Monday, January 8, 2007

Valery's Arrival

I had the great pleasure yesterday of watching excerpts from some of Valery Lantratov's notable performances. They included a passionate Napoleon and an energetic Basil from Don Quixote, with its amazing partnering-- Valery lifts his partner above his head with one arm and makes it all look easy.

We will probably not need such fancy moves for our special class in partnering tomorrow at the Rhythm Pointe Dance Academy.

This studio was one of the best surprises from Valery's last trip to the U.S. The web page plays Latin music, and we thought the studio might focus more on jazz, hip hop or other types of contemporary dance than classical, but Valery was impressed with the ballet students' level. So we will kick off this tour with another visit.

This time he's been asked to give a special class on partnering. There is only one challenge, if Valery remembers right from last time, the class had only one boy. If you will forgive me from stealing from Project Runway's Tim Gunn, it's time to "make it work." We'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, Valery shook off his jet lag from the eight hour time change, and shared his philosophy of ballet instruction, "Everyone has talent," he says. "Everyone."

So his goal is not only to teach students technique but to inspire them to dance from the heart. The most important thing about ballet is the emotion, and the mechanics exist to convey it.

There's a story in A Child's Introduction to Ballet that illustrates this philosophy: Once a nine year-old ballet student interviewed Valery Lantratov with the help of a translator. She asked him whether the arms or the legs were more important in dance.

He replied: "Neither. The most important is the head; the head and the ears because first, dancing is mental. The head sends the signals to the ears that they have to hear the music, and the ears send the signal to the arms and legs on how to move, and then of course the eyes, because they have a dancer's spark, they light up with the specific light of learning.”

That "light of learning"-- The ability to convey feelings without words-- is what ballet is all about, and it's what Valery hopes to share over the next month.