Guess what? I finally went back to the ballet studio last Saturday. It was a workshop called “NYCB Ballet Essentials” hosted by the New York City Ballet in the building where the School of American Ballet is (Samuel B the & David Rose Building at Lincoln Center). I bought a ticket to this event a while back and made a commitment to myself to improve my physical conditions by then so I could enjoy the workshop. I read that it was an adult movement class for people without much ballet experience so I thought, “Good! This way I won’t have to stress out. I’ll just pretend that I had never taken a ballet class before.” LOL.
Well, it turned out that most participants were adults with varying degrees of experience, with age spanning from 20-something to above 60. It always feels wonderful to have such diversity in class. A singularly focused passion is so palpable in the air. We’re in the studio for the pure joy of dancing, to play and to learn.
To prepare myself, I had been doing a shoulder flexibility stretch during the week leading up to the class. I used the Easy Flexibility program for overhead and shoulder (that’s for my almost “frozen” shoulder) and had increased my range of motion by 80%. I also started to do acupressure on my ankle, which was injured a year ago and still not totally healed. I was glad to have gotten quite a lot of improvement since I started doing that, alongside another Easy Flexibility program on ankle flexibility. Then by some divine intervention, I suddenly realized I could use a Himalayan salt bar to rub on my pain areas. Lo and behold, 80% of the pain was gone immediately! So I felt a lot more confident about taking that adult movement class.
Once I was in the studio, though, I started to feel nervous. One year without ballet practice felt as if I had never danced in my whole life! Luckily, the class consisted only of a few barre and center exercises that weren’t too demanding. All of a suddenly I was transformed into a fish that had returned to familiar water again. Not only did it feel wonderful to dance again, but it was amazing to learn Balanchine choreography.
The instructor was Emily Kikta, a corps de ballet member of the company. There was supposed to be another instructor, Harrison Coll, but he was called to attend a rehearsal last minute, so Emily took the stage all by herself. She taught us two variations from the ballets that she would perform that night, “Four Temperaments” and “Symphony in C.”
She broke down the simplified steps for us and we built on each segment during each repetition. To our own surprise, we picked up the variations in a relatively short time, with great enthusiasm and fun. I enjoyed the live accompaniment, performed by Craig Baldwin, an accomplished conductor and pianist. Having taken class with mostly recorded music in the past, I realized how wonderful it was to have live piano music, as the tempo was adjusted to adapt to our learning process. Initially, the tempo was slow and once we had familiarized ourselves with the movements, the tempo was adjusted to be normal.
I also enjoyed Balanchine’s neo-classical choreography a lot, especially the Egyptian “profile” movement in “Four Temperaments.” After the class, Emily gave a Q&A session, in which she talked about her journey in NYCB and the coincidence of working with her father, Thomas Kikta, a classical guitar professor and composer, who was commissioned to write the score for the ballet that she will be performing on stage together with him—“ten in seven,” choreographed by Peter Walker. I asked her if she also plays the guitar and she said she did, but it was not good enough for her dad!
After the Q&A, Emily took time for us to take pictures with her. Look how tall she is compared with me! Before I left, I couldn’t resist striking a pose inspired by the “Four Temperaments” variation I learned during the class. I know, my knee’s not straight, foot not pointed enough and legs not turned out… Gosh, how much I have lost during the one-year hiatus from ballet! All I have left is the joy of dancing, and thank goodness it has never left me! I am so glad I survived the class and not only so, completely enjoyed it.
Some students lingered on in the studio, soaking in the atmosphere… I didn’t want to leave either. I had such a wonderful time that I wanted the class to never end.
After class, I visited the cafeteria on the ground floor to check out what the dancers, dance students and music students eat on a daily basis. Having watched the first season of “Strictly Ballet” featuring students at the School of American Ballet, I was fascinated to see these bunheads walking into the cafeteria. They all ate salads for lunch–the best choice they could get. And even so, the salads offered there weren’t of very good quality. The rest of the food offered was pretty crappy. As a health coach, I was saddened by how poor the choices of food they offer in the cafeteria are. Hmmm, they need to hire me to give advice on what food to provide so the dance and music students in this building will get properly nourished with real food, not SAD food. After all, they are going to become elite artists and they need to be fueled and nourished by top-quality food, just like a ferrari shouldn’t be fueled with vinegar or water!
I hope I can attend another Ballet Essentials class soon. In the meantime, I need to get back to my stretching and rehab, as the injuries are still bothering me on a daily basis. Classes in New York City are expensive, too, so I can’t really afford them at the moment. I dream of the day I can take class regularly and making progress again.