“What my teacher taught me” Words of Wisdom

“What my teacher taught me” Words of Wisdom

24 September 2011 at 16:56

"What My Teacher Taught Me"
From Dance Teacher Magazine Series
ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-01.jpgMisty Copeland - Soloist at ABT
Photo of Misty Copeland in Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. By Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT.
It's rare when a late-starter becomes a professional dancer--much less with one of ballet's most prestigious companies--but Misty Copeland breaks the mold. She experienced her first tendu at 13, thanks to a Boys and Girls Club, and today, she's American Ballet Theatre's first African-American female soloist.
Copeland's fast track in pre-professional training led her to study with Diane Lauridsen at Lauridsen Ballet Centre in California, who Copeland thanks for her solid technique.
"When I was 15, I went to Diane because everyone said I had so much potential. But at her studio, I wasn't a star and she didn't treat me like one. I was like anyone else and I appreciate how hard she was on me. I was taking three classes a day: Beginning ballet with five and six-year-olds, an intermediate class and an advanced class. I had to catch up.
She was adamant about building strong technique. I'm flexible, have hyper-extended knees and really mobile feet--you'd think it's a blessing, but she didn't let me sit back and rely on my talent. When you get older, you start to lose some of that natural facility. I know I'll always have a clean base to fall back on."

Another story - http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_19933566
ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-02.jpgJennifer Ringer - Principal NYCB
Jenifer Ringer in Jerome Robbins' The Four Seasons. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of NYCB
Though she's been an NYCB principal since 2000, Jenifer Ringer brings a fresh spark to roles as if she's performing them for the first time. On December 5, she will receive a Dance Magazine Award for her sustained achievement.
Ringer credits the longevity of her career to Nancy Bielski, whom she has been training with since the two met at a summer intensive in Ringer's teens.     
"I've now been taking class with Nancy for 24 years. Once a person reaches principal dancer status, teachers often leave them alone, but she's always challenging me--I get corrected during almost every combination. She adjusts herself to how I'm feeling, from the height of performance weeks to off season. She helped me through injuries and when I was coming back from pregnancy. She knows my strengths, my weaknesses. She really knows who I am."

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-03.jpgAshley Bouder  - New York City Ballet principal

Photo of Ashley Bouder in Jerome Robbins' Dancing at a Gathering; by Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet

The athletic and spirited New York City Ballet principal, Ashley Bouder, began training at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and continued her studies at the School of American Ballet after attending the summer program.  

This summer, Bouder will lead the dance evening at the 2nd annual Buck Hill-Skytop Music Festival in Buckhill Falls, Pennsylvania, which includes lecture demonstrations for high school students in the area. Bouder says her CPYB teacher, Marcia Dale Weary, inspired an early interest in outreach.
"Marcia took us into schools to do lecture demonstrations. I remember doing Balanchine work for elementary students! Because of Marcia, I always thought outreach was so cool and wished that dancers would come to my school so that my friends could understand what I was devoting so much time to.
I believe that every artist has the obligation and the responsibility to pass on their art form. I jumped at the opportunity to get involved with this festival. It's in my home state. Our goal is to educate the audience about the connection between music and dance and how they're integral to one another."

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-04.jpgElana Altman - Soloist San Francisco Ballet
Photo of Elana Altman in Balanchine's Jewels; by Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet
Elana Altman trained at the San Francisco Ballet School, and became an apprentice with the company in 2000. She joined the corps de ballet a year later, and in 2005, was promoted to soloist. This month, Altman will perform in George Balanchine's Coppélia.  
Altman credits much of her ballet training to SFBS teacher Pascale Leroy:
Pascale was the first teacher to point out how to keep your weight on the balls of your feet. As a student, you spend so much time on one standing leg, but she had us shift very quickly in all directions. She also demonstrated our combinations in the tempo she wanted. Though she verbally explained corrections, watching her perform the steps in correct time was really how I learned best.
In Coppélia, I dance the soloist role of "War and Discord," which has a lot of fast movements with very precise musicality. Pascale's training helped me define moments of syncopation within the tricky section.

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-05.jpgJeanette Delgado - Principal Miami City Ballet ~ Mastering Balanchine's Musicality
Jeanette Delgado and Renan Cerdeiro in George Balanchine's Square Dance. Photo by Kyle Froman, courtesy of Miami City Ballet.
George Balanchine's knack for musicality isn't a secret. In fact, he was famously quoted, "See the music, hear the dance." On October 28, PBS and Miami City Ballet team up to give viewers a look into two Balanchine works, with principal Jeanette Delgado leading Mr. B's Square Dance. She says that Artistic Director Edward Villella, who she first met as an advanced student at MCBS, helped her tackle Balanchine's fast-paced footwork.
"Edward danced for Balanchine, so he knew how to really help me interpret the music with my body. The best thing for me is to see him demonstrate. Ballet is a visual art form. He often talks about bringing your heels forward ahead of the count so that you're already in plié, ready for the next movement. That kind of coaching helps me truly live in the moment when I'm on stage."  
another story  http://ballerinaguru.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/jeanette-delgado-principal-with-miami.html
ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-06.jpgDrew Jacoby - Freelance Soloist
Photo by Kenny Johnson, courtesy of Drew Jacoby
The fiery and athletic Drew Jacoby is nothing short of an entrepreneur. After dancing with Complexions, Morphoses and LINES, she created a new career for herself as a freelance soloist. This month, she performs a new work by Gallim Dance's Andrea Miller at NY City Center in the Fall for Dance Festival. "I'm trying to find ways to challenge myself. And it definitely does that," says Jacoby of Miller's work. "It's fresh, uncomfortable and fun."
Though she's currently working on her artistry, Jacoby, like any student, had technical struggles. At 5'10", her height was tricky to control. Her teacher, Lisa Moon from Ballet Idaho, helped polish her long limbs.
"I always had energy and attack, but had trouble refining it. When you're tall, all your flaws show more. Lisa's tall like me and knew what I was dealing with. She told me that if I wanted a career in dance, I would have to work extra hard to make each step look clean.  
She never sugar-coated anything. I always wanted to impress her because she pushed me beyond what I was capable of. It was a tough love relationship, and that's why I have the work ethic I do and the ability to rehearse and correct myself."

another story http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/August-2009/Otherworldly 
ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-07.jpgTroy Powell - Director of Ailey II - Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Photo of Troy Powell by Eduardo Patino, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Serving as the director of the 12 young but fiercely talented dancers of Ailey II, Troy Powell has proven to be a vital part of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. After training with the Ailey School since age 9, he danced with the main company for 10 years and has been the associate artistic director of Ailey II since 2003.
Powell says he gained his leadership skills and confidence from his ballet teacher, Walter Raine.
"Walter taught us discipline and how to work and strive for the best. He was very much about the aesthetic of professionalism--looking neat, finishing combinations, and not leaning on the barre. And he didn't just teach us a million and one steps, but where they came from and where they're going.
I think he was most influential to me because he was a man. Young male dancers need role models. I am definitely trying to be someone the next generation can look up to.
Now, when I work with the dancers of Ailey II, I see a bit of him in me. I catch myself repeating things he used to say and sometimes even using his combinations. I definitely take his demand of discipline into my class. As a teacher, you set the tone of the room. Then once they understand the guidelines, it's all about having fun."

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-08.jpgLarissa Ponomarenko - Principal Boston Ballet
Photo: Larissa Ponomarenko in Boston Ballet's 2007 "Night of Stars" gala. By Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet.
In a company full of fresh faces, Larissa Ponomarenko remains one of Boston Ballet's most admired dancers. But after an 18-year career as a principal dancer, Ponomarenko announced that she will be retiring. Thankfully, this is not the end of her partnership with the Boston Ballet. Next season, she'll take over as the company's Ballet Master, passing on her artistically honest and technically flawless approach to the company's diverse repertoire.
Ponomarenko credits much of her own artistry to Tatiana Borovikova, who was her teacher at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersberg, Russia.
"Tatiana taught me the spirit of steps in addition to structure. It's about the coordination of your whole body--not just 32 fouettes. Not just balancing forever.  
I learned that one thing doesn't work for everybody. You have to key into the individual to bring out the best, since everyone takes corrections differently. I think the most challenging part of being Ballet Master will be to constantly inspire the dancers and build their confidence. You have to make them believe in their own educational foundations and personal growth."

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-09.jpgWhitney Jensen- First Soloist Boston Ballet
Photo of Whitney Jensen in George Balanchine's Tarantella, by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet
Whitney Jensen's career is advancing at light speed. She first entered Boston Ballet's corps de ballet in 2009 and just this month she was promoted to first soloist. "I'm most looking forward to performing my dream ballets," says Jensen, whose 2011-12 season includes Romeo and Juliet, Les Sylphides and Don Quixote.
Jensen credits her crisp technique to Valentina Kozlova, who she trained with since age 12 at the Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory of New York City.
"Valentina and I had an immediate connection. We were a team and fed off each other's hard work. She taught me how to move simply and showed me that clarity is the most beautiful expression. I'm a visual learner so I try to watch exactly how she dances and follow her movements. She's the picture of perfection in my mind.
It was hard transitioning from school to company life. Different styles and directors demand different things. It's about adapting while keeping true to your foundation. When people stage work on the company, I physically mimic their motions like I did with Valentina. I still go back during the summer to train with her to get her style back into my body and remember where my roots are."

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-10.jpgBenoit-Swan Pouffer - Contemporary dancer/Choreographer
Photo by François Rousseau, courtesy of Glen Wielgu
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet first exploded onto the NYC dance scene less than 10 years ago and gained a reputation for bringing coveted European choreographers to US audiences. Now, the company is everywhere.
This summer marked Cedar Lake's first training intensive, CL 360°--a three-week program for 50 students who get to work with artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer and his dancers. The SI will culminate in an installation performed by the students and company members in New York City, July 27-29.
Pouffer credits his success to Judith Jamison, who he worked under during his time with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
"Judith embodied what dancers expect as an artistic director. There was always a goal in her mind, and while everyone has self-doubt once in a while, she never let it show. If you believe in yourself and your message, people will follow and encourage you along the way. She showed us that passion is truly contagious.
I had to set goals for Cedar Lake, and I wouldn't have achieved them without people believing in my mission. Now that we've accomplished my first set of goals for the company, I decided it was time to open the doors to a training program--something I wanted to do once the company had made a name for itself. I wanted to see what my dancers have learned during the past six years with me and how they could share that with these students who are talented and are clearly the next generation of dance."

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-11.jpgJessica Lang - reknowned choreographer - Former Twyla Tharp dancer
Photo by Amber Merkens, courtesy Jessica Lang.
With over 75 commissions from companies like ABT and Hubbard Street, Jessica Lang's contemporary ballets have been danced by professionals and students across the US. This month, Lang adds another commission to her list. For the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, her company, Jessica Lang Dance, will present a new work at The Joyce Theater Foundation's September 11 Commemorative Performance in downtown NYC. "It was a universal experience," says Lang of 9/11. "I feel a responsibility to honor those that have passed, but also give a sense of hope for the future."
A former dancer with Twyla Tharp's company, THARP!, Lang says that Benjamin Harkarvy inspired her transition from dancer to choreographer. She met him at the Pennsylvania Ballet School, where he was artistic director of the professional company. She later studied under his direction at The Juilliard School.
"Benjamin wasn't just my teacher--he was my mentor. He really became a figure in my life. When Twyla's company was folding, I came back to him for advice. I remember him telling me 'Jessica, it's not about getting a job. It's about building a career.' He told me to get many jobs. Go teach, choreograph, dance--go do anything you can within the profession."
"I look back at these past 11 years and realize I've done just that. I try to tell this to the students I come in contact with, especially college students and ballet dancers. Sometimes they don't see the bigger picture--it's the job in front of them that they want. Remind your students that there are many paths to their goals."

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-12.jpgKarole Armitage - renowned US Dancer/Choreographer
Photo: Karole Armitage by Marco Mignari, courtesy of Armitage Gone! Dance
Chameleon Karole Armitage has had an eclectic career, from dancing with Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in Switzerland to choreographing for Madonna. This month, Armitage Gone! Dance performs at the Joyce Theater in NYC, April 26-May 8. Her latest piece GAGA-Gaku, fuses ballet, Cambodian court dance and Japanese Noh Theater.  
GAGA-Gaku's set is only 15 feet deep, Armitage says, "creating a hyper-intensified small space" for the dancers to move in. She credits Merce Cunningham (whom she worked with from 1976-81) as one of her greatest choreographic influences.  
Cunningham gave me an intellectual curiosity, freedom and a completely new concept of space. His work was not about a hierarchy, where your focus is on the prima ballerina or the most important person. Instead, you look at the whole field. Everyone is equal. It's like the post-Einstein thought that the universe is not just centered around the sun--it is a field. And all these galaxies are pushing and pulling on each other. There is no one central, most important place in space. It's more democratic.

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-13.jpgKathryn McCormick - Step Up 4Ever's leading lady  
Photo courtesy of Go 2 Talent
Kathryn McCormick certainly isn't camera shy. In her on-screen debut, she played an auditioning dancer in the remake of Fame. Then, we watched her climb to the final three on the sixth season of "So You Think You Can Dance" and return for season seven's "All Star" cast. Now, she moves back to the big screen as the star of Step Up's fourth installment, Step Up 4Ever.
We talked to McCormick in the middle of filming about who inspired her career. She credits much of her success to Bea Scheyer, her fifth grade dance teacher from Augusta West Dance Studio in Georgia.
"She would have a jar in class and if we ever said the words 'I can't' we had to pay her a quarter. No fifth grader wants to give up her money! She was more than a teacher--she taught us how dance builds character and that love through art is the most important thing.
I learned to never limit myself and to have confidence in what I do. I also remind myself to put relationships before work, because the person you are is most important at the end of the day. And when you put that effort into yourself and those surrounding you, it really does shine through in your dancing. It brings your work to a completely different level."

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-14.jpgChloé Arnold - reknowned Tap Dancer
Photo: Chloé Arnold by Shona Roberson, courtesy of Divine Rhythm Productions
Since moving to NYC at 15, Chloé Arnold has created quite a network for herself in the tap world, which she calls "a guys club." But from the start, she's risen to the challenge.  
Arnold has been a co-director of the L.A. Tap Festival since 2003, and in 2008 she co-founded the annual DC Tap Festival. She has performed as Beyoncé's dance double in the video "Upgrade U," and most recently, she self-produced her own one-woman show, My Life, My Diary, My Dance. She attributes much of her technical and musical styling to her peer and teacher Jason Samuels Smith.
"Jason's classes were extremely rigorous. His drills refine your clarity and musicality, which allows you to manipulate your technique. For example, he took cramp rolls--something so fundamental--and drilled them for clarity, eventually remixing rhythms and changing what we know.
He's also an innovator. He was the first person to show me a pull-back with a third sound. And he never takes excuses. You're a girl? Doesn't matter. You still have to get as much air time as a guy to complete that third sound."

ballet-coaching-words-of-wisdom-15.jpgMichelle Yard, Mark Morris Dance Group

Michelle Yard has danced with the Mark Morris Dance Group since 1997. She attributes her career longevity and success to Penny Frank, a former Graham technique instructor at the LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts in NYC.
"Penny is not only an amazing teacher, she's also a very honest person. She taught me to be able to take constructive criticism and to be honest about my own movement. I give my best in every performance, but sometimes it doesn't go so well, and I have to be able to admit that to myself. She taught me to go for it, see what happens, and deal with it from there. This practice is something Mark [Morris] values in my performance, and it's a commitment I ask of students when I teach."

Excerpts from "Dance Teacher Magazine"