New York City Ballet principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht is known for his high-flying jumps and charismatic stage presence. When he is not lighting up stages across the globe with his dancing prowess, he is also a much-sought-after guest teacher whose passion for the craft of ballet and rapport with students has earned him the respect of school directors, students, and fellow teaching professionals alike.
nly a few lucky dancers have natural elevation. Elevation depends on the Achilles tendon, the thigh muscles, the muscles at the back of the knee, and demi-plié.
Cricket is dedicated to the arts and does whatever is needed for the students, whether it is finding scholarships, housing them, helping them find jobs, fund-raising, making their costumes, or helping them with their performance.
I realized long ago that ballet involves more than just learning steps. Now that I teach it to young girls, I realize that there is a lot more to learning ballet than I could have imagined as a student.
When Madame Peff Modelski teaches ballet class, everyone in the studio experiences a dynamic fusion of knowledge, professionalism, and love of the art form.
Some young children find skipping very difficult while others just naturally perform the movement.
In a spacious dance studio at Mount Holyoke College, a class is in the able hands of Viktor Lytvynov, a ballet teacher and company director from Kiev, Ukraine.
Tina LeBlanc, a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet for 17 years, retired at the end of the 2009 season and accepted a position on the teaching staff at San Francisco Ballet School. She teaches Levels 3 (ages 10 to 11) and 7 and 8 (ages 15 to 19)—all girls, unless the boys join them for a combined class).
One of the weakest areas I have seen in students who audition for my summer school is the pirouette. If students cannot balance, they cannot pirouette. Therefore, have them start by balancing on two feet from age 8 or 9, feeling the body centered, then progress to balancing on one foot with the working leg in passé position. Once they have felt their balance, turning will become easier. Of course, the head, turnout, and arms must be synchronized, but the balance is the basis.
Regular readers of Dance Studio Life have come to look for Mignon Furman’s “2 Tips for Teachers” department in every issue. Teachers who want more of Furman’s hard-won wisdom on ballet education have an option this summer: the Teachers Intensive 2010 at Purchase College SUNY.
I am strictly a ballet teacher employed at a professional school in the Midwest. Last week I was called into the school director’s office, where he scolded me for suggesting that my students should be taking anything other than ballet. He explained that jazz and modern are not recommended by the school and that we can’t afford to send our students to other places.
When teaching jumps, tell the students to push the floor away. My teacher always said, “Treat the floor like your worst enemy and it will turn out to be your best friend.”
Elsa Posey’s passion for giving children high-quality dance education comes by way of experiencing the opposite: Her first four years of dance training fell painfully short. Her early instructors, who had backgrounds in vaudeville, made her believe she was preparing for a career in ballet. They also jumpstarted her performance career, including her in military installation shows when she was 9 years old. But when Posey began studying at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School at age 12, she says, “I was told that I needed to begin ‘at the beginning’ and that what I had learned up to that point was not ballet. I had to forget everything and start from scratch.”
In ballet, an ending is as important as a beginning and middle, if not even more so. From early training the children should be taught to remain motionless for a count of 3 at the end of each exercise. You can make this into a game of statues in which everyone turns to marble when they finish an exercise. Then wave your magic wand to free them, and move on to the next step.
“I’ll teach at your school, but only advanced or, in a pinch, intermediate students. I won’t teach ballet to beginners.” Is there a school director anywhere who has not heard this version of “I don’t do windows”? Many instructors consider it beneath their dignity to teach ballet—or any kind of dance—to beginners. A lack of teachers who are interested in and qualified to teach beginning ballet, along with some of the ways school directors respond to this problem, can negatively affect the quality of the instruction.
To get the correct placement of the fingers, place a pencil under the dancer’s first (pointer) and ring fingers so that it passes over the middle finger. Make holding the pencil without dropping it a game.
To explain turnout of the leg raised in front: The dancer sits on the floor with legs extended in front, parallel to each other. The hands are on the floor, slightly behind the line of the shoulders.