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/

Visions of Sugarplums

December 20, 2011

Last week PBS broadcast George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (TM) live as part of the Live from Lincoln Center series. I felt like I was in the audience watching this holiday performance. The only difference was that we also got a backstage tour that included interviews with several cast members, as well as Peter Martins, Artistic Director of New York City Ballet.

One of the interviews was with the young children playing the lead roles of Marie and the Nutcracker Prince. Both are ten years old and this is their second year performing these roles. What a thrill it must be to perform lead roles with the NYCB at such a young age!

It makes me wonder what the future brings for these two young dancers. Will they end up dancing with a professional dance company when they are older? Will it be New York City Ballet? Or will they go on to do something totally different? Either way, I’m sure that  they will always have amazing memories of this experience.

I never had the opportunity to perform Nutcracker with a professional company, but did dance in a local production of this holiday classic.  Those performances usually included a couple guest dancers from professional companies. I would watch backstage in awe when they danced.

And now, whenever I hear the Nutcracker music, it brings back memories of that fabulous time.

In the Back Row of Balletone Class

November 29, 2011

Instead of teaching Balletone yesterday, I got to take a class from Kathleen Riley. Kathleen was the Balletone Master Trainer for the Balletone Instructor Training workshop that I took in 2006. She no longer teaches the instructor workshops, but offers several Balletone classes at Benefitness located outside of Boston, MA.

I try to take Kathleen’s Balletone class whenever we take our son back to college in Cambridge, MA. It’s so much fun to take a class for a change! As an instructor I sometimes feel like I get stuck in a rut and offer the same sequences over and over in class.

I want to keep my students interested in class by keeping them challenged. Kathleen’s class has given me some new ideas and new material. Her choreography is always interesting and she pulls in movement that I would never  think of. The steps are tough, but fun.

I can’t wait to teach Balletone tonight so that I can share some new choreography!

Be prepared, students!

Balletone logo

A Chance to See Ballet Performances at Movie Theatres

November 20, 2011

Tickets are now on sale for New York City Ballet’s acclaimed production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ in 530 movie theaters in the United States for one night only on Tuesday, December 13. The production will be shown live at 6 p.m. in the Capital District Region at Crossgates Stadium 18. Tickets are $20 for adults and $16 for children.

This is a special live broadcast from Lincoln Center and will be shown in High Definition (HD) format. This is the first time that a New York City Ballet performance will be broadcast live in theatres. It gives families across the United States a chance to see the New York City Ballet perform this classic holiday tradition.

For more information about this performance go to http://www.fathomevents.com/performingarts/event/nycb_nutcracker.aspx

As I write this entry another live broadcast of is being shown at  Crossgates Stadium 18 and also Proctor’s in Schenectady, NY.  (I would have attended this if I had known sooner.)  It’s the Bolshoi Ballet’s production of Sleeping Beauty and will be shown again this week.

As I was researching the live NYCB broadcast, I learned that there are several other ballet performances scheduled at both Crossgates Stadium 18 and Proctors. Here is a link to information about upcoming movie theatre ballet performance broadcasts in Albany and the surrounding area:

http://www.balletincinema.com/search/#for=theaters&near=Albany%2C%20NY%2012205%2C%20USA&within=100mi

Amazing Dance Teacher, Pianist, and Seamstress

November 13, 2011

After reading J’acques D’Amboise’s latest book, I Was a Dancer, I started thinking more and more about one of my childhood ballet teachers, Madame Seda.  Jacques dedicates a whole chapter about Seda. She was the one to get him to try ballet. And then when Seda saw how talented Jacques and his sister were, she sent them off to The School of American Ballet so that they could get the training that they needed. Most teachers would have kept the students for themselves, but not Seda. She loved teaching ballet and was dedicated to her students and to the art of ballet.

We all loved her even though she was very strict. I was poked with her stick many times because my body was not in proper alignment. And boy would she yell if a student came to class with gum in their mouth! She always had a twinkle in her eye, though. And we would all rush up to hug her after class.

She didn’t miss a thing. Sometimes she would play the piano while teaching class. Somehow she still managed to see what we were doing and would yell out directions and corrections.

I also had the opportunity to take character dance classes from Seda. This is the type of dance that one sees in the peasant dance scenes in the full-length classical ballets such as Giselle and Swan Lake. We often performed the character dances at nursing homes or festivals. We wore beautiful costumes that were hand-sewn by Madame Seda.

I can still picture her teaching class;her stick pounding on the floor with the beat of the music and Seda calling out directions and corrections. How I would love to take class from her now. Or better yet, I’d love to have my students experience her class.

 

Photo of ballet class

Madame Seda teaching class in 1983.

 

Listen to an NPR interview of Jacques D’Amboise and Jennifer Homans, author of Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet. Jacques talks about Madame Seda in the interview.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=131625160

Must See Ballet Performance on PBS

October 27, 2011

I was very happy to see that WMHT, the local PBS station has several dance performances included in the PBS Arts Fall Festival. The first one, Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine and Tharp, airs tomorrow night at 9pm.
I had the pleasure of seeing Miami City Ballet perform at SPAC several years ago and I am looking forward to seeing the show on TV.
Here is a link to a video clip about the show http://video.wmht.org/video/2151623251

In addition, there is a wonderful interview with Edward Villella, Artistic Director of Miami City Ballet: http://video.wmht.org/video/2130779031
Don’t miss it!

Book of Foot Strengthening Exercises

October 18, 2011

The Perfect Pointe Book , by Lisa Howell, has many excellent foot strengthening exercises. Included with the book are video clips of students who demonstrate the exercises.

As you can guess by the title, it is geared towards dancers who are preparing to go on pointe for the first time. However, the exercises are great for any dancer or athlete. We don’t always think of strengthening the feet, but it is important.

All my younger dancers that are preparing for pointe work or who are already studying pointe do these strengthening exercises. I also incorporate them into my Balletone classes, which is a barefoot workout.

Do you exercise your feet?

Beautiful Ballerinas Honored

October 7, 2011
Jerome Robbins Award Statue

Jerome Robbins Award Statue

On September 30, 2011, the Jerome Robbins Foundation honored thirty ballerinas who worked with Jerome Robbins. I had the pleasure of being in the audience as twenty six of them accepted their award.

What a treat to watch each dancer walk across the stage and take a bow as Chita Rivera introduced them!  Some of the dancers are up there in age, but they all looked elegant.

In addition to a wonderful slide show of the dancers working with Robbins,  the audience received a brochure that listed the dancers’ thoughts about working with Robbins. I’ve read that Jerome Robbins could sometimes be difficult to work with, but all of these comments were positive.

Every time we curtsy in the classes that I teach, I think about those lovely ballerinas. It was beautiful!

To see what ballerinas were honored and to read their comments about working with Robbins, go to http://jeromerobbins.org/foundation/jerome_robbins_award .

Unusual Dance Programming at The Egg

September 28, 2011

The Egg in Albany, NY is offering dance performances this year! I was afraid that there wouldn’t be any given the economic situation of New York State. It does seem like there are fewer performances than usual, but we’ll take it.

I’m not sure what I think of the line-up, though. It’s very different from what The Egg usually has. They are featuring contemporary choreographers who mix it up with live music, videography, spoken word, and performance art.  Maybe this is a way of trying to reach out to a broader audience.

Here’s what’s scheduled:

Sunday, 10/16/11, 7pm Millicent Johnnie & Dancers Symphony for the Dance Floor
Friday, 10/21/11, 8pm Monica Bill Barnes & Company Everything is Getting Better All the Time
Friday, 11/4/11, 8pm Roxanne Butterfly Worldbeat Ensemble The Tap Experience
Thursday, 11/10/11, 8pm Companiia Flamenca Jose Porcel Gypsy Fire
Friday, 1/20/12, 8pm Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company 20th Year Celebration

 

For more information:  http://www.theegg.org/events/dance

Are you planning to attend any of the shows?