April 20, 2014

"First Position" -- Where are they now?

This post has got nothing to do with language or dogs. But since the post I wrote about the Spellbound kids ("Where are they now?") is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I might do the same for the kids from the 2011 ballet documentary "First Position," which shares many of the characteristics of Spellbound.

Of the six dancers portrayed in the documentary, 3 (Michaela DePrince, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Rebecca Houseknecht) were old enough to be awarded a scholarship with a prestigious ballet school, the dream prize of every dancer in the competition. 2 of them are still professional dancers.

Michaela DePrince, the dancer from Sierra Leone with the poignant life story, is probably the most established of the dancers. In the 2010 YAGP competition, she won a scholarship with American Ballet Theatre and afterwards received offers from both ABT and the Dance Theatre of Harlem for the 2012-13 season. She picked the latter and had her professional debut in 2012. She became known to a wide audience through a guest appearance in the TV show Dancing with the Stars. According to Wikipedia, she joined the Junior Company Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam in 2013. In 2014 she moved to the regular company. She also has her own website. And did you know that she used to be a competitive swimmer? Read an interview (and see beautiful pictures) with her here.
Edited to add (Oct. 2014): Her biography, Taking Flight, is coming out this month.
Edited to add (Nov. 2014): NY Times review of 'Taking Flight' here. There is also a version of this book for beginning readers, Ballerina Dreams. I will give both books as Christmas gifts this year, also the 2015 "Dancers among us" calendar, which has a picture of Michaela on the title page.

Joan  Sebastian Zamora, from Colombia, whose picture is on the cover of the First Position DVD, won a scholarship with the School of the Royal Ballet in London and joined the English National Ballet, Britain's foremost touring dance company, in 2013.
See a short video of his recent work here.
Edited to add: In 2015, Joan joined Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.

Rebecca Houseknecht, the all-American princess, did not win a prize at the YAGP, but she was offered a position with Washington Ballet's Studio Company shortly after the competition (the invitation came from one of the judges), which she happily accepted. However, she found that she "didn't like having to dance for my job, as weird as it sounds." After a year, she left the company. According to this article in the Washington Post, she is now studying speech pathology at Towson University, where she also joined the dance squad.

The three younger dancers went on to compete at the YAGP again -- and won awards again. As of 2013, they are still too young to be members of a professional company, but for at least two of them, dancing still pretty much seems to be their career destination.

Miko Fogarty, the determined sister of a less determined brother (and daughter of a very determined mother), has quite a media presence, see her tweets here and her YouTube videos here . (There's quite a bit of fan art about her. ) In 2012, ABC Nightline reported on her third YAGP and in 2013 she won an award in the prestigious Prix de Lausanne and was awarded full scholarships from ballet schools in the US and overseas. In 2013, she was training with the Indiana Ballet Conservatory and with Kaoru Jinushi in Japan. Edited to add: In 2015, Miko joined the Birmingham Royal Ballet as an artist on a one-year contract.

Aran Bell, the gravity-defying 11-year old from Italy, was the winner of the Hope Award in the 2010 YAGP competition (the award for children who are too young to compete for the Grand Prix). A year later, he won the Junior Grand Prix.  He has attended prestigious summer programs and festivals. In 2013, at the age of 15, he performed as part of the dance troupe Intermezzo in New York.According to one source, he has standing offers from four world-class ballet schools: Paris Opera, Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, and ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. When will he accept one of them?
Edited to add (Sep. 2014): Aran Bell is now dancing with ABT's studio company, which trains young dancers that are likely to become part of ABT.

Gaya Bommer Yemini, the spirited comtemporary dancer from Israel (who bonded with Aran Bell), went on to win the first prize in the contemporary category at the 2011 YAGP. In 2012-13 she was a scholarship student at the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco. Here's a picture of her from the Academy's Facebook page (dated Oct. 2013 and, sweetly, with a comment by Aran Bell):

April 13, 2014

"for moral behaviors, nouns work better than verbs"

What do nouns and verbs have got to do with "Raising a Moral Child" (the title of an op-ed piece in the Times today)? This: Sometimes, it's the right thing to praise behavior in a child, i.e. an action ("I loved it that you shared your toy"), sometimes it's more effective to praise the child, i.e. a character trait ("I love it that you are a generous person").
Many parents believe it’s important to compliment the behavior, not the child — that way, the child learns to repeat the behavior. Indeed, I know one couple who are careful to say, “That was such a helpful thing to do,” instead of, “You’re a helpful person.” But is that the right approach? In a clever experiment, the researchers Joan E. Grusec and Erica Redler set out to investigate what happens when we commend generous behavior versus generous character. After 7- and 8-year-olds won marbles and donated some to poor children, the experimenter remarked, “Gee, you shared quite a bit.” The researchers randomly assigned the children to receive different types of praise. For some of the children, they praised the action: “It was good that you gave some of your marbles to those poor children. Yes, that was a nice and helpful thing to do.” For others, they praised the character behind the action: “I guess you’re the kind of person who likes to help others whenever you can. Yes, you are a very nice and helpful person.” A couple of weeks later, when faced with more opportunities to give and share, the children were much more generous after their character had been praised than after their actions had been. Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities. The children learned who they were from observing their own actions: I am a helpful person. This dovetails with new research led by the psychologist Christopher J. Bryan, who finds that for moral behaviors, nouns work better than verbsTo get 3- to 6-year-olds to help with a task, rather than inviting them “to help,” it was 22 to 29 percent more effective to encourage them to “be a helper.” Cheating was cut in half when instead of, “Please don’t cheat,” participants were told, “Please don’t be a cheater.” When our actions become a reflection of our character, we lean more heavily toward the moral and generous choices. Over time it can become part of us.
Modelling good behavior also helps. No verbs or nouns needed.
Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.

April 08, 2014

The benefits of dog ownership -- let me count the ways

NY Times science columnist Jane Brody got herself a dog -- and finds that she is a happier, more connected person:
"there is no question that I am thrilled by his antics, endearing personality, unconditional love (even when I yell no), and the many connections he’s fostered with both acquaintances and strangers."
Not exactly news for dog owners, but perhaps helpful for those on the fence.