A Day in the Life of Ballet

copyright The San Francisco Ballet

courtesy of The San Francisco Ballet

Something really momentous is happening in the world of ballet starting tomorrow:  the very first, continuous streaming, 20 hours of live ballet from 5 of the world’s greatest ballet companies. Respectively, The San Francisco Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, and The Bolshoi Ballet are giving us a 4 hour view into the lives of each company — from warm-up class, to rehearsal, to performance. Streaming starts in the evening of Tuesday, September 30th at 7pm (PDT in the USA), starting with The Australian Ballet. Below are portions of the event press release and below that more information on the schedule and how to access the live streaming.

“The first ever World Ballet Day will see an unprecedented collaboration between five of the world’s leading ballet companies. This online event will take place on Wednesday 1 October (Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 7pm PDT for USA) when each of the companies will stream live behind the scenes action from their rehearsal studios.

Starting at the beginning of the dancers’ day, each of the five ballet companies – Australian BalletBolshoi BalletThe Royal BalletThe National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet – will take the lead for a four hour period streaming live from their headquarters starting with the Australian Ballet in Melbourne.  The live link then passes across time zones and cultures from Melbourne to Moscow to London to Toronto to San Francisco.

The live streaming will take viewers on a journey into the rarely seen backstage lives of ballet dancers.  This unusual access will throw a spot light on the differences in style between the five companies as they follow a very similar routine but approach choreography and performance in the ways that have made them unique on the world stage.  Starting with morning class to warm up the body with different exercises, moving on to rehearsals for their upcoming performances the day will be a celebration of dance; the athleticism and unparalleled dedication of all those involved in creating a world-class ballet company.

Viewers will be able to engage and interact with dancers, choreographers and coaches who live and breathe ballet every day of their working lives, asking questions throughout the day as well as having the opportunity to contribute by submitting a film of themselves doing a pirouette wherever they are in the world.  These will be edited into a film celebrating the worldwide appeal of dance.

The day’s streaming will be repeated on YouTube in full so that viewers around the world can catch up on any parts of the day they missed.  Edited highlights will then be made available for further viewing.”

Where to Watch

The entire 20-hour live stream event will be available on this page, sfballet.org/worldballetday or by visiting SFB’s YouTube Channel.

Schedule (all times Pacfic Daylight Time – PDT)

The Australian Ballet starts September 30th at 7pm
The Bolshoi starts September 30th at 11pm
The Royal Ballet starts October 1st at 3am
The National Ballet of Canada starts October 1st at 7am
The San Francisco Ballet starts October 1st at 11am

A Summer Holiday

It’s almost the first of July — summer is definitely here in the Bay Area. We’ll be off for several months, so check back in the fall for a new blog entry. In the meantime, there are wonderful dance events happening all over the country and in the Bay Area — sensational Polina Semionova will be performing at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole coming up on the 18th of July. Check it out here. Below is a short clip of her phenomenal dancing. Enjoy your summer!

VAI – Keepers of the Dance

Courtesy of VAI Music

courtesy of VAI Music

This morning, I had the pleasure of interviewing Allan Altman of Video Artists International – the label that has been preserving and bringing to the public, many historic fine arts performances on DVD and CD for years. We’d originally gotten in touch with each other partly because he’d found this blog and commented on last month’s entry about the Tanaquil Le Clercq documentary. I was thrilled that he agreed to this interview and found it fascinating to hear how they’re able to do what they do. I thought you, dear readers, perhaps would also be interested in their behind-the-scenes work as well as new releases they’re working on producing. Below is my interview with Allan:

I see by your website, VAI is enjoying its 30th Anniversary. Can you tell me how VAI got started, who established the company?

Video Artists International was founded by Ernest Gilbert in 1983. Ernie had been an executive at RCA Records in the days when they were still doing major classical projects, such as complete opera recordings. When Ernie began the VAI label, he was a pioneer in the field of performing arts programming on home video. It’s hard to imagine it today, but in 1983, the ability to see complete operas and ballets in your home – on demand, so to speak – was a new and exciting concept. Ernie was the President and CEO of VAI until he retired several years ago, when Edward Cardona (previously the company’s General Manager) took over.

As Production Coordinator for VAI, what is your role in producing the various DVDs and CDs?

At the risk of mixing metaphors: many roles, many hats, from soup to nuts. I’m involved, of course, in the selection of the programming (more on that below). Then there are the multitude of issues relating to licensing and clearances, involving the copyright-holders of the videos, music rights, performers clearances, etc. These tasks are divided between myself and Ed Cardona. We also work together on the look of the video packaging, which often involves more research and clearances for photos or other images. Of course, the “main course,” if you will, is the actual video material, which is often of historic vintage. I oversee the video editing and restoration, audio re-mastering, etc.

I see that you produce and publish a variety of DVDs and CDs across different genres in the world of historic artistic performances — from music, opera, ballet to musical theatre and jazz. With so much material out there to choose from, how do you decide what you’re going to produce and publish?

Everyone on the staff over the years has either been a musician or an avid follower of the arts. For example, founder Ernie Gilbert was an accomplished dancer in his youth and is still today a very fine amateur pianist.  So, over the years, while we remain a commercial enterprise and aim to release products that will generate public interest, every potential release has been filtered through our artistic sensibilities. Like any arts-based organization, we cross our fingers and hope there will be enough people out there in the buying public whose tastes match ours! More specifically, there are what we could call “personal projects” – releases that have been tied closely to individual staff members. For example, Ed Cardona is a flutist on a professional level and jumped at the chance to approach the legendary flutist Julius Baker about issuing some of Baker’s recordings. A friendship developed between them and the result was two volumes of live recitals on CD, performances  which had never before been made available to the public.

There is another very important component to our choice of material: the input we receive from customers. We regularly receive emails and phone calls with suggestions of programs to release. Sometimes these are programs which we already know about and are already researching, but sometimes we are made aware of something new, and that’s always very exciting. We are right now on the trail of a Balanchine-choreographed ballet produced by Radio-Canada that had not been listed in Radio-Canada’s database. Thanks to a call from a ballet fan alerting us to the existence of this program, we are now doing the research (I can’t divulge details yet) and hope to include it in our ongoing New York City Ballet in Montreal series.

Following the previous question, however do you go about your research and actually getting the material to publish? Can you describe the process for my readers?

Since the company has been around for 30 years, we already have close connections to a number of archives. Like our long-standing relationship with Canadian Television (made up of two divisions: the CBC in Toronto and Radio-Canada in Montreal), which makes up an important segment of our catalog. From CBC and Radio-Canada, we have ballets with Nureyev, operas with Joan Sutherland, instrumental programs featuring such legends as Jean-Pierre Rampal, etc. In other cases, we search out the copyright-holder of the program and proceed from there. Sometimes the performers (or their estates) need to be cleared separately, and we embark on the detective work of finding these people, a task definitely made easier by the existence of the Internet. Of course, in the process, there is the thrill of connecting with legendary artists of the past – dancers, actors, opera singers – many of whom had never seen their performances, which were telecast live before the days of video recorders, TiVo, or YouTube.

In particular for this blog, can you talk about upcoming Dance DVDs that will be available to the public for sale?

We are right now in the process of releasing a series entitled New York City Ballet in Montreal. These DVDs feature performances from the 1950s and ’60s, many with the original casts, and all with Balanchine present in the TV studio. In fact, we have learned through Joel Lobenthal (co-editor of Ballet Review, and the author of the insert notes for the series), who has interviewed many of the dancers in these programs, that, in the course of these television productions, Balanchine would occasionally make adjustments to the choreography based on his ability to view the dancers from different camera angles – adjustments that sometimes were brought back to New York to become part of the standard performing editions.

The third volume will include a very rare scene from Coppélia that Balanchine choreographed specifically for a 1954; it stars Tanaquil Le Clercq and André Eglevsky. The first two volumes are already available. As per the press release:

This first volume (http://www.vaimusic.com/product/4571.html) features two of Balanchine’s most beloved ballets. A 1957 performance of SERENADE stars Jacques d’Amboise, Diana Adams, and Patricia Wilde. Balanchine himself appears on screen to discuss ORPHEUS, performed here in 1960 by Nicholas Magallanes and Francisco Moncion dancing the roles they created for the work’s 1948 premiere, and Violette Verdy as Eurydice.

The second volume (http://www.vaimusic.com/product/4572.html) includes three complete Balanchine ballets. CONCERTO BAROCCO stars Diana Adams, Tanaquil Le Clercq, and Jacques d’Amboise. PAS DE DIX features principal dancers Maria Tallchief and André Eglevsky. AGON, a work Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky created for NYCB in 1957, includes original cast members Diana Adams, Arthur Mitchell, Todd Bolender, and Roy Tobias, in a 1960 performance. Rounding out the second disc is an interview with Balanchine as well as the Grand pas de deux from Balanchine’s THE NUTCRACKER performed by Adams and Nicholas Magallanes.

Please visit their website, www.vaimusic.com, for more information on their entire catalog of DVDs and CDs — find them on Facebook by clicking here — and to keep up with the latest from VAI, sign up for their special offers and new release alerts here.

 

Afternoon of a Faun

courtesy of www.rogerebert.com

courtesy of www.rogerebert.com

A new documentary film by Nancy Buirski Afternoon of a Faun:  Tanaquil Le Clercq recently had a week long run in San Francisco and tells the story of a brilliant American ballerina whose performing career was tragically ended after contracting polio. A principal dancer and muse for George Balanchine of the New York City Ballet, I think this review by Stephen Holden from the New York Times describes best Tanaquil’s all too short dancing life:

“As you watch grainy kinescope footage of dancers in a mirrored studio executing a pas de deux in the documentary biography “Afternoon of a Faun:  Tanaquil Le Clercq”,  it is almost as though you are beholding mythological deities who have alighted briefly on the earth. Here today, gone tomorrow, they are like rare birds, seldom glimpsed, who remind us of the evanescence of all things, most of all physical beauty and the casual grace of youth. Therein lies a primal attraction of ballet: its evocation of the ecstatic moment is as fleeting as it is haunting.”

Trailer for Afternoon of a Faun:  Tanaquil Le Clercq

Tanaquil Le Clercq and Diana Adams dancing in Concerto Barocco for NYCB

Ballet in Crisis?

Ballet wallpaper dancer in b_w cropdAlthough we live in an ever-changing world, do we cross the line when something that has been traditionally studied as a fine art — which comes from the soul — becomes a repetitive study of technique only? Increasingly, ballet is being seen as a competition for the best technique, rather than the fine art of “artistry”.  Reprinted for this month’s blog, comes an article from The New Republic titled:  Ballet Is In Crisis Because It’s Turning Into a Sport — a thought provoking article discussing how ballet competitions are playing a role in this. I invite you to read and comment: “The International Olympic Committee recently voted to restore wrestling to the Olympic Games in 2016. One activity that’s never been put before the committee: ballet. Despite its physical similarities to gymnastics, ice-skating and ballroom dance, most ballet dancers would bristle at the suggestion that it’s a sport—and yet, many ballet teachers and directors have embraced Olympic-style competitions in which aspiring dancers compete for gold, silver and bronze medals, scholarships, contracts and even cash. “The curious thing about dance now, and ballet in particular,” Jennifer Homans recently argued in The New Republic, “is that it has taken the form but left the feeling. Artists today seem more attached to form than perhaps ever before—wedded to concept, abstraction, gymnastic moves and external appearance.” This dearth of feeling might have something to do with the growth of competition culture, in which artistry is scored and treated as just another variable. For instance, at the Youth America Grand Prix, the biggest annual student competition, artistry and technique are equally weighted, with each evaluated on a 100-point scale. And some students at many of the world’s top ballet schools, like the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre and London’s Royal Ballet School, are recruited through competitions like the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), the New York International Ballet Competition, and the Prix de Lausanne. While ballet companies worldwide have been struggling to attract audiences and donors, competitions have been growing ever bigger and more commercial. The last few decades have seen increasing participation and corporate sponsorship, as well as the founding of new competitions like YAGP in 1999 and the World Ballet Competition (WBC) in 2007. At YAGP, the biggest student competition, over 5,000 participants— some as young as nine—vie for scholarships, cash, and even modeling contracts. YAGP was further popularized by the well-received 2011 documentary First Position, which follows six contestants as they make their way from the regional preliminaries to the finals in New York. Needless to say, some traditionalists object. “I don’t like the idea of that kind of competition,” said Carol Sumner, who danced as a soloist at New York City Ballet under George Balanchine. “To be a great dancer doesn’t mean to have a great technique. What you have to be is interesting. Mr. B [Balanchine] said he chose dancers that are interesting to look at, he chose dancers that he wanted to see everyday—not necessarily the strongest ones.” But being interesting to look at won’t get you far when you’re being scored on the height of your extensions and the number of pirouettes you can turn.

(RELATED: America’s Orchestras Are in Crisis, Too)

Competitions may be especially detrimental for young dancers, who haven’t had a chance to develop a sense of artistry. “Kids sitting in the audience, they get wowed when they see a kid do four or five pirouettes or see their leg go over their head,” said Susan Jaffe, Dean of Dance at University of North Carolina School of the Arts and former Ballet Mistress at American Ballet Theatre. “This is pure physical talent and that, of course, is not where the art of ballet lives.” The rise in student ballet competitions might have something to do with the growing competitiveness of all children’s activities, from chess tournaments to spelling bees. Little League baseball—whose “world series” is now broadcast on ESPN—was founded in 1939; North America’s first international ballet competition was organized 25 years later. In The Atlantic last month, Harvard sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman relates the rise of competitive children’s sports to the frenzy surrounding college admissions as students scramble to fill out the “awards” section on their college applications. TV shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, which have both been running since 2005, might also have played a role in normalizing dance contests. Homans and other critics and dancers lament that ballet is no longer the crowd-pleasing, exciting spectacle it was a century ago. “It is worth recalling that when Sleeping Beauty premiered in Russia in 1890, it was like watching Technicolor for the first time: controversial, visually overwhelming, a new way of seeing,” she writes. This is hard to imagine today; contemporary audiences consist disproportionately of dancers and ex-dancers. “Dancers in competitions are just pleasing each other, pleasing their peers, pleasing the judges,” said Sumner. “It’s kind of incestuous.” This is not to say that ballet is not inherently competitive. Dancers at every level compete constantly—for spots in summer programs and schools, for attention from teachers and directors, for roles and promotions. But there’s a difference between competitive rivalry and formalized competition. Homans writes that ballet today suffers from “too much athleticism” and a “fear of feeling.” What could be more likely to exacerbate the emphasis on technique than training dancers to please a panel of trained judges rather than a general audience?”

Twenty Years of Ballet

reprinted from pointetilyoudrop.com

reprinted from pointetilyoudrop.com

This month’s blog — reprinted from pointetilyoudrop.com — is written by amateur dancer, Johanna from Helsinki, Finland:

“In January 1991, I took my first ballet class ever. It was love at first tendu. This month I’m celebrating my 20-year ballet anniversary. That is right, my math is not wrong. Not if I discount the three years when I did not dance at all. I wish I could undo the not-dancing, but at least I figured it out eventually. Ballet is where my heart is. I returned to class in 2006, and haven’t looked back since. Except for today, when I went rummaging in my old calendars/diaries. This is what I wrote down in January 1994: “After class Jill (my teacher) asked me when I was going to get myself pointe shoes. I told her that I was too old to go on pointe.” At the time, I was 24 years young. Can you believe it? It’s a good thing that dance keeps you young, or in my case, progressively younger.

It’s a cliche, but the years do fly by. Life rarely goes as planned (another cliche, sorry). This is why I’ve always appreciated the time-honored tradition of ballet. Over the years, the steps and positions have become familiar, the French understandable, the movement ingrained in both body and mind. Yet, there’s always change. For me, this is probably the best part of learning and dancing ballet. As long as I keep an open mind and never settle for less than my full potential, I keep moving on. That first class was my point of departure, and I’ve been dancing without a destination ever since. I like to think that I’m always halfway there. Because as an adult dancer, class itself is the beginning and end. For professional dancers, it’s all about the performance, dancing on stage in front of a real audience. For us, it’s mostly an imaginary audience behind the class mirror. We love to do the hard work, but it’s not payed work. Unless you count joy as the ultimate reward. I’m pretty sure that most of us adult dancers do just that. We dance because dance brings us joy.

Another reason why I never lost my love for dance: awesome teachers. I will skip the math on this one, but I do remember them all. Your first ballet teacher you never forget. If you are lucky, she’s the one who will instill a love and respect for the art. Jill Miller gave me a solid foundation to build on, and an understanding of how placement works. It was not the Vaganova-school that is so common here in Finland, but it was very safe on untrained adult joints and limbs. I loved her classes, the way she phrased the exercises to music, and the challenges she threw at us. “Move! Dance!” We were told to use the whole space, and not to hold back. “Don’t dance like you have a stick up your butt!” Or, somewhat more eloquent: “Be organic in your movement.” She was one of a kind. Strict, but caring. I’m happy that I got back to ballet and Jill’s classes before her untimely death in 2007.

You do not necessarily have to like your teacher, as long as you learn and enjoy the dancing. However, sometimes it can happen that the class just does not feel right, which has happened to me on occasion. It can be a simple matter of chemistry, or the lack thereof. I still took the classes, learned the steps and worked on my technique. But in the long run, the physical work alone is not enough. Like I wrote earlier, we are in it for the joy. If you enter class with a positive attitude, energy and focus, you should leave class feeling like a million bucks. Sweaty, energized and happy. Of course we all have bad days, certain insecurities and flaws… Nobody can be a perfect student all the time.

I also take classes where there’s almost no interaction between a student and teacher. You know, some teachers give a short warm-up barre and a dancey center, but hardly any personal feedback. That’s okay, especially when you get plenty of corrections elsewhere. In those classes, I often think less about technique and focus on the dancing alone. Over the past 20 years, I’ve learned that both ways work for me, as long as one outweighs the other. In any case, variety in school and style is a wonderful thing. You get fresh perspectives, familiar corrections are rephrased (= eureka!), and you get to work on new exercises and enchaînements.

I have learned from every teacher I’ve ever had. Some focus more on pirouettes, others have awesome petit allegro or a very lyrical adagio. There’s been Vaganova, French School, Cecchetti, RAD, Balanchine and Bournonville, and a mix of schools, styles and teachers’ personal experiences. Some have been wonderful, some a little scary, others easy-going and very nice. Most have been motivating, even inspiring. All have been professional, skilled and knowledgeable. Many have been very important to me. Still are.

When I’m in class, I need to feel both challenged but also safe to make mistakes. I like to be pushed, but preferably in a positive and encouraging manner. I like to get feedback, lots of corrections and guidance. Some praise is nice too. I was already lucky when I started classes with Jill. I can’t think of a better teacher for that time in my life. I’m even more fortunate now. Since I started taking class with my current teacher, Marie-Pierre Greve, so much has changed. Ballet feels like a new experience, yet again. I love Madame’s elegant and beautiful dancing, her generous and attentive style of teaching, her keen eye for the tiniest of detail (which can make a huge difference), the emphasis on quality and artistry, the positive and encouraging class atmosphere, the real work we do and the fun we have in class. It’s pure and undiluted ballet joy!

Where ballet is concerned, I consider myself a very lucky person. Between that first class and the latest one, there has been a lot of dancing: thousands and thousands of classes. So many wonderful and memorable experiences. Sure, there have also been injuries and struggles and breaks. But for the most part, it’s been all good. Amazing, in fact. I would not trade this experience for anything.”

Your Most Important New Year’s Resolution: Self-Care

Degas wallppr large 892903-bigthumbnailHappy New Year ! This month’s entry is written by guest blogger, Shery Scott, serious amateur dancer (and AiB board member). Welcome Shery:

At this time of year, many of us are looking back over 2013 to assess our lifestyles and planning to make the necessary improvements that we know we need, most notably, increasing physical exercise.  Typically, however, most people will have lost their motivation to make good on their new year’s resolutions by about January 12th.

There is a better way!  Build it into your weekly schedule.  Yes, I know you’ve heard it before; but it’s so true, it bears repeating:  positive changes will last longer if you have accountability.  For myself and my fellow classmates, this means attending a ballet class at least once a week.  And don’t think your age works as an excuse:  I’m over 50 and my ballet instructor is over 60.  If we can still do it, anyone can.  And the good news is that dance, and ballet, in particular, provide much more than just physical exercise.  It provides a whole host of other benefits, too.

Physical Benefits
Dancing develops and requires balance, strength, stamina, and flexibility.  That by itself is reason enough to dig your workout clothes out of the closet.  But there’s much more to be gained (better health)…and lost (fat).  Increasing your weekly exercise can also reduce your stress, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.  And it can increase your lung capacity and heart and lung efficiency.

Mental Benefits
First and foremost, dancing will boost your endorphins and improve your mental clarity and memory.  My instructor is fond of saying, “I don’t need to do crossword puzzles; I do ballet.”  Why?  Because dancing forces you to use your brain in ways you might not otherwise.  First, you need to be able to remember the combinations so you can do them.  Don’t worry; nobody expects you to do anything well the first time you try.  You’ll get better with practice.  Second, you’ll be performing the same moves on the left side of your body as you do on the right side of your body.  That means dancing helps you develop mental lateral facility.  That’s important for those of us who are profoundly right-handed or left-handed to help create better development and balance on our weaker side.

Social Benefits
Unless you’re springing for private lessons, a dance class is a great way to meet new people and enlarge your social circle.  In my own ballet class, I have met some wonderful women who provide me much-needed comic relief when I’m struggling to learn a new move, or if I’m having a difficult time in my personal life.  I can’t imagine life without them.

Emotional Benefits
Once you get moving and get into the swing of things, you will feel better.  I dread getting up to go to class in the evenings, especially when it’s so dark in the winter months.  But I have never ever regretted going to class, not once.  I always feel so much better about myself and my life after I’ve worked hard in class.  And you will, too.

Spiritual Benefits
For those of us of Judeo-Christian orientation, the book of 2 Samuel 6:14 tells us that King David “danced before the Lord with all his might.”  That’s an excellent example for us to follow.  Even if you’re not of religious inclination, dancing can be a way to express your cultural identity and your spirituality.

So with all this going for you, why wouldn’t you take a chance and contact your local dance studio to sign up for a class?  Most of them have introductory specials this time of year, so go ahead and take advantage.  Just don’t be surprised if you leave the studio physically worn out and emotionally exhilarated.  Of course it’s hard; it’s ballet.  If it were easy, it would be called football.

Marina Eglevsky – A Legacy of Dance, Part 3

This month, we continue with Part 3 of my interview with Marina Eglevsky. We take up where we left off last month, with her move to the Bay Area.

Marina teaching at Shawl Anderson, Berkeley CA

Marina teaching at Shawl Anderson, Berkeley CA

Q:  How many years now have you been in the Bay Area?

A:  I came here in 1994.

Q:  I’m sure my readers at Adults in Ballet would like to know this – I know you’ve talked about this that you felt like your father Andre Eglevsky had really spearheaded the whole idea of lay people, of adults studying ballet – can you talk a little bit about that – he had his school attached to his ballet company, how did he come to invite people into his home to study ballet with him? I’m curious about how all of that happened?

A:  Well he didn’t invite anybody – he was so famous that people would come to him – and his school wasn’t that big, one tiny studio that my mother usually taught kids in, and one bigger studio but not very big and he taught his classes in there and there were so many people, it was so crowded – we had children in intermediate and advanced classes. And at the beginning, so many people would come into his advanced class and of any age and he allowed that, but at some point they decided to separate it, so they put the adults in their own class and kept the advanced for the advanced students.

Q:  So the adults that came into the advanced class before you separated them, did they have to have a certain amount of technique to get into that class?

A:  No, his premise was that – he welcomed most everybody and he felt that if you were a beginner, you stand in the back and you learn. And it’s the very best way to learn, is that you don’t stay in the front, you stay in the back and you watch and you pick up. He thought that was the best way of picking up – and I think they did that in Europe.  I’m not exactly sure that he was the very first one in history that had adult classes – maybe not in the U.S., but in Europe, because I know like (Olga) Preobrajenska and Cecchetti, I think they had classes with adults in them and he studied with those teachers. And that’s the way I am, I would see adults come in there that wouldn’t know anything. Especially the guys – not women – the guys – he’d see a guy in the street and say why don’t you come into ballet class?

Q:  Really…  just because of the way they looked or the way they moved?

A:  For instance, he invited a school teacher from down the street into class, and he really improved, he started performing – a lot of them would start performing, my father would have them in productions – we were doing productions all the time. I still feel that way – I teach at Shawl – I welcome adults. I have people at all levels and ages – I am just totally open to that, because of my father.

Q:  What I see as a potential problem with adult classes, is the lack of proper correction in class. That’s a big concern I have for ballet training – is having schools that have reputable training – that teachers will take time with each adult, for proper placement.

A:  Well in my father’s class you got corrected, he looked at you as learning how to dance and if you could fit in a production, he’d put you in a production. Like this man, who he brought in – he would play the father or the mother in productions – you’re in class your treated as if your wanting to be a dancer. And then he – there were so many adults, the classes were so big – he broke it up, so there were separate adult classes and then he broke those classes into beginning and intermediate dance, so there were 2 levels.

Q:  So, what keeps you going now? What keeps you teaching, what keeps you doing the bodywork – is it the natural passion you found as a child?

A:  The bodywork is more of a passion – of teaching too I think really a selfish thing – a passion to understand myself better. You know I have to in order to teach – I really have to understand myself and who I am and my – I rekindle my relationship  to the essence of – because I’m not a dancer anymore – to the essence of ballet and of movement what ballet is about, what makes something work in a person – and that fascinates me.

Q:  Interesting… so, a movement that might work for a particular person, particular technique, with a particular personality, might not work for another person?

A:  Well, it’s on many different levels – a level of what would work for this class today – what would make it worthwhile for this class in general – what would work for people in class. Then, there’s what would work for training pre-professionals. I like to gear my focus how to produce that individual so they would become professional material.

Q:  For your private ballet coaching and group classes – do you teach weekly?

A:  At Shawl Anderson in Berkeley, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach an intermediate/advanced adult class. And I also offer private ballet coaching for adults and pre-professionals by appointment.

Q:  The bodywork that you do – how would people find out about your bodywork and what are the different methods you use in your sessions with clients?

A:  It’s generally word of mouth from my clients – I haven’t sold myself that much.

I do medical massage – and that incorporates acupressure, deep tissue and energetic work, so I do a lot of energy work. And I do alignment work and I look at a person’s alignment and work them through processes and hands on work. I also do rosen method bodywork and also I’ve trained extensively on the gyrotonic machine and I work extensively on that for alignment, but I’m not certified on that. I have a machine in my office and I use some of the movements.

And this concludes my interview with Marina Eglevsky – truly a glimpse into a fascinating life and she carries on the legacy of dance instilled in her by some of greatest legends of the ballet world.

Marina Eglevsky – A Legacy of Dance, Part 2

Marina at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Photo courtesy of  Marina Eglevsky
Photo credit: Peter Garrick

This month, we continue with Part 2 of my interview with Marina Eglevsky. We take up the thread of this portion of the interview by continuing with her years at the Hamburg Ballet, after having left Harkness Ballet:

Q:  From leaving Harkness and joining Hamburg Ballet, how long did you stay there?

A:  We stayed there for a couple of years, but we didn’t like living in Germany too much, so we went back to Winnipeg (we had an open contract there — as we were only on a leave from the company). A lot of things happened there – I had a major accident, someone dropped me in a lift, and I didn’t think I could recover – political issues as well – I felt like I was an artist and was in a protective bubble against political issues and the company was disbanded and for the second time we were in a company that was disbanded — and when that bubble was burst and with my injury — I didn’t want to dance anymore. My husband wanted to direct and so he found a director position at North Carolina Dance Theatre, so I went with him and that’s where I started to teach, that’s when my teaching career started.

Q:  After you recovered from the injury – did you go back to dancing or guesting?

A:  I did, I was asked to join the National Ballet of Canada and also to ABT (American Ballet Theatre) or John Neumeier (Hamburg) and so I had a choice — to leave my husband, get in shape and go out to those companies and I just felt like — I just didn’t get it back, after what had happened at Winnipeg, so I went back to my husband in North Carolina. Then Agnes DeMille asked me to dance in Brigadoon on Broadway – I did that – but, my steam for being in a major company again just kind of ran out, so I went back to North Carolina and started teaching and started a bakery business and then I decided I wanted to go into medicine.

Q:  Was that the transition into bodywork? Is that how it all started?

A:  Yes.

Q:  So, was it at this point, that you intermittently guested with other ballet companies or were you pretty much teaching at that point?

Marina staging at the Bolshoi
Photo courtesy of Marina Eglevsky
Photo credit: Damir Yusupov

A:  I was teaching and staging — because my father had died in 1977, and before he died, he coached me in these Balanchine ballets to be able to stage them.  After he died in 1977, I staged them — these ballets that he had in the Eglevsky Ballet repertoire, that Balanchine had given him. I continued to do a lot of teaching and staging in North Carolina – continued with my bakery business for awhile, and when I decided to go into medicine, I decided to stop all ballet, but it never happened, I kept being asked to stage.

Q:  So when you had a desire to go into medicine, what form did that take in the beginning? Did you want to go to medical school and start there, or did you want to go into bodywork – how did that all start?

A:  I wanted to go to medical school and I wanted to be a doctor, I spent some time with friends in Wyoming to get away – I was staying there for the summer and I enrolled into school in Laramie at the University there – they were trying to get adults back into school, so it was so cheap and they had a fast track program. To be a doctor — like in 7 years — and you’re done. At the time, I thought it was ideal, and I tried it. I started it and got honorary grades, and then went to Miami City Ballet, to stage a couple of ballets, and got back for 2nd semester of med school and I was so behind, and I didn’t do so well. And, my grandmother got sick and my mother needed help with her school – so, I had to get back to New York, so that was the end of that. But, I didn’t want to stop so I consulted with a psychic who said:   “the best thing for you is alternative medicine, and there is a wonderful school in New Mexico”, so I ended up doing that and I fell in love with that, because it was more me.

Ever since I was little and I was dancing, I was basically studying alternative medicine to take care of myself — it was a fascination of mine – not really medicine per say, but the preventative approach.

Q:  How to help dancers recover and prevent injuries?

A:  Yes — which dancers need to know more about – you do everything you can do to get in a company with the body you have, you don’t want to lose that, and you’re always exhausted, so taking care of yourself doesn’t often enter a dancer’s mind.  {Interviewer:  I know for myself, everything goes out of my brain, strive to try my best in class and dance, without thinking of my body or injury.}

Q:  From the school in New Mexico, how did that transpire into bodywork, you’d said you’re also a massage therapist as well?

A:  My interest was more in medical massage, not just flat out massage, I had no interest in that, but to focus on specific problems, that was more like medical school, studying problems, that was my passion. In our first class, the very beginning of school, we had Rosen Method bodywork, I mean once I left a ballet company, I was lost – I didn’t find the same way of identifying myself in anything I did, I couldn’t find that and I really suffered from that.

I remember the first class, I’m sitting at the table with my hands on somebody, had no idea what it was — you just sit there next there next to a person, you put your hands on that person and they guide you thru a very intuitive process, watching yourself, watching this other person. The first day, I suddenly had this feeling that I’d found myself, that I’d found myself as a dancer – it was so amazing, I couldn’t believe it – it was like this self-centering which then goes out and meets another person. That’s what you do on stage, you’re so self-centered, then you’re meeting, going in, and it turns around and goes out and connects with the audience – and the audience, I never got confused whether there’s 100 or 1000 or 3,000 people – it always felt like one body, one person that I was speaking to – that’s what it felt like in this work – it was so profound for me, I never lost that, that wonder with that.

Q:  It sounds like a real passion of yours, a true passion of yours, I mean, hand in hand with dance?

A:  Yes, that’s the big thing now is to be in touch with one’s self and able to function in the outer world and at the same time – you’re in touch with both worlds at the same time.

Q:  So, you studied Rosen Method bodywork in New Mexico and I’m assuming there were more methods that you studied there?

A:  Yes, after New Mexico, I continued to study at the school that was formed to study Rosen, so I studied there and I actually wanted to train with Marian Rosen, who was in Berkeley. My whole upbringing had taught me to study with the greats – and the greats was with Marian, so I came to Berkeley in 1994 to study with her.

Q:  Is that what brought you to the San Francisco Bay Area?

A:  Partly, I did one more try at med school, and there was only one in New Mexico, Marian was here and so were other medical programs, so I looked into them – I was accepted into Cal, and I looked into a couple of other programs – but, I never got away from ballet, and Rosen Method, and preventative medicine – it just really hits me.

Q:  So, through out all this you were still being called to set Balanchine ballets on ballet companies?

A:  Yes.

Q:  And, also perhaps to do some guesting in ballets or at this point, were you no longer doing that?

A:  No, I stopped – I did my last performance in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I actually choreographed something on myself.

Q:  Was it with the Santa Fe Ballet?

A:  It was then — it was what is now the Aspen Ballet — the Aspen Ballet School took over the school in New Mexico where I was teaching when I was there.

End of Part 2 – stay tuned for next month’s 3rd and final installment.