One of the great things about being a teacher, is the wonderful opportunity to shape the next generation of dancers. When Rebecca King Ferraro and Michael Sean Breeden, the hosts of the “Conversations on Dance” podcast, teach a ballet class, they start with one simple question, “Who has heard of George Balanchine?” In this post they explain why this questions is so important to them, as we excitedly await their Master Classes here at DanceWear Corner headquarters on August 13th. This post will give you some insight into their vision and an idea of what to expect from their class. Reserve your spot today with Michael and Rebecca before it fills up! You won’t want to miss this amazing opportunity for dancers of Orlando!
As teachers, it is so important to help young dancers develop their technique and understand how to execute steps. But it’s even more important for us to offer them a history of the art form. By offering a context behind what they are doing, students receive a deeper appreciation for dance and become more motivated. We must remind them that there have been many dancers before them who have danced the very same steps, as there will be many after them, but the way they do each step is entirely their own. That’s the art. That’s the very special thing about what we do.
This is our vision when we teach a master class. We like to start at the beginning of our training and talk about a man who, though we never were able to meet him, has shaped our lives and our careers: George Balanchine. He founded the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet, and is known as the “Father of American Ballet.”
American history is an essential part of every child’s education in this country. And similarly, all ballet students should know about the history of dance in this country, and that starts with Balanchine. He essentially brought ballet to this country when he arrived in 1933. Though 1933 may seem like a long time ago to today’s students, when comparing it to the overall history of ballet, which spans centuries, Balanchine is quite modern. Students today really are a part of his lineage, since their teachers were taught by teachers, who were taught by Balanchine.
George Balanchine founded The School of American Ballet with Lincoln Kirstein in 1934. “But first a school,” he is famously quoted as saying. The establishment of a school was integral to what Balanchine accomplished in this country: he created an incubator, where he could shape his dancers and give them the skills they needed to dance his ballets. With the establishment of Ballet Society in 1946 (which would later become The New York City Ballet), he already had a base of dancers to pull from. We want our students to know, this is why ballet school is so important: it is meant to prepare you for all that you do onstage and serves as a laboratory to develop as an artist.
Balanchine choreographed an incredible 425 ballets over his lifetime, and somewhere around 90 of his works still exist. It was important to Balanchine that once he was gone, his ballets continue to be danced to his standards. In 1987, after his death, an organization called The Balanchine Trust was established to protect the remaining ballets.
Before establishing The New York City Ballet, Balanchine spent time choreographing for Broadway and for major films in Hollywood. These experiences contributed to, among other things, his unique style that fused technique from his background in classical ballet, with other schools of movement. Here is a brief list of some of the characteristics of a Balanchine aesthetic for ballet:
- Speed and articulation
- Deep plies
- Emphasis on lines
- Abstract arms
- Hand placement
- Pirouette from a lunge with a straight back leg
- Spotting front for turns
- An athletic dance quality
These unique characteristics are built upon a classical ballet foundation, which all ballet students understand. These options that we present dancers with allow them to place finishing touches on their dancing creating a professional look. Just knowing that these differences in style exist in ballet, prepares students for any future audition class where they may be asked to execute step in this way. Our students are able to take some of their classical technique and expound upon that by adding more extreme movements. I could tell they were really enjoying the experience of learning a piece of ballet choreography that was out of their comfort zone.
We hope you will join us this August in Orlando at DanceWear Corner’s Superstore for Master Classes incorporating this specific style. We are so passionate about ballet and cannot wait to share our knowledge with you in this exclusive event. For more information, visit DanceWearCorner.com.
Learn more about Balanchine on the “Conversations on Dance” podcast as Rebecca and Michael talk with his former dancers. You won’t want to miss the stories these dancers provide about the “Father of American Ballet.”