Gyrotonic Trainer

Alessandra Corona never planned to teach. “It just happened,” she says. When Corona turned 15, her ballet instructor invited her to be an assistant teacher in her hometown of Cagliari in Sardinia, Italy.  Two years later, Signora Reccia, a local woman devoted to dance, built a studio, says Corona. “I was her school’s only teacher.” Corona trained young dancers for five years. Her ability to tailor corrections to individual needs earned her respect as well as a student following, despite her age. Nonetheless, she feared her dream of a performing career was slipping away.

At 22 she moved to Rome and joined the Renato Greco Dance Company. Five years later, in 1991, she joined Ballet Hispanico of New York, where she danced full time for ten years, and as a guest for another five.

In 2003, after performing 400 shows of the Broadway hit Fosse, Corona returned to her first career. But this time the enthusiast with the sparkling eyes is teaching on a Gyrotonic machine.

“I finally found a way to teach all people how to enjoy moving their bodies,” says Corona. She discovered Gyrotonic, which resembles dancing with its spiraling, undulating motions, after she fractured her metatarsal in 1994. She successfully rehabilitated her foot in two weeks on the machine developed by Juliu Horvath, which is both a pulley system that stretches limbs, and a weight apparatus that strengthens them. “Working with a client on a Gyrotonic machine is like dancing a duet with a partner.”

Recently, Corona took a big step and went out on her own, leaving the studio where she got her start. She now rents a corner of Alta, a private gym in Manhattan for personal training and physical therapy. When Corona moved in with one Gyrotonic machine, her sun-filled space facing Central Park reminded her of the bright light of Sardinia. “It felt like home,” she says.

The risk paid off. Corona—who began with only a handful of clients at Alta—has grown her clientele threefold in less than a year. But it wasn’t easy. She reached back to business skills developed in Italy, remembering how she gave class, juggled scheduling, and grew her student population by nurturing each individual. In New York, it helps that her satisfied students talk about her work to other people. “My idea of success is seeing clients improve,” she says.

Her students range from dancers at the School of American Ballet, to a man with Parkinson’s Disease, to an opera teacher, to physical therapy referrals, to business people who confess to having never exercised in their lives. “It’s like having a big dance company made of regular people,” she says. Corona’s career transition has been graceful because her focus on her audience has never faltered. “My work is about people. I love people.”

Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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