I love going to Steps on Broadway. It has an old-fashioned feel to it, with high ceilings, wooden floor and barres in the corridor, large, professional studios across the entire floor, and a wall adorned with photos of reknown dance teachers over the years. I remember seeing a signed photo of Maya Plisetskaya, given to Steps when she visited America.
On any given day, you might run into famous dancers and teachers. During the few times I was there, I had seen Isabella Boylston of ABT and one of the Billy Elliot boys take class. Before David Howard passed away, I also spotted him teach with great enthusiasm, despite the fact that he had to rely on a walking stick in class.
One time when I was getting changed in the locker room, I chatted with a fellow classmate, who was probably in her 60s. She recounted how she saw the performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in the 60’s (see video below). I could see sparkles coming out of her eyes and she smiled like a little girl. Obviously, the magic of these two legendary dancers has transcended time and stayed on through the years in her heart. How lucky she is to have that experience!
During my recent trip to New York, I took class with a Russian teacher, Alexander Filipov, who was a student of Alexander Pushkin, the teacher of both Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. At the Vaganova Academy, he had also studied under Asaf Messerer, before joining the Classical Ballet of Russia and deflecting to the West and joining the ABT and San Francisco Ballet in the 1970’s.
The class was “interesting.” Even though it is categorized as the “Beginning Intermediate” level, it was quite demanding. There were lots of repetitions of the same combinations for each exercise at the barre—very grueling practice but I reckon that the purpose is to help build strength and stability. The center exercises gradually became more complex and turned into a showcase for the couple of professional dancers in the class… 32 fouettés en pointe by a French ballerina Cécil, and big jumps and leaps by a male dancer, who took every chance as an opportunity to shine! Even though I could not follow these demanding exercises, it was a pure joy to watch the professional dancers take class.
A little side story: While in the locker room, I felt a woman sizing me up and down and checking me out when I was getting changed. I guess I was one of the slimmer ones who had a slight look of a dancer (I guess I stood out because I was considered small, being an Asian, compared with the typically larger body frames around me). Later on she was in the same class with me and she probably got disappointed about how poorly I danced. Nonetheless, it was quite possible that she was interested in me, and that was a new experience for me, ha!