Ballet with Julie Kent
Students: Gisele Bethea, Rachel Richardson, and Remy Young
Julie Kent is a careful, measured, and warmly nurturing teacher in this class, featuring three young women from American Ballet Theatre. From pliés at barre to the révérence, the session lasts for 1 hour and ten minutes, with 45 minutes spent at barre.
Kent builds the sequences to warm up the large-muscle groups all over the body first and to concentrate on exacting footwork and allegro toward the end of barre as well as toward the end of the hour and ten minutes. The dancers wear soft shoes for the first 53 minutes. Then they switch to pointe shoes, which they work in for the remaining 17 minutes; one center-floor combination emphasizes the use of pointe shoes almost exclusively.
All of the combinations are constructed to give variety and texture. Kent demonstrates everything while also naming the steps. (Even pre-professional dancers don't always catch it all on one try!) Kent bonds with the dancers as well, especially during a concluding, improvised révérence for the excellent pianist, Robert Boston.
A lovely class that will warm you up, and energize you with knowledge and consideration.
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Ballet with Craig Hall
Students: Rachel Hutsell and Aaron Sanz
At a little over 46 minutes, Craig Hall's class is the shortest of the Dancio classes so far and almost as packed as Lauren King's. Taking the class are Rachel Hutsell (who wears pointe shoes throughout) and Aaron Sanz, both members of New York City Ballet's corps de ballet. Hall was a former soloist with the company, is now a ballet master and assistant to resident choreographer Justin Peck.
Barre occupies nearly 34 minutes of the 46. Streaming through the remaining 12 minutes in center floor are combinations crafted around tendus, adagio, pirouettes, small (vertical) jumps, petite allégro (featuring coupé-pas de bourrée and a ballonné that snaps both legs apart in air like the clasp of a purse), and grande allégro (a sweeping utterance of tour jeté, assemblé, and a big pas de chat). Suddenly, Hall is thanking the viewer for taking class and it's over.
Although Hall does not correct either dancer specifically, he does offer many general tips relating to musicality. He uses this term in connection with physical rubato (momentarily withheld action) and with the refinement of an action's quality, as in a fondu combination, where he cautions that the working leg in rond de jambe should not strike out “like a karate kick” but rather advance as if to tap a little balloon.
In a center-floor combination built from tendu in fifth position, he notes that the plié-pas de basque phrase is a “little Theme and Variations,” referring to an early figure in Balanchine's ballet. The combination of continuous rhythmic variety and easily visualized kinesthetic analogies gives the class a streaming poetry, reinforced by the musical wit of pianist Robert Boston.
Ballet with Lauren King
Students: Beth Miller and Shoshana Rosenfield
In less than 57 minutes, Lauren King—soloist at the New York City Ballet—accompanied on the piano by composer Robert Boston, gives a brilliantly structured and mentally challenging class that will spark both your muscles and your mind.
From the first plié exercise at barre to the final sequence of glissade-assemblé-soubresaut (in place of a traditional révérence), combinations are intrecately choreographed. They build in rhythmic syncopation, anatomize an action (such as pirouette), ring changes on a basic step, and continually ask the dancer to change weight from leg to leg. Barre goes to nearly 35 minutes, and includes three different tendu combinations (increasing in speed), a lovely and unusual exercise for enveloppé, a dégagé set with a brain-teasing rhythm, several études for variations on rond de jambe, an adagio, frappés, and rhythmically opposed grands battements in one sequence.
King lets no grass grow under anyone's feet. Though she demonstrates nearly everything fully (and beautifully), she hurtles through explanations of how each combo should go. Then, bam! It's your turn. The center-floor exercises are wonderfully musical and full of wit; if you can master the sequencing, they are thrilling to execute. This is not a class for the faint of heart — but if you love the puzzle-solving satisfaction of classical dancing, this class will give you pleasure many times over.
Ballet with Carlos Lopez
Students: Scout Forsythe and Garegin Pogossian
Carlos Lopez—a ballet master at American Ballet Theatre, which he joined as a soloist in 2001 and with which he performed for eight years—began his career with the Victor Ullate Ballet, in Spain, and his class promotes the physical strength and clarity of execution that are associated with Ullate's outstanding students.
Taking the class are one man, Garegin Pogossian, and one woman, Scout Forsythe, the latter wearing soft shoes throughout with cut-off tights and bare calves and feet. (A modern dancer who has had ballet training might identify with Forsythe very well.)
The session lasts for 1 hour 12 minutes, with 45 minutes allocated to barre. Lopez is an ABT Certified Teacher in the company's National Training Curriculum, and the combinations he gives are rigorously progressive, both in the way they are devised to warm up the body gradually, from the feet to the head, and in their level of technical difficulty in terms of rhythmic sophistication and speed of weight changes. Many of the barre exercises are built on tendu and dégagé and conclude with balances in poses where the working leg is kept low. However, several of the barre combinations ask for in-out rotations of the hip, which prepare for large leg gestures without yet
requiring them. Consequently, when a grand battement or high développé is suddenly called for, it has the fine theatrical effect of a surprise.
In center floor, after adagio and fondu, the combinations carefully address a range of aerial steps: vertical jumps (both from two feet to one foot and from one foot to two feet), traveling leaps (opening and closing the feet in several directions), and beats in air. Throughout the class, Lopez sets a warmly professional tone, attending to placement of the hips and the head, voicing encouragement to each of the students and also helpfully identifying the steps by their French names. For the final grand allegro, he gives different combinations to the dancers, accenting traditional male or female steps. At the end, he charmingly performs the final grande révérence with the students. One comes away both physically and emotionally sustained.
Class descriptions by Mindy Aloff