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New Miami City Ballet corps member Itzkan Barbosa and her mother Miriam Barbosa pose atop a mountain of Itzkan's pointe shoes. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy of Miriam Barbosa

On the morning of May 1, Miriam Barbosa posted a photo of her daughter, Itzkan, on Facebook. The image itself is striking—Itzkan stands smiling on pointe in front of Miami City Ballet, where she has spent the last year as a pre-professional student, perched atop a mountain of old pointe shoes of all different sizes. But it's the story behind the picture that's inspired so many people to comment their congratulations and appreciation. The photo contains every single one of Itzkan's pointe shoes, from her very first pair up until the moment she got her first professional contract as a corps member with MCB last month. The image not only calls attention to the hard work and dedication necessary for young dancers to achieve their dreams, but to the sacrifices parents make to help them get there.

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Dance News

Gonzalo Garcia in George Balanchine's The Four Temperaments

Manhattan’s Ballet Academy East announces its newest faculty appointment in the pre-professional division: Gonzalo Garcia, New York City Ballet principal. The school’s pre-professional division, where Garcia will teach partnering, technique and men’s classes, is directed by Darla Hoover with a curriculum based on the teachings of Marcia Dale Weary. Garcia, who was born in Spain, joined San Francisco Ballet in 1998, rising to the rank of principal in 2002. In 2007, he joined NYCB as a principal, where he has created roles in original works by Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon.

Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of New York City Ballet, © The George Balanchine Trust

Dance News

Ballet Academy East in New York City has announced the addition of a Dance for PD class on Friday mornings at 11. Classes are offered at no charge and open to people with Parkinson’s disease, as well as their family, friends and caregivers.

Students will learn movement from modern, ballet, tap, folk and social dancing, plus some Mark Morris repertory. The experience encourages artistic expression and is designed to get Parkinson’s sufferers moving like dancers to live music, instead of thinking of themselves as patients in therapy.

Dance for PD was developed in 2001 by Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group. Since then, the program has grown to reach over 30 states and 12 countries.

The program holds regular teacher training workshops around the world. Take a look at the upcoming sessions, and visit danceforparkinsons.org for more information or to apply.

Melbourne, Victoria (Australia): September 14–15, 2014

Brooklyn, NY: October 29–30, 2014

Nashville, TN: March 13–14, 2015

Phoenix, AZ: March 20–21, 2015

Photo: Instructor Krissy Richmond leads a Dance for PD class at Houston Ballet; by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy of Houston Ballet

Dance Teacher Tips

How I teach pas de deux

Charles Askegard coaching Ballet Academy East students Marisa Trapani and Alexandros Pappajohn

The hall cutting through Ballet Academy East on a late Thursday afternoon is hectic. Students sprawl out in straddles, hovering over math homework, and parents peek through the windows to get a good look at their tots. But the air inside the advanced ballet class in studio five is calm, as is Charles Askegard’s demeanor. He is subtle, yet assured, a quality that carried his dancing during his years as a principal with the New York City Ballet.

Clarity of technique is Askegard’s priority at BAE, where he began teaching last fall, and it’s reflected in his to-the-point approach. “See this tendu? When you’re not so turned out here, you can get by. But when you bring it up here,” he says, lifting a student’s leg in a high à la seconde, “well, that’s not nice to look at.” Combinations throughout the level 8/9 class are short and square, and he’s extremely particular about hip alignment and how the soles and toes of the feet lie on the floor. “There’s so much you want to accomplish in your technique at the pre-professional age, but how much and how fast can students actually learn?” he asks. “I’m not saying to dumb it down, but succinct combinations let dancers really work on their technique. And it’s really important in building their confidence.”

Helping students break down their technique, says Askegard, has sparked curiosity in his own. “I’ve talked to others, and they all say, ‘When I started teaching, my technique got so much better than when I was dancing,’ because you have to be committed to doing it the right way to teach others,” he says. “Teaching is a new adventure, and I’m learning a lot.”

Askegard’s goal is to codify a class syllabus for pas de deux—a skill often praised by critics, as well as his own partners, during his performance career—for both himself and BAE. “Often when students start partnering, the girl is just thrown at the guy, and it’s like ‘OK, go.’ And that’s because many schools don’t have the ability to make a full partnering class viable. But it results in a deer-in-headlights level of fear. Try to squeeze 10–15 minutes into pointe class for some pirouettes and promenades,” he says. “When I was a student, I was the only guy to partner with. And I learned a lot about partnering when I was forced to dance with a girl a foot taller than me.”

Here, Askegard guides BAE students Marisa Trapani and Alexandros Pappajohn through partnered pirouettes:

Charles Askegard began studying ballet at Minnesota Dance Theatre and School (now The Dance Institute) under the direction of Loyce Houlton. At 16, he moved to New York City, where he trained with Maggie Black. He joined American Ballet Theatre in 1987 and became a soloist before leaving to dance with the New York City Ballet, where he remained for 14 years. As a principal there, he originated roles in ballets by Christopher Wheeldon and Peter Martins. Upon his retirement in 2011, Askegard co-founded Ballet Next, a project-based ballet troupe, with former ABT principal Michele Wiles. He has been a guest faculty member at the School of American Ballet and has taught company class for NYCB and Armitage Gone! Dance. Askegard joined BAE’s faculty full-time in fall 2012.

Marisa Trapani and Alexandros Pappajohn, both 15, are students in Ballet Academy East’s Pre-Professional Division.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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