The day after my second performance at the DWTS competition was a day for a master class!
The director of our studio had arranged for a series of four master classes taught by different teachers from the area. I eagerly signed up for all of them, but there was one small hitch in my giddy-up. They all took place on Friday afternoons at 5:30. I work in the city. Nearly every Friday afternoon, particularly during ski season, summer, or leaf-peeping season (which translates to nearly every Friday afternoon) there is no chance in hell of getting home swiftly.
This is not to say I didn’t try. I left work early every single day we had a master class. No matter. I was always getting back home too late to go to class (if it were one of our own classes I would’ve just snuck in late with my apologies, but there was no way I’d do something like that when we had a guest teacher!).
One Friday I had even finagled my work schedule to work from home so that I could be able to take a class with one particular teacher, but that class ended up being postponed at the last minute because it was the day before school break and not many people had signed up for the class. Argh! Only silver lining to that one was that it meant I could go see Puremovement.
So that one teacher — a teacher that one of our teachers regularly takes class from — was rescheduled for mid-March. Although I hadn’t had any luck getting to the other classes in time, I gamely tried again. And this time whatever chants I offered up to the traffic gods FINALLY paid off! My bus pulled into my station with half an hour to spare. When I rushed into the studio I was met with cheers from my friends who knew how bummed I was to have missed the prior classes.
I took my spot at the barre with a couple minutes to spare. “Ah, you’re the nurse!” the teacher said. Uh-oh, my reputation precedes me. Actually, it turns out that this teacher, our teacher who studies with her, and myself are ALL nurses. Maybe we should start a support group: “Ballerina-Nurses Anonymous.”
“You’ve had quite the commute. Did you had time to eat? I have a banana if you want!” Okay, I don’t even know this lady and already I adore her. I assured her that I was fine, really, and ready to go. A bit more chitchat while a few other people trickled in and we were ready to go.
The tone in this class was so much more serious than usual. But, see, this lady was funny. She had that wry sense of humor that I love and, though strict, was in no way mean or harsh. I could easily see myself sitting at a bar with her and having a bunch of hearty laughs. But there were no laughs… okay, there were some laughs, but they were polite and immediately followed by serious concentration. I was impressed to see how much our young girls especially were eager to soak up whatever wisdom this teacher had to pass on.
She started by telling us that she received her training at SAB. Yes, that SAB! She was, as she said, “A Balanchine baby” (for she was there when Balanchine was still alive). She told us that she would see Gelsey Kirkland walking around when she studied there. All of us adults in the room had to hang onto our barres to stop ourselves from swooning. The teens didn’t quite get the gravity of these words. To be fair, when I was their age I wouldn’t have gotten it either. But I was glad that I can not only appreciate it now, but also still learn from someone with that sort of history!
With that introduction we began two hours of grueling work. When I say grueling, I don’t mean physically. Though it was physically challenging, to be sure. But it wasn’t the constant go-go-go of class. In between sides and exercises the teacher took a ton of time explaining some of the finer points of technique: seemingly small things that can make a world of difference but are more difficult to achieve than it would seem at first glance. Like how to point your foot. Seems basic, but so many of us think only of the foot, especially once we get going, and forget that the initiation for the movement should come from the ankle, not the mid-foot. Things like pulling up All. The. Way. when standing. Your knees may feel straight, but can you see daylight between those thighs? That’s a no-no! There were so many things that she mentioned it was hard to remember everything, though I desperately wanted to! She was great about praising when we got stuff right, though. Such a good class!
Now the good news is that this teacher offers an adult class not too far from me on Sunday mornings and my teacher friend regularly attends, so one of these days I’m going to have to go and experience her teaching again. In the meantime, I’ve got a few corrections that have been constantly running through my head and trying to apply whenever I’m in class.
Sometimes a single class can have a huge impact!