December 18

‘I only ever wanted to dance’

first_imgMichaela DePrince sizzles during a photo shoot in Johannesburg.(Image: Herman Verwey, City Press-Media24) The confident teenager is tipped for international stardom.(Image: Janine Erasmus) DePrince’s interpretation of Gulnare in Le Corsaire was well received by critics and reviewers.(Image: Susanne Holbaek)MEDIA CONTACTS • Samantha SaevitzonSABT publicity and publications officer+27 11 877 6894RELATED ARTICLES• They come to dance…and grow• Major turnaround for SA ballet• Using theatre to educate• SA puppet company wins a TonyJanine ErasmusTeenage ballet dancer Michaela DePrince survived a brutal civil war, adapted to a new life in a faraway country, and overcame numerous challenges to excel in a white-dominated art form. Today she’s regarded as one of the US’s most promising young artists.DePrince is African by birth, born in the West African country of Sierra Leone in the middle of a devastating civil war. Still not old enough to go to school, she ended up in a refugee camp as one of thousands of war orphans.Her bleak existence there – compounded by a skin pigmentation condition called vitiligo – was sustained by a torn-out magazine picture of a ballet dancer that somehow found its way into the camp and into her hands, and she decided there and then that she wanted to be like the happy girl in the picture.DePrince and two other girls from the orphanage were adopted by an American family and with their love and support, and with the help of her dancing, she was eventually able to put her wartime experiences behind her, although it took time and hard work and the memories have never gone away entirely.Today the 17-year-old is poised and assured, a mindset that belies her turbulent past, but gives a clue to why she is where she is today. She knows what she wants, and she’s prepared to do everything possible to get it.“I’ve only ever wanted to dance,” she says, and that determination has carried her in a discipline where competition is ruthless and discrimination has the potential to curtail many a career.Professional debut in JohannesburgSo compelling is her talent that the South African Ballet Theatre’s (SABT) Dirk Badenhorst invited DePrince to make her professional debut with the Johannesburg-based company in July, dancing the role of Gulnare in the local premiere of Le Corsaire.The ballet was presented by the South African Mzanzi Ballet, a new company formed through the merger of Mzansi Productions and the SABT. It was produced by former SABT principal dancer Angela Malan after the style of Marius Petipa, who set the standard for all modern interpretations of the ballet.DePrince had just two weeks to learn the role and she then had to make the transatlantic journey alone, as her parents were busy looking after her siblings.“To come all this way to work with an unfamiliar ballet company, not knowing anyone, and not knowing what you were walking into, took a lot of courage,” says Iain MacDonald, the SABT’s artistic director. “But the minute Michaela walked in, it was like she was one of the family.”“I didn‘t even know that South Africa had a ballet company,” says DePrince, “but I’ve had the time of my life here.” She plans to return some time in early 2013.Her performance as the slave girl Gulnare was widely praised, with reviewers describing her interpretation as “beautifully executed” and her line and balance as “near-perfect”.“I also learned a lot from Burnise,” she says, referring to the vastly experienced principal dancer Burnise Sylvius, a Pretoria girl who has guested with ballet companies from Canada to Hong Kong, and danced the role that DePrince most aspires to – that of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, a role renowned for its technical difficulty.A new beginningEarly on, DePrince showed a strong aptitude for ballet. “My mom got me The Nutcracker on DVD, and I learned all the moves off by heart.”At a live performance of the same ballet, she was able to accurately point out where the dancers were making errors – without having taken a single lesson herself. Her mother enrolled her in a dance class in Philadelphia where they lived, and she flourished, dancing en pointe at the age of seven, and forging a career despite the efforts by some of her earlier teachers to discourage her.Now photos of her exuberant grands jetés and lively smile garner comments like “bellissima!” and “spectacular!” but when DePrince was growing up there was seemingly no place for a black dancer in the pastel world of American ballet.But she followed the advice she now gives to other aspiring young dancers: to never give up and follow your dream relentlessly.“There were times that I wanted to pack it in, but my mom said, ‘wait until the end of the year’ or ‘give it a little longer’, and that helped me to get over the wall.”The family has since relocated to New York so that DePrince and her sister Mia, a talented singer, can pursue their careers. Those with sharp eyes may notice that many of DePrince’s ballet shoes have been dyed – by her mom – to complement her skin.DePrince recently completed a scholarship at the Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis school of the American Ballet Theatre. She joins the renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem in August.“I had a few offers, but I wanted to join the Harlem company because they’ve done so much to pave the way for black dancers.”South African Laveen Naidu is currently Harlem’s executive director. He started off by studying South Indian classical dance in his hometown of Durban, and went on to graduate from the University of Cape Town’s ballet school. In 1991 he received a scholarship from the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and has never looked back.DePrince was also one of the six young stars of the 2011 documentary First Position, which follows dancers throughout their preparations for the Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious international student dance competition.Giving talented kids a chanceMacDonald runs the SABT’s outreach programme, which is active in several areas of Johannesburg, including Soweto, Sophiatown and Alexandra. Children between six and 16 years of age receive free lessons to a standard that allows them to take examinations, and progress. According to MacDonald, this initiative has paid off handsomely.“There’s no question that we have talent,” he says, “but it’s opportunities that these kids need. Ballet gives them more than just a workout, it helps them to become more self-confident and disciplined, and this spills over to other areas in their lives.”DePrince was able to interact with the young dancers at the SABT’s Alexandra dance school and, says MacDonald, she was an inspiration.“The kids were a bit unsure and in awe when she walked in, but they warmed to her very quickly.”The development programme has seen a number of successes, most notably the award-winning Andile Ndlovu, who now dances with the Washington Ballet, and returned home to appear in Le Corsaire.Children from the development programme are regularly exposed to professional productions, either performing or watching, and some of them also appeared in Le Corsaire.THis is what DePrince loves to see. She hopes to be a role model for other young girls, especially those with the disadvantages that she overcame, and to inspire them to set their sights firmly on their dreams.last_img read more

December 17

Late-season weather impacts corn and soybean growth and development

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest By Kyle Poling, Pioneer Field Agronomist, Ada, OhioPhysiological maturity of a soybean seed occurs when the seed has completely lost all green color and turns yellow. At this point grain moisture is still over 50%, but a harvestable moisture of near 13% can be reached in as little as two weeks under good drying conditions. In order to time harvest perfectly, it is necessary to monitor soybean drying very closely. At full maturity (R8), 95% of pods have reached their mature pod color. At the R8 growth stage, only five to 10 good drying days are needed before harvest. Begin checking grain moisture before all the leaves have dropped off all the plants as various stresses can cause soybeans to retain some leaves. It is not uncommon to see a few green leaves and stems on some plants after the pods are fully ripe and the soybeans are dry enough for harvest.Soybeans should be harvested the first time they reach 13% to 14% moisture. Moisture above 13% will incur a price discount, but moisture below 13% results in less weight at the elevator. What is the cost in lost yield from shrink when soybean moisture levels get down to 10% or less? Delivering soybeans at 12% moisture is a 1.14% yield loss; at 10% moisture there is a 3.3% yield reduction. If a field of soybeans yields 60 bushels per acre at 13% moisture, but if harvest moisture is at 10% moisture than the amount of bushels sold will be reduced by 2.3 bushels per acre from just the moisture shrink. Additionally, when harvest is delayed, a number of potential losses may occur, including increased tendency to shatter.Several factors affect the rate at which crops develop — photoperiod, heat, moisture, and fertility. Heat and photoperiod are the two primary factors influencing soybean maturity. Soybeans are considered short-day plants, meaning that physiological development is accelerated as daylength shortens. However, the rate of maturity is sped up by hotter temperatures and slowed down by cooler weather. Soybeans can compensate for stresses/shortcomings that occur during early to mid-reproduction provided ample sunlight, adequate temperatures, and soil moisture is available. Favorable late-season temperatures (not too hot) and rainfall during late stages of development (R5 to R6) can create larger seed weight by extending the seed fill duration.For corn, the reproductive stages last for approximately 65 days. Nearly half of this time during reproduction is spent in the dent stage (R5). At the beginning of R5, the kernel has accumulated about 45% of its total dry weight. Kernels will begin to “dent” as the soft dough at the top of the kernel begins to be convert into a solid starch. A visible “milk line” on the kernel marks the progression of the solid starch formation as it moves from the kernel cap towards the kernel tip.Stress during the R5 growth stage can reduce the time for additional starch accumulation thereby reducing yield potential. At the beginning of dent stage approximately 60% of yield potential has been reached. At growth stage R5.5 (50% kernel milk) nearly 90% of a corn plant’s yield is final. Visual signs of stress that are speeding crop maturation and negatively impacting yield include leaf firing, ears prematurely tipping over, or plant top die-back from anthracnose stalk rot. Physiological maturity, also known as black layer (R6), is complete when an abscission layer forms at the base of the kernel eliminating further dry matter accumulation.Kernel drying following black layer is entirely due to evaporative moisture loss. In standing corn, kernel moisture loss requires approximately 30 GDUs to remove 1% of grain moisture between 30 and 25% moisture. As corn continues to dry down, approximately 45 GDUs are needed to remove each moisture point between 25% to 20% moisture. When weather conditions are warm and dry, corn may lose 1% of grain moisture per day, but during periods of cool and/or wet weather moisture loss may be minimal. Hybrid characteristics such as husk leaf coverage, husk leaf senescence, ear angle, and kernel pericarp thickness can affect drydown. Corn that matures earlier will dry down faster due to more favorable drying conditions early in the harvest season. Later maturing corn has fewer warm days to aid in drying thus will dry down at a slower rate.last_img read more