Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ballet Soup: ABT's NTC Level 4-5 course

Well I made it through the week.  American Ballet Theatre’s National Training Curriculum level 4-5 was at times daunting, the amount of new information sometimes felt overwhelming especially since I’ve always been the type of dancer who experiences movement more than I think about it.  However, the further I get into the program, the more the structure of the training becomes clear to me.   At each level the basic principles stay the same, as Ryan sometimes says, “ballet is nothing more than fancy walking.”  Well it’s a little more complicated than that but in truth all of ballet and really movement if you think of it is composed of 7 basic elements.

            PliĆ©r – to bend 
 Etendre – to stretch                                                                                                Relever – to rise up
Sauter – to jump

Elancer – to dart refining the body of the dancer in space as he/she alters position in the room.
     Glisser – to glide                                                                                 Tourner – to turn

Add to this ABT’s 10 principles and voile, you’ve got yourself a method.  To turn a method into a curriculum we add progression.  Here is were level 4-5 got challenging for me, not only was I required to know what students of this ability should be able to do and what they shouldn’t be asked to do for either safety or developmental reasons, but also how to get them to a place of proficiency starting at the Pre-Primary level (age 3).

On Saturday we had our exams and I’m happy to say that I passed which allows me to continue on to the final levels this week.  I am looking forward to seeing how the curriculum creates the dancers who grace the stage, what tools are given to achieve mastery of technique and artistic expression.  While, until now I feel the most affinity with level 4, the opportunity to see the upper level students at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and take class with their teachers touches again the dancer inside of me.  The one who feels and now thinks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ballet on the Brain at American Ballet Theater's National Training Curriculum Seminar in New York

As I sit here in my New York apartment overlooking Lincoln Center, holy ground to performing artists,  my mind is blown away.  How are great artists made, or really, are they made, formed, or simply immaculately created?  What makes a Misty Copeland successful and countless other talented dance students fall just short.  After my second day of ABT's National Training Curriculum Level 4-5 course I've come to realize that the quality of one's dance education, especially from a young age, may be the key towards their future success.

Maartje and Niko at ABT New York
Yesterday was a day full of lectures pertaining to dancer health, and connecting the dots between the levels which I passed in February with what we are about to learn.  I'm so happy to revisit this method of training, it is almost like science.  The progression of this 400 year old art form is so logical and the way ABT makes it relevant to today's dancer, professional or hobbyist alike, is rich, tasteful, precise, and so challenging in its simplicity.

Today just got better, we spent hours analyzing movements, discussing the building blocks as more advanced steps and sequences are taught.  A highlight was seeing one of our students, Niko who we have taught for the past two years, apply this training style so well.  This summer at ABT he is making great progress, proof that the system works.  We look forward to hearing from other students studying at ABT's North Carolina and Long Beach programs when we and they return.

 Finally, after a day and a half of sitting, something guaranteed to make dancers achey and antsy, we had the opportunity to learn by doing.
The Level 4 class is designed for dancers from 11 and up, but that doesn't mean it's easy.  We are not just learning what to teach students (terminology and steps) but how to bring information across in a proven methodology taking into account developmental age and various learning styles.  I'm sure to be sore tomorrow.

Now its on to homework.  Each day begins with a review and demonstration by the students of the previous day's work.  We are expected to continuously implement new information concluding in a final exam on Saturday.  Tomorrow I'll be teaching either a petite battement with filk-flak at the barre or a tendu in center.  The decision lies not on what I want to teach, but on what I want the student to learn.  That is the crux of this method, everything is designed to develop the dancers of the future, who must show versatility built on a solid foundation of techinque.  Stay tuned for more updates as the week progresses and for next week's Level 6-7 workshop.