Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sumo in Bridgetown

Bridgetown, home of the All That Dance Studio, is in the part of New Jersey that lives up to the name "The Garden State." We passed dozens of fruit and veggie stands in the peak of their season after leaving the ubiquitous east coast toll roads.

It was a big day for state-seeing. We drove through parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Deleware to get to New Jersey and afterwards made our way into Pennsylvania again. We saw the Philadelphia skyline through the blades of the windshield wipers.

The local newspaper, The Daily Journal, ran a story on our visit. Here are some excerpts:

HOPEWELL - Injecting humor into the lesson, Valery Lantratov put at ease the nervous ballerinas who were attending a master class with the distinguished Russian ballet dancer at All That Dance Studio.

"If you position yourself like this, you look like a sumo wrestler. No. Like this. Yes?" he said in a thick accent while he demonstrated the correct and incorrect ways to perform a demi-plie in second position. It was the second of two sessions he held at the studio on Shiloh Pike on Thursday.

The students, from 12 to 20 years old, adjusted themselves accordingly. "Yes, like this. No sumo. Dance is a difficult job, but you do nice motion. Organic motion. Every time, speak ... for you," he added, motioning away from his body as if giving a gift. "No tension."

"It's like having a celebrity here," said dancer Meredith Shaw, a daughter of the owner. She was wearing the perfect ballet dancer hairstyle — a precise bun with a flower tucked inside the taught roll, looking much more dressed up than the other dancers.

...Studio owner Linda Shaw said that while she offers several master classes each year, getting Lantratov to come was a big deal.

"We try to do one to two master classes each year, but this is our first ballet master class we've had," she said of the eight-year-old studio. "The students could not wait to get here to attend the class. The high school seniors know how important it is" for them to learn from such a professional before they enter college dance programs...

Most of the instructors they learn from are female, so having a lesson from a male teacher was a benefit, she said. "It gives them another perspective, they may have something different on how to correct things. It's good to see his interpretation — a man's style."

Lantratov, who holds a teaching certificate from the renowned National Academy of Theatrical Arts-GITIS, has said he views ballet not as an old art, form but as an eternal one, and one that can transcend differences.

He has said that he saw dance as a way to bring countries together, despite policy differences they may have. "No matter what might happen between the countries in the world, dance can deliver peace, compassion and art — eternal values," he said.