Fleet footwork, nuanced musicality, daring extremes—all are hallmarks of George Balanchine's legendary choreography on display in the repertory of New York City Ballet and other companies that perform his works. Hyperfocused ballet students can hone their Balanchine technique at the School of American Ballet in NYC, but what about the college dancer who'd like exposure to his neoclassical style?


Through special agreement with The George Balanchine Trust, colleges can request permission to have some of "Mr. B's" most beloved works set on their students by Trust-approved stagers, who offer unique insight into the challenging repertory. "Dancing Balanchine in the classroom serves as a significant training tool to understand and practice his style and technique," says Ellen Sorrin, director of the Trust. Balanchine's works remain popular at the collegiate level, as both choreographic masterpieces and didactic tools for the next generation. They help develop a dancer's athleticism and speed—without sacrificing clarity—and cultivate the strong Balanchine line.

Three college dance programs recently restaged Balanchine works, and each experience afforded students unique exposure to the legendary choreographer.

Serenade: Syncopated musicality

University of North Carolina School of the Arts • Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Last winter, UNCSA ballet major Jacqueline Hodek performed as the Dark Angel in Serenade (1935), Balanchine's first American masterpiece. Former NYCB soloist Zippora Karz staged the ballet. "On the first day of rehearsal, Ms. Karz watched some of our morning technique class and selected the principals," says Hodek. "I was called along with five other girls to audition for the principal roles. She taught us the Russian Girl, the Waltz Girl's first entrance and the Russian Girl's second entrance. After she watched us, she knew who each principal would be."

Growing up, Hodek trained in Vaganova technique but fell in love with the Balanchine style at the Indianapolis School of Ballet. "All of his works are so in-depth and very detail-oriented," she says. Though she and her classmates had to learn Serenade in just over a week, the process helped Hodek learn "not only to listen to the music but to be the music." She came to appreciate how Balanchine's choreography embodies the music. "There might be a change of direction, or an adagio might turn into an allegro," she says. "Take the third movement of Serenade, for example—it starts slow, and then it picks up and only escalates from there."

When Hodek graduates, she hopes to dance professionally with a company steeped in Balanchine tradition, such as Miami City Ballet, Ballet West or Dutch National Ballet. "It was a huge honor to perform his works," she says. "Serenade helped me with my articulation, musicality, punctuation, confidence and artistry."

Walpurgisnacht Ballet: Precision and footwork

Indiana University • Bloomington, Indiana

Former NYCB principal dancer Kyra Nichols now teaches ballet at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, where she draws from what Balanchine instilled in her. "He really taught me so much about presenting myself," she says.

In spring 2019, Nichols will set Walpurgisnacht Ballet (1975) on her students. A decade after retiring from NYCB, she says she still makes discoveries in Balanchine's repertory. With Walpurgisnacht Ballet, she was fascinated to learn the corps de ballet choreography, having danced mostly lead roles during her performance career. "What they were doing behind me was just as incredible," she says. For Nichols, the essence of Balanchine comes down to the footwork. "You have to be on the balls of your feet so you can change directions: fast then slow; start and stop. It's all about quickness and precision." That's what makes dancers with Balanchine experience highly sought-after at auditions, she says: "The ability to do that style is what many directors want."

Stars and Stripes: Stamina and history

Florida State University • Tallahassee, Florida

Before graduating last year with her MA in dance, Meagan Helman had the chance to take class from Suzanne Farrell, a celebrated Balanchine muse who is now a part-time faculty member at FSU and a répétiteur of The George Balanchine Trust. "The way she teaches class in the Balanchine style lends itself to greater awareness and familiarity with technique," says Helman. "It's this sort of coaching that a lot of students don't get to experience."

Farrell set an excerpt from Stars and Stripes during Helman's time at FSU. Having trained under teachers who came through SAB, Helman knew what to expect—at least to some extent. "I was used to working from broader positions for pirouettes, for example," she says, "but Balanchine demands a lot of energy. Even a short piece like the Second Campaign from Stars and Stripes is a four-minute whirlwind."

The opportunity to learn from a living legend like Farrell wasn't lost on Helman. "It was a unique experience, to learn from a Balanchine teacher who danced with Balanchine himself," she says. "They're in limited supply at this point."

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Lani Corson. Photo by Royce Burgess, courtesy of Corson

Aerial work is growing in popularity in the dance world these days. Don't believe us? Check out this Dance Magazine article! If you're a studio owner who didn't grow up with aerial training (let's face it, how many of us really did?), then you may be feeling a little apprehensive about what to look for when bringing on a new aerialist faculty member. You know exactly what you want from your ballet teachers, your jazz teachers, your tap teachers, heck—even your tumbling teachers! Aerial, however, is a whole other ballgame.

To help you feel confident you're bringing in a teacher who is safe for your dancers, we sat down with Lani Corson, NYC aerialist, circus performer, adjunct professor at Pace University and teacher at Aerial Arts NYC, to get the inside scoop on exactly what you should be looking for.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Dance teachers have a lot of strengths (communicating corrections, choreographing gorgeous movement, planning excellent recitals, cleaning technique—just to name a few) but when it comes to interior design—talent isn't exactly a given. So when studio owners remodel or build, worrying about the decor can feel a little overwhelming (you've got just a few too many other things to worry about, don't you?).

No need to fear! In 2019 we have Pinterest, which shows us all the latest trends we should know about. To help you make the best design decisions for your studio, we've compiled a list of public Pinterest pins we think you'll love.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Unsplash

Is dance a sport? Should it be in the Olympics? They're complicated questions that tend to spark heated debate. But many dance fans will be excited to hear that breaking (please don't call it breakdancing) has been provisionally added to the program for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Vanessa Zahorian. Photo by Erik Larson, courtesy of Pennsylvania Ballet Academy

At the LINES Ballet Dance Center in San Francisco, faculty member Erik Wagner leads his class through an adagio combination in center. He encourages dancers to root their standing legs, using imagery of a seed germinating, so that they feel more grounded. "Our studios are on the fifth floor, so I'll often tell them to push down to Market Street," says Wagner. "They know that they should push their energy down to the street level." By using this oppositional force, he says, dancers can lengthen their bodies to create any desired shape.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

After years of throwing summer parties at your studio, you're likely fatigued by coming up with themes and event details. You want your students to have a good time, but you're also up to your eyeballs in choreography and costume decisions.

Never fear! We've come up with party themes and activities to do during the event. Delegate tasks to your teachers and office managers, and voilà! You have a stress-free party ready to go.

Have a blast, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I recently returned to a modern dance class after a long absence. While I didn't feel any acute pain at the end of class, the next morning I could barely walk from the soreness in both my Achilles. What can I do to fix this?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox