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.

All set for Ballet 101

Every year San Francisco Ballet offers a short course on ballet appreciation, called Ballet 101, which I’ve thought of taking someday. Well, now that I’m pretty much obsessed, the time is now. I’ve had the web page open in a browser window for the past several days, and yesterday they sent out an e-mail publicizing it, so I figured I better jump on it. I went ahead and registered!

From the e-mail:

Ballet 101 is a five-week course for adults who are curious about the inner workings of San Francisco Ballet and would like to deepen their knowledge of ballet. The course includes a combination of lectures, discussions with Ballet Masters and Company Dancers, and facility tours, as well as one ballet technique class for beginners with Pascal Leroy, Former Soloist Dancer and current San Francisco Ballet School faculty member.

Ballet 101 begins January 2012 and will meet five evenings (Jan 9, 23, 30 and Feb 6, 13) from 6 to 8pm at the San Francisco Ballet Building, 455 Franklin Street (between Grove and Fulton). Cost of the course is $225 and is non-refundable.

The course sells out every year, so register online today to reserve your space!

I’m especially excited about the technique class. Since San Francisco Ballet doesn’t offer open adult classes, this is a rare chance to take class in their studios. Watch for my full blog coverage of Ballet 101 in a couple of months!


A new beginning

My current class load is advanced beginning ballet on Monday and Wednesday nights at ODC. When last I wrote about class, several weeks ago, I was at a bit of a crossroads since Level 2 of my absolute beginner ballet workshop at LINES had ended, and my teacher Liezl wasn’t going to be teaching Level 3 until she looped back through 1 and 2 again.

We had a good talk about my options, including other LINES classes, and when I asked her about ODC (where she also sometimes teaches), she was like, “Oh yeah, take Mondays and Wednesdays.” I’d looked at their schedule before and knew which one she meant. I thought, “Hold up, that’s Advanced Beginning! Am I ready?” Well, it was a nice boost to my confidence that she thought I could hack it, and she said she’s worked with the teacher, Marisa, before, so I could mention the connection.

So I started there last month, and that first class was refreshingly challenging but still fun. Later I found out that I had dropped in at the end of a term (i.e., more difficult), so I was proud of myself for keeping up. The class started a new term recently, so curriculum-wise it’s back to the beginning (of advanced beginning) and not as intimidating. The youth/teen program also started up, so we’ve since been joined by several teens for the fall and spring. Thankfully they are at more or less the same level as the adults and not like pirouetting wunderkinds, yet.

Vacation edition

I did want to briefly mention that while on vacation last month in Anaheim (to go to the Disney D23 Expo and Disneyland), I took some time to go take a class at Anaheim Ballet. The only adult class that worked with my schedule was Beginning 2, and it was definitely above my skill level: do-able but still difficult. It was nice that it was a small class (about eight students) and the barre work was all right, but at center and across the floor, suddenly it was pirouettes, fouettés, jetés, etc. Yeah, mine were a bit wonky.

Still I’m psyched now about trying to take ballet class wherever I am. Travel and ballet make a neat combination!