Dance; But What Kind?
When I decided to be a dancer I was ignorant about the profession. I had seen the Ballets Russes, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and many others, and I thought it was all the same; if you studied dance it prepared you for all disciplines. How wrong I was. I had studied ballroom as a young teenager, and I knew that what I was learning wasn't meant to be a performing art for the theater.
My very first experience as a professional dancer was dancing with the Festival Folk Dance Workshop doing exhibitions of dances from countries all over the world. I enjoyed it very much, but I was encouraged to study ballet to improve my performing skills.
As a student in the San Francisco Ballet School, I was introduced to many forms of dance. There was Character dance, which is a professional form of folk dancing used in ballets, such as the mazurka in -Coppelia. The Jose Greco Dance Company and the Katherine Dunham Company specialize in ethnic dance, which is a step above folk dancing and character. Hindu, Spanish, Afro Cuban and etc. are classified as Ethnic dance. I studied Hindu with Hadassa, Spanish with Guillermo del Oro, and Afro-Cuban with Katherine Dunham. Modern dance is different yet, freeing the body from the restrictions of ballet technique. I began to study Modern dance, first with Mimi Kaggan in San Francisco and later with her teacher Hanya Holm in New York. I studied Plastic with Yehichi Nimura. When I started dancing there were no Jazz classes, but there were classes in theater dance. I also studied Tap with Ernest Carlos, but I knew I would never be a Fred Astaire.
I excelled in all my classes, but If I didn't specialize I would be mediocre in all. Although I never gave up all my interests, I did work harder at ballet. Even in ballet there are choreographers and teachers who pass on the traditions of the styles to the performers. I again wanted to do it all, and after a stint of teaching, performing, and choreographing, I realized that to do anything to the best of my ability I had to choose one skill and concentrate on it.
I chose to teach ballet and found another division. There are a number of schools of dance: Cecchetti, Vaganova (Cecchetti was her teacher), Bournonville, the French, and the Royal Academy of Dance (based on Cecchetti). Ballet vocabulary is the only thing that holds ballet together. I was trained in the Cecchetti school first and later the Vagonova school. I decided to teach Cecchetti with a sprinkling of Vagonova. Although I did continue to choreograph shows using all the skills I acquired in all the disciplines I had learned, I opened a ballet school and became a major teacher of ballet.
I still enjoy watching performances in all forms of dance, whether it be Ballet, Modern, Ethnic, Tap, Jazz or an all inclusive form called Dance.
It doesn't take talent to balance, it takes intelligence.
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