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.

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!!

Adults in Ballet: Dance to Save your Brain

The unique challenge that ballet, or dance in general, poses to the brain is two-fold: not only is it a mind-stimulating exercise (the need to remember complex patterns of steps), but it also provides beneficial physical exercise at the same time. For adults studying ballet, this can be helpful to remember (no pun intended!).

Pursuing the topic of the effects that dance has on the brain, I began doing an investigation on the web for studies that might address this. Among them,  I found an interesting article on, in which the “Einstein Aging Study, summarized in the June 19, 2003 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, found that dancing helps prevent dementia.

Dementia in the study refers to both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is the 2nd most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s.

The study …included participants in 11 physical activities including team sports, swimming, bicycling and dance.

Dance was the only physical activity that benefited the brain. This was attributed to the cerebral rather than the physical aspect of dance.

Researchers found that the relationship between the mind-stimulating effects of dancing, as well as in the above six types of hobbies, and the lowered risk of dementia remained strong even after they allowed for variables such as age, sex and education.

Frequency of activity also was important! 63% lower than that among subjects in the lowest third. We believe this emphasizes the importance of engaging in a regular program of dancing.

The need to learn and remember numerous dance movements produces a constant and very beneficial challenge to the brain.”

And, to delve into how the brain synthesizes dance and how dance likely evolved, here is an excerpt from Scientific American:

  • “Dance is a fundamental form of human expression that likely evolved together with music as a way of generating rhythm.
  • It requires specialized mental skills. One brain area houses a representation of the body’s orientation, helping to direct our movements through space; another serves as a synchronizer of sorts, enabling us to pace our actions to music.
  • Unconscious entrainment—the process that causes us to absent­-mindedly tap our feet to a beat—reflects our instinct for dance. It occurs when certain subcortical brain regions converse, bypassing higher auditory areas.”

And, lastly, Richard Powers at discusses intelligence and dance this way:

“The essence of intelligence is making decisions. And the concluding advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.

One way to do that is to learn something new. Not just dancing, but anything new. Don’t worry about the probability that you’ll never use it in the future. Take a class to challenge your mind.  It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways.  Difficult and even frustrating classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.

Then take a dance class, which can be even better. Dancing integrates several brain functions at once, increasing your connectivity. Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes.”

Richard, you’ve hit the sweet spot. Take a dance class!