Tonnelets, tutus, and tights

Last week I went to the first class of Ballet 101, a short course on ballet appreciation offered by San Francisco Ballet. This may have been my first time to the SF Ballet studio and office building on Franklin Street–though I may have been there several years ago on a school field trip?–but in any case it was pretty neat to be in the building where so much premier dance activity takes place.

I was led to a boardroom on the first floor, where about fifty or so fellow classmates were already gathered. We were given course readers, and after an introduction by coordinator Cecelia Beam, we got a whirlwind history of ballet entitled “Tonnelets, Tutus, and Tights: Ballet History from France to Russia to America,” given by dance scholar and self-identified “ballet nerd”–my kind of people!–Carrie Gaiser Casey.

Given that I’ve been reading a bunch of ballet history books lately, I was actually pretty familiar with most of the major points from the lecture. But I appreciated that Carrie helped to bring it to life by playing video clips and even having us get up and strike some ballet poses. The video clips were from Le Triomphe de l’amour (reconstructed from a 1680s ballet) (below), La Sylphide (Osipova), and Afternoon of a Faun (Nureyev).

It was all pretty neat, and I was especially interested in her take on where ballet is and where it’s going. She touched on the contemporary trends toward fusion with other kinds of dance, including modern and ethnic styles.

Next time: Ballet 101 doesn’t meet today due to the MLK Jr. Day holiday. Next week it starts up again with a basic ballet technique class taught by SF Ballet School faculty member Pascale Leroy, with company pianist Nina Pinzarrone. We have the choice of participating in the class or observing; you know I’m going to be there dancing!

This is part of a mini-series of posts on Ballet 101 at San Francisco Ballet; check out the others here.

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