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PeffTalk TechTalk #1

I am beginning this blog with excerpts from 8 years of writing for Dancer Newspaper, now defunct. I wrote a technical Ballet Teaching column every month. I taught at Steps for over 29 years. I started writing this in 1994. Enjoy!

"I am most often asked questions, by teachers and dancers, usually follow the pattern of the material I bring to the convention-1.--placement which enables anyone to move easily without stressing the joints,2.-- the reason for the sequences at the barre--where they may be recognized as useful in the dancing, and last but not least 3.--the "secret" of multiple pirouettes, long comfortable balances, and how to remember combinations to the left!

After that, I am usually asked about bringing dancers back from injury as well as prevention of new injuries. Occassionally, I am required to lecture on my feelings about college versus career, nutritition, appropriate summer progams, and what it is like to come to New York to begin working on the professional part of careers for Broadway and/or ballet.

To begin this column, I thought you might like to know about a typical class of mine, in the studio where I teach daily. I teach at Steps 74th, at the Professional, Advanced and Intermediate levels. The terms Professional, Advanced and Intermediate mean something different in a top New York studio, dancers are very expert, the combinations faster and bigger. You can expect a large studio, 25-40 students ranging in age from 16 up, Broadway stars, ballerinas from various ballet companies, and aspiring dancers who already have acquired a fairly high level of technique. Both men and women work in class together. The class runs 1 and a half hours--40-45 minutes at the barre including slow stretching, and centre work always including tendus, adage, pirouettes, small and large jumping combinations, diagonal turning and jumping combinations and men's work. Pointe shoes are not required but advancement in pointe is daily possible, since the class is designed to be progressively built from the beginning of the week to the end. Many of the dancers in ballet companies who come to class are preparing for auditions or rehearsals later in the day, and performances at night.

I am blessed with the best accompanists in the city, and the advantage of live music promotes the added awareness of musical dynamics and possibilities of the effect of changing speeds. I am told by my darling dancers, that the atmosphere is pleasant, questions are encouraged and no one is left out because they are having difficulty following.

There is a definite code of behavior which includes everyone---no street shoes, no gum, no rosin, no dirty language, don't get in anyone else's way during the rotation of groups, be polite to the teacher, accompanist and other members of the class. Quiet conversation between students often occurs while other groups are dancing. This is a business of contacts. Often someone looking in the door, is a choreographer or scout, looking for just the right person. When they are welcomed in, they may well see a dancer who has been out of sight for a while and give them a job as well. They are always impressed with the formality of ballet etiquette. It is a good idea to dress nicely for ballet class, simply and in good taste, hair neat and attractive make-up. Bring your resumes and headshots with you. Teachers, mentors and friends are allowed to observe the class from the doorways, but photographic equipment and recording devices are forbidden. At the end of class there is a formal reverence to the accompanist and teacher. After class I am available to answer questions, and advise on the fitting of pointe shoes or the care of injuries. Then I am off to teach some private lessons, coach a rehearsal for a pair of principals getting ready to guest in New Orleans, and spend some hours reviewing the videos of the young figure skaters whom I also coach for their competitions. " ©PeffModelski,March 1994

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