive down to Kansas City to see every program I perform in and am inspired every time I see them

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Devon Carney’s restaging of Giselle (2015). Photo Credit: Steve WIlson

Favorite Dance Wear Brand: Lonereed Designs is my favorite custom dance wear brand!

Favorite Energy Breakfast: Toast with almond butter, scrambled eggs, and an apple! Yum!

Favorite thing to do on a “day off” from Work: On a day off of work, I love to go take a yoga class, spend time with friends, and read a book!

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 Todd Bolender’s The Nutcracker (2014). Photo Credit: Kenny Johnson

How do you blow off steam: Yoga Yoga Yoga is my way to blow off steam for sure! Ballerina Yogi for life!

Why do you think integration of dance and health is needed: I think it’s important to practice healthy eating as a dancer. Being a dancer is so mentally and physically demanding that eating healthy can really make a difference in our career. We depend on our bodies so much that it’s important for us to eat and exercise well so that we can prevent injuries and fatigue. I definitely believe in moderation when it comes to being healthy and a happy dancer!

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Michael Pink’s Dracula (2014). Photo Credit: Steve Wilson

What’s next for you: In the near future, Kansas City Ballet will be working on a brand new Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Devon Carney. So that’s exciting! In April, I will choreograph for Kansas City Ballet’s “New Moves” program! In the far future, I hope to still be dancing happily. In my next career, I hope to maybe own my own yoga studio and teach dance on the side.

Here is a little clip of Sarah Dancing in South Korea this summer on her off-season, exploring new movement, new people, new choreography and a new space. Thanks to Sarah Chun for interviewing with dancehealthier and I wish you a happy and healthy season!

 

 

The Swan DREAMS project with Aesha Ash!

Today, I share with you a story that instills grace, discipline, advocation, and hope! Today’s DH post is about Aesha Ash, retired New York City Ballerina, and current founder of The Swan Dreams Project. It’s nice on a day like today, after such a tragic TV crew shooting, to read up on someone who is famed for making a positive impact in our world. So read up on something positive today. . .

By: Aesha Ash

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 3.42.31 PMOne of my goals, even before beginning a professional ballet career, has always been to change the demoralized, objectified and caricatured images of African-American women and girls. My desire is to show the world, all while reminding ourselves, that we too can command poise, grace, elegance and beauty-we too can be beautiful swans. As a professional ballet dancer, I used my passion as a vehicle to spread this message as far and wide as possible. Like many others may have experienced, the need for such positive self-imagery amongst young African American women is greatly needed. A need which also transcends ballet. Take the NY Times article where televesion critic Alessandra Stanely mentioned how actress Viola Davis didn’t fit a ‘classically beautiful’ image. Not only the ballet world, but society in general has a difficult time viewing most women of color in a classical light.

Photo Credit: Thaler Photography

Photo Credit: Thaler Photography

Upon retiring, I was saddened that I could no longer try to make a difference in the way women of color are viewed through my active participation with a ballet company. There was this heaviness and void that I carried with me until after my first child, a girl, was born. I began to look back on my career and feel that I had unfinished business. Business that I felt was important to take care of, not only for myself, but for my daughter. I began to think about ways in which I could continue to spread a more positive image and change the perspective of how African-American women are viewed in society and in media. I was quickly reminded of a photo that inspired me throughout my training at the School of American Ballet. It was a photo of then African-American dancer Andrea Long (now Andrea Long -Naidu). At the time Andrea was a dancer with NYCB and the photo was from her years as a student in the school. This image was so inspiring to me, as she was the only dancer of color in the photo. It was a powerful remider that becoming a ballerina was indeed possible. Whenever I felt downcast and alone, I would look at this image and immediately find the strength to carry on. Thinking back on those moments, I realized right then and there that I had to use photography. Thus began my creation of The Swan Dreams Project.

Photo Credit: Thaler Photography

Photo Credit: Thaler Photography

Through the use of imagery and my career as a ballet dancer, I want to help change the demoralized, objectified and caricatured images of African-American women. I also hope to promote greater involvement and increase patronage to this beautiful art form.

Photo Credit: Renee Scott

Photo Credit: Renee Scott

How can you help?

By purchasing an image you are helping to spread not only the message of The Swan Dreams Project, which is one of hope and possibilities, but you are utilizing the power of imagery to inspire. Pulitzer Prize winner, Eddie Adams, whose photograph helped change Americans attitudes towards the Vietnam War once wrote, “still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world.” For myself, it was an image of Andrea Long-Naidu on the wall of The School of American Ballet that empowered me as a young aspiring ballerina. Images do indeed have power, and what we don’t see sends as powerful a message as what we do.

Photo Credit: Renee Scott

Photo Credit: Renee Scott

I hope these images will stand as a reminder that all things are possible. Beauty and grace are not limited by race or status—they are boundless, limitless.

http://www.theswandreamsproject.org

A Dancer’s Profile, featuring Pennsylvania Ballet male dancer, Alexander Peters.

Name: Alexander Peters

Vocation: Soloist at Pennsylvania Ballet

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With dancer Elizabeth Mateer (of PAB) for Dancers Among Us. Photo credit: Jordan Matter

Defining Moment on Stage to Date: Having the opportunity to perform at the Vail International Dance Festival with that endless roster of international ballet stars, the open air amphitheater, and an audience who seems to simply live for dance, could not have been a more moving and defining moment for me thus far. What made the experience more personally remarkable were the ballets Damien Woetzel (Artistic Director of VIDF) chose to have the company bring. I was scheduled to perform three times, in four works, in which two of the works had just had their world premieres in Philadelphia only months prior. These were roles that were created just for me and to have the chance to not only dance them again, but also share them on this stage was an opportunity I couldn’t have dreamed of. The first, entitled “La Chasse”, was choreographed by Matthew Neenan, the Pennsylvania Ballet Resident Choreographer and Co-founder of Ballet X, and is a pas de deux set to a Schubert Piano Trio. I don’t think I will ever forget this ballet. It was created nearly 9 months prior to its premiere due to scheduling of the season, and went through so many transformations that the end result was like a culmination of how both Lauren Fadeley and I grew and developed as dancers from the inception of the piece. I was also promoted to Soloist at the premiere of this ballet. The second work, entitled “The Accidental”, was a piece for three couples divided into four parts. Each couple had a duet and the final section was a solo for myself. Trey McIntyre, the choreographer, essentially created this solo for me at the end of a long rehearsal day in just a few hours, throwing out ideas and phrases and I doing my best to interpret and absorb, but the end result was nothing like I could have imagined. It’s open and free, honest and pure, and there is a sincere sense of youthful longing for more that only he could create through movement. The New York Times called it “a bright dance, and yet what it keeps suggesting, very movingly, is youthful perplexity.” These sorts of ballets and moments on stage are in large a huge reason why we as dancers live and love what we do.

10371695_10152057959831759_6302503003952839134_nTrey McIntyre’s “The Accidental.” Photo credit, Sasha Iziliaev

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 With Lauren Fadeley (dancer at PAB), in “La Chasse,” at VIDF Erin Baiano.  

Favorite Style of Dance: As I’m exposed to more and more styles and works of dance throughout my career, I’m drawn to new ways of moving, but the most natural and innate way of dancing will always be within the framework of my Balanchine styled training.

Inspiration: Music is always the most inspiring thing in my life. I always have headphones with me (often around my neck, worn like a scarf) so that music is always readily accessible. When I’m dancing, the music always comes first; it is the driving force that allows the movement to happen. Although cliché, its important that the viewer can “see the music”. I also make it a habit to see live music as much as possible. Luckily, Philadelphia has some of the best venues for concerts and there are always several options almost every night of the week.

Favorite Dance Wear Brand: I’m not one for purchasing high-end custom-made dancewear like Yumiko, and have actually accumulated a majority of my rehearsal gear via hand-me-downs from other dancers. Depending on the ballet I’m rehearsing, I sometimes opt to simply wear running shorts and a thermal top. My favorite warm-up attire always consists of a loose sweat pant and oversized sweater. And of course, I always have to wear fun socks.

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With dancer of KCB, Tempe Ostergren. Photo credit, Brett Pruitt.

Favorite Energy Breakfast: Two eggs (over easy), wheat toast, potatoes, orange juice, and coffee. Sometimes I’ll have a banana as well.

Favorite thing to do on a “day off” from Work: Almost every week, I frequent myfavorite restaurant and treat myself to brunch. I bring my New Yorker, New York Times, or a book to read and just relax with an excellent meal and endless coffee. If it’s nice out,then I’ll take an afternoon walk along the Schuylkill river park trail.

How do you blow off steam: If it’s been a particularly hard day, or week at work, a longhot bath (preferably with a glass of wine) does just the trick.

Why do you think integration of dance and health is needed: Our bodies are ourinstruments, and they must be finely tuned and taken care of. If you leave a pianounattended, the sound starts to get off key, the strings go bad, and the instrument couldbecome permanently damaged.

What’s next for you: We are beginning our 51st Season at Pennsylvania Ballet, under new Artistic Director Angel Corella, and there is so much excitement for all that lies ahead. My first program consists of the Principal in Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante, Ratmansky’s Jeu de Cartes, and the rare privilege of learning and working on Robbins’ Other Dances with the former Paris Opera Etoile, Isabelle Guerin.

A dancer’s profile: Featuring breath taking PNB’s principal ballerina, Lesley Rausch

For the next 6 week’s in a row dancehealthier will be featuring 6 Dancer Profile’s from dancers all across the nation. This week’s entry begins on top with the lovely, graceful, beauty who has commanded PNB’s stage, Lesley Rausch. Enjoy and share her beauty to many.

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Name: Lesley Rausch

Vocation: Principal Dancer, Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Defining moment onstage to date: I’m not sure I an pick just one moment. I’ve been so fortunate to have many opportunities in the last few years to dance roles that I’ve always hoped to dance. One of the most special memories for me is the first time I danced Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. It was my first full-length ballet, other than Nutcracker. It was an incredible experience and one I cherish greatly.

IMG_0063-2.JPGRonald Hynd’s “Sleeping Beauty”, Photo Credit: Angela Sterling.

Favorite style of dance: We are privileged at PNB to dance a really varied repertoire. I really love dancing classical full lengths, but I also enjoy Balanchine ballets (Agon is a favorite) and other contemporary ballet choreography (Forsythe, Kiliyan, Dawson). It’s hard to choose one style because they are gratifying in different ways and it’s the artistic challenge that makes them each special in their own way.

IMG_0062Partner: Batkhurel Bold, Photo Credit: Angela Sterling

Inspiration: I’m inspired by many things, but often times, it’s the music that drives me to dance. We are so fortunate to have an incredible orchestra at PNB and dancing to live music is so fulfilling. My favorite ballets are the ones in which the choreography is very musical.

Favorite dance wear brand I tend to wear all different kinds of dance clothes, but some of my favorite leotards are made by Elizabeth Murphy who also dances with PNB as well as the Eleve brand.

Favorite energy breakfast: I usually start the day with a protein shake smoothie.

Favorite thing to do on a “day-off” from work: My days off vary depending on how tired I am from the week of work. If it’s been a really challenging rehearsal period, I usually try to relax and rest. If I’m not too exhausted, I go take a yoga class. I always find time to connect with friends.

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Balanchine’s, “Diamonds”, Photo Credit: Lindsay Thomas.

How do you blow off steam: Yoga is usually a good way for me to unwind and relax. Sometimes just watching a movie can help change my mood. Talking to friends or family is always helpful if something is bothering me.

Why do you think integration of dance & health is needed: As dance evolves and becomes more athletically demanding, it’s very important for dancers to be able to find a healthy ways to maintain their bodies. Good nutrition and cross training are vital. In order to be able to dance at our highest capacity and extend our careers, it’s important to take these things into consideration as we train and perform.

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“Giselle”, Photo Credit: Angela Sterling.

What’s next for you: There are a lot of exciting ballets coming up this season at PNB that I can’t wait to dance: David Dawson’s “A Million Kisses to My Skin,” Alexei Ratmansky’s “Don Quixote,” Kent Stowell’s “Swan Lake,” and William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.” I’m also working on a Stott Pilates certification, so it’s going to be a busy year!