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Summer School

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#1 sandik


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Posted 09 August 2010 - 11:34 AM

I had the chance to watch a variations class taught by Melanie Skinner last week, as part of PNB's summer program. They'd been working on the galliard variation from Agon (the one with the mandolin) -- they were about halfway through it when they started the class, and got almost to the end during the session. There were maybe 16 or so students, I'm guessing 13-15 years old, with what seemed like several years of pointe work. Skinner did excellent work with the group, taking the material apart and presenting it in understandable chunks. It's full of tricky phrases and Skinner starts out by stringing numbers together -- a long list of 7s and 6s and other phrases -- not the usual 8s that students frequently get in repertory and technique class. The variation is full of challenges for this group -- even beyond the phrasing, they’re grappling with tricky coordination, off-center poses, unusual transitions and close-quarters work. It’s so hard to dance close to someone without knocking into them -- Skinner’s comment that “this whole dance is about your best friend” relates to the tight canon phrasing as well as the occassional shoulder-to-shoulder tableau.

Everyone is learning at a different rate, making connections with different elements of the work and fighting different glitches, but things are coming into better focus for them all by the end of the session. A couple of them have an intuitive feeling for the style, and are able to get to that sang froid quality so much of the Balanchine/Stravinsky work has in abundance. The details of epaulment come last for most of the students, as you might imagine, but there are flashes of the total look popping up here and there. At this point in most of their lives, the dance is more sophisticated than they are -- it’s a bit like watching girls play dress-up, but some of them are very, very close. I love to watch class and rehearsal, and see the evolutionary process that happens before artists get to performance -- this was a great treat.

#2 bart


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Posted 09 August 2010 - 01:41 PM

Thank you for that description, sandi. I have only had a few experiences like this over the years , but I also love. watching good students working on good choreography.

I was struck by your comment:

At this point in most of their lives, the dance is more sophisticated than they are.

Based on my experience with students in a completely different field, the challenge of top-level material is always difficult. But the rewards for everyone involved can be enormous.

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