Classic opera & ballet restaged to celebrate VNOB’s anniversary

The Việt Nam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) will perform a Vietnamese classical opera and a Russian ballet between October 5 and 7 at the Ha Noi Opera House to celebrate the 60th anniversary.

The opera titled Người Tạc Tượng (Sculptor) by late composer Đỗ Nhuận (1922-1991) will be performed on October 5 and ballet Swan Lake will take place on October 7.

This is the first time since 1975 the opera has been restaged by the theatre. Composer Đỗ Hồng Quân, Đỗ Nhuận’s son and also the music director for the show, said the performance is a great effort of the theatre to restage an opera, which is considered a musical heritage of the country.

Panorama of the press conference

This time, a team of experienced artists will include Emeritus Artist Trần Ly Ly, acting director of the VNOB, who acts as the show’s art director; composer Đỗ Hồng Quân, chairman of Việt Nam Musicians’ Association, as music director; Emeritus Artist Trần Lực, as the director; painter Hoàng Hà Tùng as fine art designer; and People’s Artist Hồng Phong, as dancing director.

The opera will gather other famed performing artists like Mạnh Dũng, Tố Loan and Bùi Thị Trang.

Composer Quân said though the content features love in a fierce war, the opera will focus on love, loyalty and patriotism rather than the war itself.

Artists rehearse for the opera

Composer Nhuận was the first General Secretary of the Việt Nam Musicians’ Association between 1958 and 1983. He is among leading composers of revolutionary music. He was also the only composer of Vietnamese contemporary music’s first generation to be trained professionally at Tchaikovsky Music Conservatory in 1960-62.

Nhuận was among the first composers, who laid the foundations for Western opera in Việt Nam.

His first operas were composed in late 1950s.

He then composed opera Cô Sao (Miss Sao), Người Tạc Tượng (Sculptor) and Nguyễn Trãi in the 1980s.

He was the author of various historical songs of Vietnamese contemporary music like Du kích sông Thao (Guerillas by Thao River), Việt Nam Quê Hương Tôi (Việt Nam – My Homeland), and Tôi Thích Thể Thao (I Like Sports).

Beside opera Người Tạc Tượng, the world famous Swan Lake ballet will be performed on this special occasion.

This is the first time ever the full ballet will be performed instead of excerpts by Vietnamese dancers over the last 30 years.

Swan Lake is ready

Hundreds of artists, including Meritorious Artists Dam Han Giang and Nhu Quynh, Thu Hue, Thu Hang, dancers of the Vietnam Academy of Dance, artists of VNOB, the instrumental ensemble of 60 musicians will join the performance under the baton of conductor Dong Quang Vinh.

They took 6 months of practice to prepare for the concert, said Emeritus Artist Tran Ly Ly, director of the VNOB.

Emeritus Artist Trần Ly Ly initiated the idea of restaging the full Swan Lake by only Vietnamese dancers.

“This is a brave decision by the theatre’s managing board and the artists,” she said. “As the task does not only require financial investment but also high concentration of the whole team with 60 musicians and 60 dancers.”

It took the artists six months to rehearse for the show.

This version of the Swan Lake will be basically in Russian style but will be mingled with some special highlights to create significant features of the Vietnamese version,” she said.

Costumes for the show have been made by Ellie Vu’s team with Russian royal designs decorated with Vietnamese lotus patterns.

This is the first time a Vietnamese full version of Swan Lake will be staged.

The most loved and mesmerizing of classical ballets, “Swan Lake” was Tchaikovsky’s first. It was composed in 1875 and over 100 years later it remains a favorite with ballet companies regularly performing it throughout the world. “Swan Lake” debuted in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, but it was not well-received at the time.

In 1895, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov reworked the choreography for their St Petersburg performance and this has remained the most popular version. “Swan Lake” made its American debut with a 1940 performance by the San Francisco Ballet.

“Swan Lake” is a timeless love story that mixes magic, tragedy and romance. It has mesmerized audiences for over a century, is based on a German fairy tale. Tchaikovsky’s score tells the tragic love story of Prince Siegfried and Swan Princess, Odette, who is cursed to be a swan by day but a young woman at night.

Tuyet Hoa

Outstanding artists of VNOB honored with State’s titles

7 artists of Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) including in a total of 391 outstanding artists were honored with the State titles of People’s Artist and Meritorious Artist at a ceremony held at the Hanoi Opera House on August 29, with the attendance of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and other senior leaders of the State.

These titles are the State’s most noble awards for artists in recognition of their talents as well as dedication and contributions to the country’s arts sector.

Speaking at the ceremony, Prime Minister Phuc said over the past years, writers and artists have contributed to the struggle for national independence, freedom and reunification, as well as national construction and defence. He lauded the efforts, talents and dedication of the artists, and described them as pioneers in preserving, developing and spreading the nation’s cultural and artistic values both at home and abroad. The leader pointed out limitations and challenges currently facing the cultural and artistic sector, including cultural degradation.

Choreographer Nguyen Hong Phong received the Title of People Artist by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc

Given this, the most urgent task is to perfect the standards and values of the Vietnamese culture and people, making culture a foundation for economic development, and the nation’s internal strength, he said.
Promoting cultural and human values has been defined as one of strategic breakthroughs in strategic documents on socio-economic development for 2021-2030, as well as socio-economic orientations and tasks for 2021-2025 which are being prepared for the 13th National Party Congress, he noted.

The Prime Minister expressed his hope that the artists will work harder to develop the Vietnamese arts sector and promote Vietnamese culture abroad

Mr. Truong Huu Van (Clarinet – VNOB)

In the year of 2019, 60 years of VNOB celebration, it’s very honor for VNOB to have 7 individuals to receive State’s title, including 1 People Artist and 6 Emeritus Artists.  The artist honored as People Artist is choreographer Nguyen Hong Phong. 6 other Emeritus Artists are Mr.Truong Huu Van (Clarinet), Mr. Le Tuan Anh (Concert Master and Violin), Mr. Vu Manh Dung (Opera Singer), Ms. Bui Viet An, Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Hang and Ms. Mai Thi Nhu Quynh (Ballet Dancers).

Tuyet Hoa

Opera Singer Vu Manh Dung (VNOB)
Ballet Dancer Bui Viet An (VNOB)
3 Emeritus Artists are Ballet Dancers of VNOB: Nguyen Thi Thuy Hang, Bui Viet An and Mai Thi Nhu Quynh (from left to right)

Themes of Swan Lake

It’s common in theatrical dance for each company to adapt a piece to their own style and emphasize various interpretations. Yet, a ballet as classic as “Swan Lake”holds a number of themes that are universal to almost any productions.

Primarily, we notice a sense of beauty with fluid and dynamic movements by the prima ballerina playing Odette. She is elegant and graceful, but also somewhat uncomfortable in her human form. As a swan, she is poised, though she often feels isolated at night. Beauty does not equal confidence, sometimes it severely diminishes it.

Prince Siegfried also plays a role in his own world away from the lake. Bound by responsibility, his royal status pins him to a future that’s been decided. His reluctance leads to rebellion as he follows his heart for love, which is the central theme that prevails throughout the ballet.

The fight between good and evil is found here as well. After all, what good love story doesn’t have a little conflict? The juxtaposition of a ballerina playing two opposing roles only enhances this concept. The deception by Von Rothbart and Odile fuel the battle and, though it ends in the death of all four characters, good does ultimately prevail.

A synopsis of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Ballet

The most loved and mesmerizing of classical ballets, “Swan Lake” was Tchaikovsky’s first. It was composed in 1875 and over 100 years later it remains a favorite with ballet companies regularly performing it throughout the world. “Swan Lake” debuted in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, but it was not well-received at the time. In 1895, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov reworked the choreography for their St Petersburg performance and this has remained the most popular version. “Swan Lake” made its American debut with a 1940 performance by the San Francisco Ballet.

The Story of “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake” is a timeless love story that mixes magic, tragedy, and romance into four acts. It features Prince Siegfried and a lovely swan princess named Odette. Under the spell of a sorcerer, Odette spends her days as a swan swimming on a lake of tears and her nights in her beautiful human form.

The couple quickly falls in love. As in most fairy tales, things are not that easy and the sorcerer has more tricks to play. That brings Odile, his daughter, into the picture. Confusion, forgiveness, and a happy ending with Siegfried and Odette together forever round off the ballet.

Reading the synopsis of the four acts will fill you in on the rest of the story. Yet, it is interesting to note that in many performances, a single prima ballerina plays both Odette and Odile. It is a role that ballerinas strive for from a very young age.

Act I

Prince Siegfried arrives at his 21st birthday celebration on the palace courtyards. Here, he finds all of the royal families and townspeople dancing and celebrating, while the young girls are anxiously seeking his attention.

During the exquisite celebration, his mother gives him a crossbow. She informs him that because he is now of age, his marriage will be quickly arranged. Hit with the sudden realization of his future responsibilities, he takes his crossbow and runs to the woods with his hunting buddies.

Act 2

Getting ahead of the group, Prince Siegfried finds himself alone in a peaceful spot by an enchanted lake where swans gently float across its surface. While Siegfried watches, he spots the most beautiful swan with a crown on its head.

His buddies soon catch up, but he orders them to leave so he can be by himself. As dusk falls, the swan with the crown turns into the most beautiful young woman he has ever seen. Her name is Odette, the Swan Queen.

Odette informs the young prince about an evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart, who happens to be disguised as Prince Siegfried’s mentor. It was Rothbart who turned her and the other girls into swans. The lake was formed by the tears of their parents’ weeping. She tells him that the only way the spell can be broken is if a man, pure in heart, pledges his love to her.

The prince, about to confess his love for her, is quickly interrupted by the evil sorcerer. He takes Odette from Prince Siegfried’s embrace and commands all of the swan maidens to dance upon the lake and its shore so that the prince cannot chase them. Prince Siegfried is left all alone on the shore of Swan Lake.

Act 3

The next day at the formal celebration in the Royal Hall, Prince Siegfried is presented with many prospective princesses. Although the ladies are worthy of his attention, he cannot stop thinking about Odette.

His mother commands him to choose a bride, but he cannot. For the time being, he satisfies his mother’s request by dancing with them.

While the prince dances, trumpets announce the arrival of Von Rothbart. He brings his daughter, Odile, on whom he has cast a spell to appear as Odette. The prince is captivated by her beauty and he dances with the imposter.

Unbeknownst to Prince Siegfried, the true Odette is watching him from a window. The prince soon confesses his love to Odile and proposes marriage, thinking that she is Odette.

Horrified, Odette flees into the night. Prince Siegfried sees the real Odette running from the window and realizes his mistake. Upon his discovery, Von Rothbart reveals to the prince the true appearance of his daughter Odile. Prince Siegfried quickly leaves the party and chases after Odette.

Act 4

Odette has fled to the lake and joined the rest of the girls in sadness. Prince Siegfried finds them gathered at the shore consoling each other. He explains to Odette the trickery of Von Rothbart and she grants him her forgiveness.

It doesn’t take long for Von Rothbart and Odile to appear in their evil, un-human, and somewhat bird-like forms. Von Rothbart tells the prince that he must stick to his word and marry his daughter. A fight quickly ensues.

Prince Siegfried tells Von Rothbart that he would rather die with Odette than marry Odile. He then takes Odette’s hand and together they jump into the lake.

The spell is broken and the remaining swans turn back into humans. They quickly drive Von Rothbart and Odile into the water where they, too, drown. The girls watch the spirits of Prince Siegfried and Odette ascend into the heavens above Swan Lake.

VNOB reachs 11 prizes at Road No 9 Singing Festival

Close to 700 artists from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were brought together at the Road No 9 Singing Festival which closed in the central province of Quang Tri on July 25. At the awarding ceremony, Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) reached 11 difirent medals and prizes.

The performances featured the themes of revolutionary struggles and cause of national construction and defence as well as praised the patriotism and beauty of Vietnamese, Lao, and Cambodian culture, land and people.

Nguyen Quang Vinh, acting Director of the Department of Performing Art under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said more than 100 musical performances were staged during the six-day event.

The festival created a professional creative art environment for artists nationwide to continue performing new songs about the aforesaid themes, he added.

The event was co-organised by the Department of Performing Art, Vietnam Musicians’ Association, Vietnam Dance Association, and Quang Tri provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

At the closing ceremony, the organising board presented gold medals to an art troupe from the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang, the Vietnam Military Music, Song and Dance Theatre, and Vietnam National Music, Song and Dance Theatre.

The best opera award was presented to the Vietnam National Opera & Ballet while the silver medals went to art troupes from the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum and the host Quang Tri.

The most outstanding performances staged at the event were honoured with 15 gold and 19 silver medals.

The organising board also presented campaign medals to Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian art troupes.

National Road No 9 is a symbol of friendship between the three countries. Stretching along the Truong Son Mountain Range and the Ho Chi Minh trail, it was an important route for moving supplies, equipment and troops from the north to the south of Vietnam during the resistance war against the US.

Many battles took place in the area as the US wanted to destroy the road. The victory of the Road No 9 campaign significantly contributed to the southern liberation and unification of Vietnam.

Every three years, the Department of Performing Arts holds the festival to strengthen solidarity between Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and pay tribute to fallen soldiers of the three countries.


Vietnam Tourism – Culture Festival 2019 opens in South Korea

The event aims to introduce and promote the beauty of the country and people of Vietnam in South Korea.

A roadshow to introduce and promote Vietnam’s tourism was kicked start in Seoul, South Korea on June 26 with a gala opening the 2019 Vietnam Tourism – Culture Festival.

Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Thien, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, is speaking at the opening ceremony

The event was organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in coordination with the Vietnamese Embassy in South Korea.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien said that in recent years, Vietnam and South Korea have implemented various exchange and cooperation activities in the fields of culture, sport and tourism.
The minister affirmed that Vietnam always creates favorable conditions to welcome South Korean visitors, investors and travel enterprises to Vietnam and contribute to deepening the understanding and friendship between the two countries.

Vietnamese Ambassador to South Korea Nguyen Vu Tu

On his side, Vietnamese Ambassador to South Korea Nguyen Vu Tu affirmed that the event aims to introduce and promote the beauty of the country and people of Vietnam in South Korea.
On this occasion, South Korean guests were introduced to Vietnamese landscapes, resorts, hotels as well as the Vietnamese people and traditional cultural practices.

Art performance is implemented by Vietnam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) named “Vietnam soul”

In 2018, Vietnam welcomed nearly 3.5 million South Korean visitors, a surge of 44.3% year-on-year.
In the first five months of 2019, nearly 1.8 million South Korean tourists visited Vietnam, a 22.4% increase from the same period last year. South Korea has become the second biggest visitor source market in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, nearly 500 thousand Vietnamese tourists visited South Korea in 2018, up 41% from 2017. In recent years, the Vietnamese tourism sector has seen the engagement of many South Korea firms such as Lotte, Accor, and Intercontinental.

VNOB artists have photos group with the head coach of Vietnam National Men Football Team, Mr. Park Hang Seo

(Hanoi News)

Choreographer Vũ Ngọc Khải: Bring Vietnamese soul into contemporary Dance

Choreographer Vũ Ngọc Khải will present a new show entitled Đáy Giếng (Into The Well) on June 28 in Hà Nội. Khải currently works at the Konzert Theatre Bern, Switzerland. He graduated from the Việt Nam Dance Academy and attended a one-year course at the Codarts Rotterdam Dance Academy in the Netherlands. He is the art director and co-founder of the 1648km Art Performance & Community Organisation. Lê Hoa talks to Khải about his new show and career.

Can you tell us about your new work?

I choreographed Into The Well for the Hanoi Dance Fest 2019. The work is a journey of Vietnamese looking for their identity. In Vietnamese culture, the bamboo oars, communal house yards, water wells and mats are both propulsive forces and resistance for the individual human being. Striking through cultural challenges I wanted to reflect myself in correlation with nature. The journey is illustrated by the language of contemporary dance and traditional live music. I researched traditional festivals such as buffalo fighting and the Tây Sơn battle drum to incorporate into the dance. I was introduced to artists who I invited to join my project later. Traditional musicians Nguyễn Thành Nam and meritorious artist Nguyễn Ngọc Khánh will be playing for me. They were born into traditional music families.

How did you become a dancer?

I started dancing because my father made me to. At that time I was very active and like many other children I liked sports a lot. Honestly, when my father submitted the application for my entrance exam to dance school, I didn’t like it at all. But now I have to thank him because I’ve become a professional dancer and I love to dance.

Did you face many difficulties at the beginning?

I had a lot of injuries. When I was a child I often twisted my ankles. When I started learning ballet my legs were quite weak, so injuries were common if I fell in training. I’ve suffered the consequences of those injuries such as arthritis. The worst injury I’ve had was a herniated disc. I had to take a year off because of that.

You’ve had the chance to perform with foreign artists on international stages. What have been your most memorable experiences?

Foreign dancers have amazing creativities, and I’m happy to be involved in that environment. School dancers have the right to zone in to their own creativity. Good or bad is not important and no one has the right to judge. This is the key for creativity. The contemporary dance language is very wide and almost without limits. In school they learn many different techniques such as ballet, Cunningham, Limon, Flying Flow, Floorwork, Counter Technique and Release Technique. These techniques are all choreographed by teachers. Creative thinking helps to acquire these techniques. In contemporary dance ideas relate much to life, especially in the way you think about people. Modern life brings people to more complex thoughts and young people in particular want to express their emotions.

There are more young artists involved in contemporary dance. What do you want to say to them?

Actually, it is difficult to enjoy a dance performance. I think young dancers should set their goals from the beginning. They should know if they want to be ballet dancers, contemporary dancers or both because dance always takes time to practice. Depending on the form of dance they choose, their bodies will grow around them. A dancer has quite short time to perform so if they have a clear plan from the beginning they will get the results they desire. In addition, when they are dancers, they should learn the methods of teaching, choreography and staging. It will be good preparation for them when they can no longer dance. But the most important thing is they should try their best to dance while they can. The door will open more for them later.

Le Hoa (Vietnamnews)

Khai Ngoc Vu is currently a dancer/choreographer at Konzert Theatre Bern, Switzerland. He had the opportunity to both study and work in Vietnam and Europe. Before being a professional, he graduated from the Vietnam National Dance College in 2004 after 7 years of study. In 2006, he received a full scholarship for the Codarts/Rotterdam Dance Academy – Netherlands from the Consulate of Netherlands in Vietnam. Ever since, he has worked for a number of dance companies and theaters in Vietnam, Holland, Italia, Germany and Switzerland.

He started choreographing in 2009. Since 2018, he is the Artistic Director, co-founder 1648kilomet (Performing Arts and Community Activity Organization). He first started as a ballet dancer, then gradually changed to neo-classical dance, and now he has finally found himself embracing contemporary dance. He would love to share his experience to audience by teaching and choreographing. He wishes his work could touch the people in modern life.

In march 2018, one of his works ‘’Mushrooms Zone’’ won 1st prize International Ayang Young Choreographer Competition – South Korea.

How do you succeed in Dance? (Part Two)

Lesson 11: Know when to quit.

“If you’re not getting challenged in a big company, investigate why. Where is your dancing lacking? Where is your work ethic lacking? If you can’t seem to move forward, look into other companies. Go back to what it means to bend your body, to bend your knees, to move in space. You’ll be able to breathe through those moments of difficulty.” —Ashley Tuttle, master ballet teacher

Lesson 12: Remember that even stars are part of a team.

“This is a collaborative art form. Successful dance artists see themselves as part of a whole. They may be the star, but they remain aware that there’s an entire corps de ballet behind them, and a conductor in the pit carefully keeping the music at the right tempo, and someone who will stay late and do all the laundry for the next day. Anytime there’s a mishap onstage, we all have to band together and coordinate the best, most subtle solution possible, ideally without the audience knowing anything was wrong. Sometimes I feel like we’re a pod of dolphins—we communicate very simply and effectively, sometimes just with our eyes or a whisper. We find a way to fix it, then move along as if nothing happened. The stronger the team, the better the company.” —Kelly Brown, production stage manager at Miami City Ballet

Lesson 13: Hire experts.

“Do not be, as one lawyer told me, ‘penny wise and pound foolish.’ When you have an opportunity to be paid for your craft, especially when it comes to commercial partnerships with brands and products, find a good entertainment lawyer or agent to help you navigate the contract. It’ll cost you 5 to 15 percent of the overall fee, but is very worth it. They’ll make sure you’re not giving away rights to your image and likeness indefinitely or for longer than the value of your compensation. You’ll avoid being unfairly locked into category exclusivity. The details are truly in the fine print.” —Gilda Squire, founder of Squire Media & Management, Inc., and manager to Misty Copeland and others

Lesson 14: Be insatiable.

“When you see artists who are dancing into their 50s, ask, ‘What is it that has brought them to this moment?’ When you think of Alessandra Ferri, Wendy Whelan, Sylvie Guillem, Mikhail Baryshnikov—they’re incredibly gifted, versatile artists, but there is a drive that is innate.” —Jodie Gates, vice dean and director of USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance

Lesson 15: Get some distance.

“I was getting burned out dancing and being on the road so much with Batsheva, and decided to spend nine months at a Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia. There was a scary feeling of space that opened up by cutting the momentum of my dancing life. I became aware of how much I defined myself as a dancer, and held that as a proof of my self-worth. I had thought I wasn’t one of those ‘crazy dancers’ who prioritizes being a dancer over being a person. Now I feel less afraid to drop dancing and that identity entirely, which allows me to continue, and more fully, because my grip on it is more relaxed. Any time I have stepped away, I have come back with more than I left with.” —Doug Letheren, dancer with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

Lesson 16: Don’t trust the trends.

“Don’t get lost in what is ‘cool,’ even when you see the pros doing it. Trends like no ballet slippers or dressing like you’re at a gym can make anyone watching think less of you, and you never know who is going to walk in. Even I put myself into a unitard and skirt to teach class because I feel and think more like dancer when I am dressed like one.” —Nancy Bielski, master ballet teacher at Steps on Broadway

esson 17: Save money to buy yourself freedom.

“Save enough for three to sixth months. Start by putting a little bit aside. I have the bank do it automatically, so it slowly drips into a savings account. That cushion is going to make it okay for you to not take the crappy gig you don’t want but to hold out for the job that you do.” —Jessica Scheitler, enrolled agent, owner of Financial Groove

Lesson 18: Keep exploring.

“The dancers I’ve watched succeed haven’t been afraid to reinvent themselves, either across topic or scale. Consider how your practice works across platforms—corporate and not, nonprofit and not, on Broadway but also at a place like The Joyce.” —Marc Bamuthi Joseph, vice president and artistic director of social impact at the Kennedy Center

Lesson 19: Don’t cross your legs when you sit.

“Considering the frequency of total hip replacements in dancers these days, you should refrain from sitting with your legs crossed. This position adds stress to the lumbar spine and the hip joints. It compresses the nerves and blood supply to the lower extremities, and it inhibits the abdominal muscles from activity, making them insufficient to stabilize your spine.” —Marika Molnar, physical therapist and founder of Westside Dance Physical Therapy in New York City

Lesson 20: Treat rehearsals like more than practice.

“Rehearsals are not just about preparing for some future event. They are the present, too. So how we engage with each other, and how we literally live together in the hours and hours we have making a thing together, well, that matters. Once I figured that out, my attitude about time changed, as did the actual outcomes of the dances themselves.” —Liz Lerman, choreographer and educator

(Dance Magazine)

How do you succeed in Dance?

What does it take to “make it” in dance? It’s no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn’t enough to get you where you want to be. So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.

Lesson 1: Ask yourself why you dance, and make sure the answer is, “Because I love it.”

“The stage is transparent. Some people go out onstage and they have so much life because they love what they do. Other people just do tricks. Someone might give great performances, and the audience might think, Oh, that’s very nice, but it doesn’t change them. They were just watching someone who wanted to be the center of attention, not an artist who was dying to dance.” -Paloma Herrera, artistic director of Teatro Colón’s ballet company

Lesson 2: Learn about the culture of every style you study.

“Have the same respect for the culture of locking, for instance, as you would for pointe work. Understanding the history will open up your storytelling abilities and make you look more natural because you’ll ‘get’ where it comes from, not just what it is.” – Luam, hip-hop choreographer, director and master teacher

Lesson 3: Don’t get hung up on talent.

“Statistically, less physically gifted dancers are more successful. A talented dancer gets everything easier, gets used to this and stops exerting. The greatest mistake dancers make is too much self-assurance.” -Yuri Fateyev, acting director of the Mariinsky Ballet

Lesson 4: Value all improvement.

“Don’t dismiss small improvements just because they don’t fulfill the image of your larger-scale goals. Improvement can be a change in quality, facility, adaptation or efficiency. A change can be tiny, incremental. Acknowledging an improvement makes the difference between leaving the studio that day with a success or with a failure—and this can set the tone by which we live our lives.” —Ami Shulman, rehearsal director for GöteborgsOperans Danskompani and certified Feldenkrais practitioner

Lesson 5: Don’t work hard, work smart.

“A lot of young artists practice by just repeating and repeating the same material, thinking it will get better. But sometimes you have to pause and think about why you’re doing the movement, or why it doesn’t work. Stick with it, but try a different way.”—PeiJu Chien-Pott, principal with the Martha Graham Dance Company

Lesson 6: Value your choices more than your body or ability

“How your body looks or how well you execute movements does not determine who you are. If your feelings about yourself rise and fall with your weight or how high you jump, then you will feel anxious and depressed. But if your self-esteem is based on your actions and behaviors, then you can consistently feel good about yourself.” —Nadine Kaslow, a clinical psychologist who works with Atlanta Ballet

Lesson 7: Share yourself, not just what you can do.

“What’s interesting is who you are, not how many turns you can do or how you can distort your body. Dancers today are challenged constantly by that very passing flashiness. Like a jewel dangling in front of you, sparkling. But stars glow, they do not sparkle. Sparkles can disappear.” —Judith Jamison, artistic director emerita at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Lesson 8: Don’t ignore directions just so you can show off.

“In the audition room when the choreographer is like, ‘Okay, give me a double pirouette—clean, please,’ we’ll get young hotshots giving us a triple or a quadruple. They want to sex it up a little bit, when in fact what’s being asked for is very clear, very succinct. If you show off, it can quite often work against your favor.” —Duncan Stewart, Broadway casting director at Stewart/Whitley

Lesson 9: Ask for advice—and the opportunities you want.

“No one in the dance world has ever said no when I’ve asked for advice. Pick up the phone or meet face-to-face and ask questions. If you want to dance in a certain company or project, ask. Sometimes luck just occurs, and sometimes luck is made because you are vigilant in your pleasant, kind assertiveness. Make yourself available for opportunities. And make your own opportunities.” —David Dorfman, artistic director, college professor, Broadway and postmodern choreographer

Lesson 10: Value the small roles.

“Dancers today too often want everything now. To that, I say, ‘Wait your turn, stick it out, gather the experience and commit to the company.’ Patience develops dancers.” —Barbara Bears, ballet master at Houston Ballet


How do you go about getting involved in an orchestra?

So, now that we’ve (hopefully) convinced you of the benefits, how do you go about getting involved in an orchestra?

Choosing an instrument

If you already play a musical instrument, you can skip this section and go straight to the next one to find out how to find a suitable orchestra for you.

If you don’t already play a musical instrument, but you’ve decided you’d like to play in an orchestra, now’s the time to choose the right instrument for you. There are orchestras for all levels of ability, but you’ll still need to put in quite a lot of work on your chosen instrument before you’ll be able to participate in one. Here are a few considerations to take into account when deciding which instrument to take up:

– Your musical tastes – certain instruments lend themselves to particular musical tastes; if you enjoy noisy music, for instance, perhaps percussion might be right for you. If you’d prefer a gentler sound, the flute might be better suited.

– Practicality – some instruments are huge and difficult to transport, such as a harp or double bass. If you live in a small house, or have a complicated journey to school, you may be better off with a smaller instrument that’s easily transported and stored. What’s more, you’ll have to spend a lot of time practising, so a particularly loud instrument may send your parents mad if you live in a small house with thin walls!

– Your build – if you’re very small, you might struggle with a large instrument such as the double bass; if you have short fingers, you might find it difficult to play some instruments that require large stretches of your fingers, such as the piano.

– Confidence – if you don’t mind, or actively like, being the centre of attention, an instrument that will require you to play solos in an orchestral environment would be good for you, such as the flute or clarinet. If you’d rather be able to hide in a bigger group, a stringed instrument such as the violin might suit you better because you’ll be one of many.

– Competition – some instruments are more popular than others, and that means there’s variation in how easy it is to get into an orchestra. An instrument such as the flute will have lots of competition for two or three spaces in an orchestra, while a less popular instrument such as the viola is always in demand, meaning you’ll find it much easier to get into the orchestra you want.

– Budget – there may well be a scheme at your school to hire a musical instrument, but if not then budget may be a limiting factor. Most instruments have models for a range of budgets, but some are undoubtedly more expensive than others (harps, for example).

– Teachers – you’ll need to make sure there’s a person within easy reach who teaches your chosen instrument, so that you’re not having to travel great distances to lessons. There may be music teachers at your school whom you can go to for advice on this.

– Gut feeling – many people are naturally drawn to a particular instrument, which perhaps has something to do with personality; each instrument has its own personality and it can sometimes be a question of finding the one that matches yours. If you’ve always had a yen for a particular instrument, regardless of its practicality, then this is the one to go for, as you’ll be motivated to succeed at it.

Finding an orchestra

The first place to look for a suitable orchestra is your school, as it will be easier logistically if your rehearsals are on the same site and you can go straight from lessons to rehearsals. If there isn’t one at your school, try a Google search for orchestras in your local area, as there will probably be a county youth orchestra and other amateur groups. Your town’s local website or newspaper may also be able to point you in the right direction. Keep an eye out for local concerts, as this is a good way to find local orchestras and assess how good they are.

Alternatives to orchestras

Don’t forget that playing in an orchestra isn’t the only way of getting involved in playing music; music groups come in many different shapes and sizes, so you’re bound to find one that suits you. Leaving aside pop, rock and similar popular music groups, here are some of the alternative musical ensemble options open to you if you decide that an orchestra isn’t quite what you’re looking for. They all bring the same benefits as playing in an orchestra, but provide different repertoire and group sizes.

– Wind/concert bands – these are made up of woodwind and brass instruments, and usually involve a more modern repertoire.

– Brass band – as the name suggests, a brass band is made up of brass instruments, such as trumpets, tubas and trombones. This produces a very unique sound, which you’ll probably have heard on the streets playing carols at Christmas time. The brass band repertoire is a bit more varied than that, though!

– String quartet – this is perfect if you play a stringed instrument and you want a more intimate setting than an orchestra. It’s made up of two violins, a viola and a cello.

– Jazz band – these are tremendous fun and often involve improvisation, so if you’re a creative type and don’t mind making music up on the spot, a jazz band might be just the thing for you.

– Choir – thanks to TV programmes such as Gareth Malone’s The Choir, choirs are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. There are groups to cater for all musical tastes, from Renaissance religious music to reworkings of pop songs.


Not all orchestras and music groups require you to do an audition, but the best ones almost certainly will, even at an amateur level. Auditions can be nerve-wracking, because you’re very exposed and you know you’re being judged and compared to others. Here are a few tips to help your audition go as smoothly as possible:

– Choice of music – choose a piece you’re comfortable with, and one that demonstrates the emotional and technical range you’re capable of. It’s better to play a less difficult piece exceptionally well than it is to try to tackle a technically challenging piece that’s too difficult for you. Top tip: never play a piece of Bach at an audition. People have very varied opinions about how his work should be performed, and the chances are that the person you’re performing to won’t agree with your interpretation!

– Practising – in the run-up to your audition, practise your piece again and again until you could almost play it without the music.

– Page turning – if your piece of music has any awkward page turns that could disrupt your performance, photocopy your music so that you can lay the sheets side by side.

– Sight-reading – you’ll probably be given a piece of sight-reading during your audition, where you’re required to play a piece of music you’ve never seen before. This is one of the most stressful elements, but you can prepare yourself for it by practising as much sight-reading as you can beforehand. Sight-read a range of pieces with different time signatures, rhythms and tempos so that you’re as prepared as you can be for whatever they might throw at you.

– Stage fright – try to relax before the audition and perhaps try a little meditation to help combat nerves.

– Warm up – allow enough time before the audition to warm up properly. Going in with cold fingers is a recipe for disaster, as is a cold instrument. There will almost certainly be a rehearsal space in which you can do a few scales and a practise run-through of your piece to help you warm up.

Once you’ve passed an audition and got yourself into an orchestra, you’ll soon be able to experience the exhilaration of performing with lots of other musicians – and you’ll soon start to feel the far-reaching benefits of your new hobby.