Friday, July 11, 2008

Studio 19

"I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit."-Martha Graham

From July 8-11 we worked with the students at Studio 19 School of Dance in Eustis, Florida.

Brigadere General Abraham Eustis who served in Florida during the Sminole War and was one of the officers who favored ending the war by allowing the Native Americans to remain within a small territory to be given to them in the southern part of the state.

The town of Eustis was named either for Abraham, or for his son Henry, a Civil War soldier. (You remember learning about the Seminole Wars in school, right? The Second Seminole War, often referred to as the Seminole War, lasted longer than any war involving the United States between the American Revolution and the Vietnam War.)

Anyway, that's enough for history. Our Eustis visit included classes in technique, pointe, partnering, variation and corrections-- Maria Errico and students showed us some of the pieces they have been working on, and Valery offered his pointers. It was an extremely full four days, and we hope, highly productive.

Intensives give us the opportunity to go beyond "show and tell" to really build on each day's class and this is our favorite way to teach.

Thanks to Juanita Wilson, we were reunited with our trusty Olympus camera and are able to bring you this photograph. Hope it was worth the wait!

The variation for the female students was from Corsaire and the male student worked solo on the Don Quixote variation. Variations are the "Greatest Hits" of ballet. In a culture that tends to emphasize the new and novel, it has sometimes been a hard sell to explain the appeal of ballet's "moldy oldies."

No one goes to Swan Lake for its novelty. You go to see something you've seen before, to see different people executing the same scene. In this sense it is ritual. In the same way we pass through experiences like a wedding. The bridal gown would be nothing but a white dress if it didn't carry with it the weight of all those brides of the past, of the grandmothers, long gone who were once young and in love and beginning a life with a partner. You don't wear the dress because it makes you unique, but because it makes you the same-- it ties you to all the others. What is unique is not the event, but the individual who is executing or experiencing the event. It is your moment to carry the bright torch of life.

Paradoxically, it is only by comparison to the great dancers of the past who have executed these variations, that a dancer's true nature shines most fully. The familiarity of the material emphasizes her differences, the uniqueness of her interpretation and animating spirit.

The variation that is thrilling and exciting when seen for the first time gains depth and richness as the audience sees it performed by new and unique dancers.

It was a pleasure to bring a new generation to these pieces and to have the opportunity to show them Valery Lantratov's performance of the male Corsaire variation on DVD. Teaching is all about passing the torch.