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.

The Return of Nijinsky – Part 1

Coming in February, John Neumeier and the Hamburg Ballet will perform “Nijinsky” at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Below (from SF Classical Voice and authored by Janice Berman), is Part 1 of an overview of the ballet:

Nijinsky, John Neumeier’s full-length spectacular inspired by the seminal dancer, choreographer, and tragic figure of the 20th century, has arrived in San Francisco 13 years after its premiere. No point mourning that lost time. Just hasten over to the War Memorial Opera House and take it all in. The San Francisco Ballet is hosting the Hamburg Ballet, where the Milwaukee-born Neumeier, who began poring over Vaslav Nijinsky’s biography “before puberty,” as he puts it, is marking his 40th anniversary as Hamburg’s artistic director. He’s created many other ballets, including last year’s SFB hit The Little Mermaid, but Nijinsky’s explosive, searing essence lets us know that it’s the one closest to Neumeier’s heart.

Nijinsky begins and ends with the end of Nijinsky’s career — his final performance on Jan. 19, 1919 in a hotel ballroom in St. Moritz. As the elegant crowd looks on, Nijinsky (Alexandre Riabko) looks back. Other dancers portray characters for which he became famous, in a kind of swirling fantasy; his family, dancers all, dances in as well. His mother, Eleonora Bereda and his father, Thomas Nijinsky, a pair of dancers; his wife, Romola (Hélène Bouchet), in red; his sister the choreographer Bronislava Nijinska (Patricia Tichy), his mentally disturbed dancer brother Stanislaw (Aleix Martínez). And, importantly, there is Serge Diaghilev (Carsten Jung), the impresario, Nijinsky’s mentor and lover, who fired Nijinsky after he married Romola, ending his career.

A sense of shape-shifting suffuses the ballet. Nobody remains what he or she seems for very long, except, of course, Nijinsky. In the first act, in fact, even the ballroom seems to melt and slide, as the dance grows more crazed and Nijinsky’s perceptions more skewed. Neumeier has a gift for body expressiveness in individual characters but also in big groups. In the first act, a circling, leaping skein of women, gowned in shades of brilliant orange, helps connect more intimate sequences.

Stay tuned for Part II of the article, coming next month.

South Africa – Dance of the Blessed Spirits

Dance Hub, South Africa in performance

Several weeks ago, I had a very pleasant surprise in a communication from Susan Attfield, founder of Dance Hub – she’d communicated to me after finding this blog and sent me information on her adult ballet school in Pretoria, South Africa. I was most impressed with her dedication to ballet and the quality of her school – and that it’s for amateur adult ballet dancers, age 18 and over. And, in her own words. she “has 7 dancers taking adult ballet to an even higher level by doing actual live performances.” Recently, she’d written an article for publication about her school and gave me permission to post it on this blog. Here are portions of her article “Dance Hub, the only all amateur adult ballet studio in Pretoria, South Africa”.

“Dance Hub is the brainchild of Susan Attfield and was founded in January 2011. Currently Dance Hub has more than 40 dedicated adult amateur ballet dancers and several guest dancers per month. Dance Hub has 7 dancers taking adult ballet to an even higher level by doing actual live performances.

Dance Hub is the only all adult classical ballet studio in Pretoria, South Africa committed to adults older than 18 who love to do ballet on a non-competitive amateur level. We do ballet as older recreational dancers and for the pure enjoyment and love of movement and of course all the little things that is associated with ballet.

I started with ballet lessons for the very first time at age 40. It was my personal gift to myself when I turned 40. I ended loving and enjoying ballet so much that I wanted to share more opportunities with other adults. I started Dance Hub in Jan 2011 with one teacher and now employ three teachers. We offer 8 very structured classes per week and focus a lot on technique. I am not a teacher and would never like to teach – I love dancing too much and would like to stay a student. I am very proud of the level of teaching offered at Dance Hub and see how much more effort teachers put into some classes to make it adult appropriate. There is a fine line offering a great adult ballet class and causing injuries – they all know when to push and when to expect a little less. I am blessed with excellent teachers who are always willing to go the extra mile for adult ballet.

The biggest hurdle that a beginner adult recreational dancer has to overcome is their own personal anxiety about starting. Once adults start with ballet, they have made a huge leap of faith and the rest of their journey to personal growth can start. Ballet is very complicated. It is hard on older bodies; it’s super difficult and even taxing on the brain. Beginners learn to conquer their fear in ballet class and I often see how they blossom into confident people after only a few months. The changes in their bodies and attitudes are tremendous after a year!  I have the utmost respect for our students who persevere and in the end conquer ballet steps and own personal obstacles. The bottom line is to continue when you think you can’t. Too many adults stop after a couple of weeks and not because of injuries, because of self-doubt. It is terrible disappointing when someone stops with ballet at my studio. I want to almost force them to continue, but I can’t and have to respect their choices since they are adults with their own views on life.

Ballet gives you elegant lines, good posture, fantastic legs, toned muscles and a great confidence! No other… has personally given me so much pleasure and had such a strong positive influence in my life, business and personal growth.”

Susan also sent me a video of one of Dance Hub’s latest performances:  Dance of the Blessed Spirits, and I share it with you below:

Thank you Susan for your spirit and dedication — you’re an inspiration to us all.

Skyline High Kicks it Off!

Skyline High Dancers, courtesy Stephen Woo

Tonight, our Kickoff Fundraiser for Adults in Ballet – Philanthropy for Dance takes place at Rumbo Al Sur here in Oakland, CA. It gives me great pleasure to be able to begin this journey and to be able to help one of the best known Bay Area High Schools around – the Skyline High School Dance Dept.

Skyline High School is one of the most diverse High Schools in the country. Skyline’s Performing Arts Department provides a performing arts education in drama, dance, instrumental music, vocal music, and technical theatre. A typical school-year season includes 12 large-scale productions, frequent off-campus performances, and multiple opportunities to compete. Performances are held in the 975-seat Farnsworth Theater. (courtesy of

The Dance Dept. is comprised of 3 levels, beginning, intermediate and advanced. All levels are by audition, save for the beginning level. Both the intermediate and advanced levels have the opportunity to perform throughout the year and a major component of all the classes is allowing the students to create their own choreography.

Recently I had the great pleasure of interviewing the Dance Dept. Director, Dawn James and her 2 Dance Captains, Hannah Ayasse and Yelena Keller – all very special people!!

This is Dawn James’, Dance Dept. Director, 20th year at Skyline High. Her focus at Skyline is a modern jazz style, with a strong ballet technique base. She gives her students a lot of traditional ballet terminology and uses her modern jazz style to do that. She loves to see “the passion just ignite in her students”. And, from all accounts, she receives very high praise from her students.

Hannah Ayasse

Hannah Ayasse, senior and co-Dance Captain, started dancing in elementary school and remembers her sister taking her to see Skyline’s dance productions and knew then what she wanted to do.  She’s put the strong emphasis on learning the art of choreography taught in the classes — to her advantage. She began choreographing her freshman year and since then has choreographed about two dances for each show. She’s found her true passion in story telling through movement and was awarded Best Choreographer her sophomore and junior years. In her own words:  “…[it was through] the amazing opportunity to choreograph that I discovered how dance has the capacity to carry great emotions and stretch the soul.”

Yelena Keller

Yelena Keller, senior and co-Dance Captain, also started dancing at an early age in elementary school Being a very creative person with interests in a variety of different forms and expressions of the arts, dancing to her means being able to bring it all  into one spontaneous moment – all different forms of the arts into one. As she puts it “…[dance] allows me to take on a role, the music – figure out a way to make the movement your own. A lot of creativity that goes into dance whether your choreographing or not you have to figure out a way to make the movement your own.”

As Dance Captain, their duties are integral to helping the classes run smoothly, the rehearsals and the performances – they’ve even created a Facebook group that they use to get the info out to students, and organize potlucks with fellow students Especially if there are sub teachers, they will take on more of the teaching duties. In short, they are Ms. James’ “go to girls”.

They both have a true passion for dance – Hannah is off to college at George Washington University in the fall and hoping to minor in dance and perhaps be a dance teacher one day. Yelena has been accepted at Sarah Lawrence College and will be joining their dance program, either majoring or minoring in Dance.

Dawn James

They both give very high praise to Ms. James for her work and dedication to her students and to the Dance Program – in Hannah’s words:  “All I know is that if I could have the effect on a child’s life that Ms. James has had on mine, I would feel extremely fulfilled.” And Yelena expresses – “…every day that I spend in Ms. James’s dance class is a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

When asked about how they will put the donation from Adults in Ballet to use, the major consensus amongst all 3 ladies is they would like to start a yearly, ongoing scholarship for those students wishing to continue their dance training beyond their years at Skyline. And, secondarily, among other things, a new mirror wall is very much needed for the dance studios. Since Skyline depends entirely on private donations to keep operating, we are pleased to be able to help them.

Both ladies will be performing this week at their end of year dance performance – “Bodies In Motion” taking place this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 17 – 19, at 7:30 pm in the Farnsworth Theatre, on the Skyline High School campus, 12250 Skyline Blvd. in Oakland. Please click here for more information.

Brava Ladies!!

Leap for Dance — our Kickoff Fundraiser for Adults in Ballet

Rumbo al Sur

I’m so excited about our first Kickoff Fundraiser for Adults in Ballet – Philanthropy for Dance, coming up in May on Wednesday, May 16th. We’re hosting it at one of the hottest new restaurants around in Oakland, Rumbo Al Sur – Pan American cuisine meets California! It’s partly a benefit to raise money for a local Performing Arts High School – the Skyline High School Dance program (as a portion of the proceeds will go toward a $1500. donation to Skyline) and partly to raise funds for ongoing administrative costs, including the 501(c)(3) designation for Adults in Ballet.

I’ll be speaking about how Adults in Ballet got started – what was the impetus behind it and our vision for the future. We’ll also showcase our team of consultants we’ve amassed, from SEO and Marketing expert Diana Morgan of Whole Heart Marketing, Publicity expert extraordinaire Jill Lublin (co-author of “Guerrilla Publicity”), to Marina Eglevsky (Ballet and Dance consultant to the Director). Also we have Stu Sweetow of Audio Visual Consultants in Oakland, who’ll be working with us on developing fundraising videos and DVD’s, Pat Sullivan of Visionary Resources, speech writer and business consultant, to Wyolah Garden, enrolled agent and special consultant for non-profits, to Bill Bachrach, attorney for Adults in Ballet.

Representatives of Skyline High School Performing Arts Dance Dept. are scheduled to speak about the Skyline High Dance program, their needs and plans for the future.

We’ll also talk about our list of intended future recipients, such as the Adult Beginner Ballet documentary (for broadcast on PBS nationwide), produced by Michelle Ortega of North Beach Digital in San Francisco, Paris Wages of Quixotic Dance Technologies, Bonnie Sita of East Bay Dance Center, Kathy Mata Ballet from San Francisco, Beth Jucovy, founder of Dance Visions NY, Mindi Wade and Behold Dance Collective in Oakley…. And the list goes on.

The dinner and presentation is being held from 6:30 to 8pm… click here for the signup page for tickets, there are still a few seats left.

It’s going to be an exciting night for all and a long-held dream come true for me, Kathy Nelson, Founder and Director.

Adult Beginner Ballet: Never Too Late To Live Your Dream

Kathy Mata Ballet performs Swan Lake (photo courtesy of North Beach Digital)

I once read that the meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away. I guess that’s one reason I’ve continued to always pursue my passion in life – studying and performing dance and in particular for me, ballet. And, truly inspiring teachers have helped me uncover and realize that passion. Kathy Mata, from Alonzo King Lines Dance Center is one of them.

It was my classes with her that ultimately became the inspiration for me to form Adults in Ballet:  Philanthropy for Dance. And, part of that inspiration also came in the form of a documentary that Michelle Ortega, one of her students and a professional filmmaker (of North Beach Digital), produced about Kathy Mata’s work, titled “Adult Beginner Ballet.”

In “Beginning Ballet, Big Ambition” a recent article on Dance Studio Life, both the documentary and the teacher were highlighted. Perhaps I’m biased, but I feel that Kathy’s style of teaching encourages even the most timid of us to muster the courage to take class and to keep going.  As the article states:  “… Mata is made for the camera. She punctuates her hard-driving instruction with quick jokes and constant praise. Whether demonstrating a common beginner mistake like the “mad horse” – a developpe to the back with leg turned in—or rattling off the names of all 30-some students in the room to assure them that she “sees them all,” Mata is as entertaining on film as she is in person.”

Kathy is also director and founder of Kathy Mata Ballet, a company she founded 23 years ago to give non-professionals the opportunity to perform. The company gives Mata’s students a chance to progress to stage performances. In the documentary, both her teaching and her company are showcased. As Mata states in the article “… teaching adult beginners, I feel I am exactly where I should be. My students have wonderful potential; they are capable of much more than people realize.”

It never is too late to live your dreams. Thank you Kathy and thank you Michelle for showing us.

The documentary, Adult Beginner Ballet, can be viewed at

What makes Ballet look effortless?

Ballet, to me, is the telling of a story, the emotions of it through line of the body, the movements, the gestures set to music. The controlled and contained movements give it that effortless, ethereal quality that captivates. Ballet dancers study for years to master and attain the physical abilities necessary to achieve this look and feel.

Thinking back of who some of the great Ballet stars were at the time I was growing up:  names come to mind like Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn, Natalia Makarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov to name just a few. What was it about their dancing that lead them to fame – what were the qualities of the way they moved that gave them that effortless grace, that spontaneity of movement that also captured the emotion of the dance  – what were the physics of it in play that made it seem so effortless?

In her new book, “Apollo’s Angels:  A History of Ballet”, author Jennifer Homans describes ballet this way:  “At the origins of ballet lay two ideas:  the formal mathematical precision of the human body and the universality of human gesture”.

Perhaps one way this formal, mathematical precision of the body can be described – is that it’s the push pull movement between one end of a limb (or one end of the entire body) pushing or pulling in the opposite direction of the other end – so that the extension of this other end lengthens it into the illusion of infinity – the lengthening of that line into what’s called “extension”. And, all the while, the body is trained so that it’s strong enough to be held in place while the limbs accomplish these movements or are held still.

I asked one of my teachers, Sally Miramon, of The Alonzo King Lines Dance Center in San Francisco, to comment on this. Here’s what Sally had to say about this:

“There are many reasons for ballet dances to appear effortless and graceful. As a teacher, or choreographer, the dancer must have at least the following 5 elements:

1) Musicality – The ability to fit a dance to the music being played, by relating the dance to the music’s rhythm, melody, and mood.

2) Technical control/ training to execute movement with the proper timing and required spatial range

3) Core strength to hold the body in place from which the limbs move or are held

4) A sense of personal body lines that look best for your body type

5) Coordination within ones body and working with others.

All of the 5 comes from daily training and the ability to change and try something new. The body is constantly changing as a result of the type of training and rehearsals undertaken. Knowledge of how ones body reacts to fatigue, illness and etc., is important as it will determine what one needs to do to execute dance steps under different situations. This can only come with training and practice.”

This, I think, is a good, all-round explanation of why Ballet looks seemingly effortless. And, for those of us who’ve taken Ballet for any length of time all know — it takes time, focus, determination and dedication to achieve that look.