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Loving Every Minute!

September 9, 2012

Albany Dance & Fitness logoWow! The first year of owning a dance studio went quickly! But I can understand why it did.  In addition to offering a variety of dance and fitness classes we also held the following events:

  • Two afternoons of free sampler classes (A Taste of Dance and Get Fit 2012)
  • Official Grand Opening
  • Two Balletone Instructor Workshops
  • Three Ballet Master Classes with NYC Ballet dancer Andrew Scordato
  • Several Balletone workshops offered through Capital District Physician’s Health Plan
  • Broadway Jazz performing opportunity

The second year has already started ad we’ve added more classes including Jazz Funk and Modern Dance. And we already have the following events on the calendar:

We’re also hoping to hold different types of master classes this year. Plans are also in progress for a performing opportunity in a local production of the Nutcracker.

I’m having fun offering all these special classes and workshops, but what I really love is teaching. I’ve had the chance to work with many wonderful students. It brings me great joy to see them improve over time and to know that they are having fun.

I’m ready for the second year!

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What is the Breaking Pointe?

May 30, 2012

I’m not a big fan of reality television shows, but I have high hopes for the new ballet show, “Breaking Pointe”.

This new show follows Salt Lake City’s Ballet West (BW) company dancers. Supposedly it will set the record straight about the real behind the scenes work of dance and will erase misconceptions created by the movie “Black Swan”. The BW Artistic Director, Adam Sklute, is a creative consultant for the show and plans to make sure that this is the case.

I hope that there will be lots of dance and that the show will foster an appreciation of ballet. We’ll see tomorrow night when the show premieres on the CW (May 31st).

If you watch it, share your impression of the show.

New Dance Movie to Open

May 10, 2012

I’m excited about a new ballet movie, “First Position“, that opens on May 11, 2012.  I’m not sure if it will be as popular as “Black Swan” was, since this new movie is a documentary.

“First Position”, directed by Bess Kargman, follows six young dancers as they prepare and then compete in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). The YAGP is the world’s largest student ballet competition that provides scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide. This prestigious competition is held annually around the world and in New York City.

I had the opportunity to view a couple of stories about the movie on Good Morning America and Nightline. The dancing looks out of this world! And the reviews are remarkable.

For those of you that are in the Capital District/Saratoga NY area, there will be a screening at the Saratoga Film Forum on Sunday, June 24, 2012, 7:30 pm, as part of the Film Festival of Dance (some other great dance films will also be shown during the four day festival). I can’t wait to attend this screening in June!

I Survived the Pilates Reformer!

April 19, 2012

Trying a new type of fitness workout can be scary. I know first hand.

I recently tried the Pilates reformer, a piece of equipment that uses springs to provide extra resistance. My Pilates mat instructor and friend, Tenicia (T.) Trask of TNT Fitness insisted that I try it. I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it, but she got the ball rolling by setting us up for a double session. This meant that T. and I were scheduled to go to this. There was no backing out even though I must admit that I was a bit nervous (little known secret: fitness machines scare me).

I had no idea what to expect from the session. T. started out on the reformer and I was on the mat. I was somewhat comfortable with that since I have been taking Pilates mat group classes. It felt a little different, though. I know T’s routine from class, but there were times that I felt that the instructor was speaking in a foreign language. Plus I was the only one doing the exercises, so there was no one else to look at. Once we were finished with that, it was time for the two of us to switch.

Now I found myself on a fitness machine. I felt like I didn’t know my right from my left or my front from my back. I got through it, though. Before I knew it the session was over.

The results a couple of days later: I felt sore in places that I never would have expected. For instance, who would have thought that my inner thighs would feel it?

I would love to try this again. I imagine that it takes a few times to feel like you know what you are doing. That’s true with any new workout. I’m sure that my Balletone and Ballet students feel that way the first time that they attend class. I will have to keep that in mind when people try the class for the first time.

Another Dream Come True

March 27, 2012

Class with Andrew ScordatoIn my last blog entry, Dancing with a NYC Ballet Star, I wrote about the wonderful class that I took with Andrew Scordato, NYC Ballet dancer, at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY. I had the opportunity to take two more classes with Andrew that week. They were all fun, but the class that was held at Albany Dance & Fitness was very special to me.  Less than a year ago I realized my dream of opening a dance studio and now a professional dancer taught at the studio! I’m still on a high from this!

Having a professional dancer teach a class at the studio was quite an experience. Everyone that took the class seemed to enjoy themselves. It was fun to try different steps, learn some of NYC Ballet repertory, and hear behind the scene stories. We all felt like we were in another world! I could tell by the feedback I received:

“What a great experience, so much fun! Never thought I could do a combination from a real NYC ballet!” (Shelley)

“Thanks Gail for hosting such an amazing teacher! I loved Andrew’s class! Ahhh….fabulous!” (Sara)

“Thank you Gail for having Andrew Scordato, of the NYC Ballet, it was the most fun I can recall having in a very long time!!!! Not that your classes aren’t great, but WOWEEE, what fun, and Balanchine choreography….WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Maria)

My wishes for this studio are to have students enjoy the experience while taking classes. I want it to be a place where they can forget about the stress of everyday life, have fun, and at the same time get fit. Hopefully, they find this to be true at every class that is held at the studio.  Based  on the feedback from the special class with Andrew, I know that this was the case that night. There is no doubt in my mind, we must hold more special events like this!

Dancing with a NYC Ballet Star

March 5, 2012

Andrew Scordato teaching classI don’t get to take many ballet classes, but yesterday I had the chance to participate in a special class with NYC Ballet dancer Andrew Scordato. The class was part of a community day fundraiser for Saratoga Dances II, an upcoming event sponsored by Dance Alliance.

Andrew challenged us with some tricky combinations at the barre. He was very patient and offered suggestions for improvement.  At the same time he was encouraging.

After trying a few center combinations, we learned part of Le Tombeau de Couperin, a piece choreographed by George Balanchine in 1975. It’s based on court dances and consisted of some pattern work. We learned a small section that included a little bit of the pattern work. Andrew kept giving us tips about how we should look and told us behind the scenes stories about the piece. It was fun to pretend that we were performing this wonderful work , although I’m sure that we did not do it justice.

One of the things that I liked the most about the class was watching Andrew demonstrate. His feet articulate in ways that seem impossible and his movement is precise and at the same time very fluid.Ballet class

Andrew will be teaching two more open classes in the area:

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to take these classes! That’s where I will be 🙂

My New Love – Pilates

February 21, 2012

Pilates class OK, I’ve been thin all my life, not counting the times while pregnant. However, I’ve always felt that I had a little pooch. I longed for the flat tummy and tried doing crunches. But, that never did the trick.

Recently I started taking Pilates Mat classes on a weekly basis. I can’t believe the difference in how my body feels and looks! And I’ve noticed a difference in ballet class. My upper body is much more stable and my balance has improved.

I wish I had tried Pilates a long time ago. I heard of it when I was a dance major at Brockport State,  but I had no idea what it was (no internet back then). Pilates was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. It is a conditioning workout that improves core strength and creates long, lean muscles. The workouts can be done on the mat or using special apparatus.

The Pilates mat class is definitely work, but I find it very enjoyable. I’ve found a wonderful instructor, Tenicia Trask (T), of TNT Fitness Studios. She has a special way of explaining how the exercises should be done. T has an eagle eye and lets you know if you are not doing the movement correctly. She is in tune with the different ability levels of the class participants and offers modifications and challenges. Pilates is a tough workout, but T makes the class enjoyable and is very encouraging.

I look forward to the the class every week because I feel amazing afterwards. And I finally have that flat tummy!

Sometime I’m going to try Pilates on the apparatus….

Nudes, Dancers, and More

February 9, 2012

Photo of Little Dance of Fourteen Years sculptureI’ve always admired the artwork of Edgar Degas, especially the work depicting dancers. Somehow he captures the beauty of the dancers’ body positions.  I can picture the dancers moving and feel like I am a part of the class .  And his sculpture,  Little Dancer of Fourteen Years,  is exceptional. Although some thought that it was ugly when it was first displayed in 1881, to me it shows the beauty and innocence of a very young dancer. The pose is not a beautiful pose, in fact it is somewhat awkward. That is what makes it so realistic.

The “Degas and the Nude” exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA, brought to light another aspect of Degas’ work. It was amazing to see how his studies of the nude body gave him a sense of how clothing draped on the body. In the exhibit there were many instances where the nude study was displayed and next to it there was a piece where he drew upon  the nude study. I found this particularly interesting because you could see how he used the nude study to further his understanding of how the body moved.

If you didn’t get to see this exhibit, there is a book  Degas and the Nude , that explores the artist’s treatment of the nude from his early years all the way to his last decades when the theme dominated his artistic production in all media. It will definitely give you a glimpse of how the study of nudes was incorporated into his work.

Ballet Arts Still Thrives

January 19, 2012

As my husband and I wandered around the arts community of Beacon, NY, he tried the door of Ballet Arts Studio. To my surprise, the studio was open! I was happy to see that it is still a top notch dance school. This is the studio where I started my ballet training in 1963 and  continued studying dance until I went off to college (even then I would attend classes at the studio on Saturdays and also performed with the company).

Gail in front of Ballet Arts Studio, Beacon , NY

Being there brought back lots of wonderful memories. The studio looks exactly as I remember it although a few things have changed. There is now an additional dance studio in the basement and a new marley dance floor covers the wood floor. And I don’t remember the paint in the dressing room being such bright colors. But those are just minor changes to the appearance of the facility. The knowledge and love of dance is still being shared.

Photo of Ballet Arts Studio, Beacon NY

Of course there is a different director of the studio. Over the years the studio has changed hands many times. When I began my lessons, Elizabeth Schneider ran the school and was Artistic Director of Dutchess County Ballet Company. She had to sell the studio due to health reasons, so in 1969 Mme Seda Suny and Tom Adair ran the studio. Tom Adair also had a studio in Poughkeepsie, NY and was the artistic director of Poughkeepsie Ballet Theatre. All students of Ballet Arts Studio performed with Mr. Adair’s company.  I was very fortunate to study ballet with these excellent teachers and to have the opportunity to dance in many ballet performances.

Mme Seda ran the studio until 1985 when she retired from teaching ballet at the age of 80. Valerie Feit bought the studio. I never studied from her, but from what I have read and heard, it was a thriving dance studio. Two and a half years ago Valerie passed the studio on to her dance colleague, Alex Bloomstein.

Mr. Bloomstein is carrying on the tradition. I watched as he worked with several young students and could see how passionate he and the students are about dance. They are already rehearsing for the school’s spring recital. I just may have to attend that recital! (And I’m sure that my mom would love to go. She also spent lots of time at Ballet Arts Studio working as the office manager.)

I hope that these young dancers will still find a dance studio here if they visit thirty years after they have stopped taking lessons.  I can’t imagine anything else in that building.

Learn more about Ballet Arts Studio at www.dancebeacon.com/

What Do You Think about So You Think?

August 8, 2011

Yesterday, there was an article in the NY Times about “So You Think You Can Dance”. Five NYC professional dancers comment as they watch an episode of the Fox’s popular TV show.

I started watching the show three or four years ago. Before that I was reluctant to watch it, but then decided that it was important for me to stay on top of the dance world and know what my students were watching.

I have to admit that I don’t watch much of the show. I see the dancers dance and then fast forward through the commercials, the up close and personal clips, and the judges’ reactions. And I see even less on the day that they eliminate dancers. I watch the special guest star, and then catch the dancers “dance for their life’ (this is where they are in jeopardy of getting kicked off, so they dance a solo to try to stay in). All I see is the dancing.

I believe that the show has helped make dance more mainstream. But is it helping to cultivate a dance audience for live performances? I’ve noticed that the attendance at local dance performances is dwindling. It’s sad because the venues and companies are not going to be able survive without the audience. And there is nothing like a live performance!
At least the show does include performances by renowned dance companies. It’s just a tiny part of the show, though.

And of course with my love of ballet, I wish there was more ballet. The dancers are required to do many different genres of dance, but they don’t include ballet.

Do you watch the show? What do you think about it?