9 Reasons I’m a Thankful Dancer

Dancer loves to dance

As we approach Thanksgiving I am moved to recall past events or routine encounters in my daily life that make me grateful I’m a dancer. I’m sure that dancers everywhere appreciate the values that dance, and especially ballet, instill into them. I’m grateful that dance taught me to keep trying until I figure something out, to be on time (if not early) to any appointments, to be patient with myself and others, to notice the beauty of things all around us, to recognize classical compositions and composers, and to keep myself healthy and strong — to name but a few!

Dancer Dilemmas flowchartAre you really a dancer?

What reasons make you thankful to be a dancer? Leave them in the comments!

Here are 9 of mine…

1. One time my dad and I got stuck on the way to ballet in a snow storm and kept frostbite at bay by putting lamb’s wool in our shoes.

2. In 9th grade I got upset over a boy and ate a whole bag of Reese’s cups without gaining a pound.

3. On final exam day I didn’t hear my alarm clock but wasn’t late because I could get dressed in 30 seconds flat.

4.  I’m thankful I can get whipped cream on my hot chocolate at Starbucks.

5.  I’m thankful I can hop up on the kitchen counter to reach something on the top shelf of my cupboard.

6. I’m thankful for the ability to jeté over puddles.

7. I’m thankful to walk into my closet and only have skinny clothes to choose from.

8. I’m thankful that no matter how bad a mood I’m in, hearing ballet music in public makes me smile.

9. I’m thankful I don’t have to clutter my  bonus room with gym equipment; I can just pull out a chair and do barre.

Here’s a bonus one that’s not so weird, but I’m thankful that I know how much work it takes to become really good at something worth doing.

Leave a comment telling us why you’re thankful for dance in your life!

Interview with Carmen Shaw AEDA - The Arts Academy

Ballet

Many thanks to Carmen Shaw for this interview! AEDA The Arts Academy is a performing arts school based in Nottingham, UK. AEDA launched in September 2013 and has just seen the first intake of full-time vocational students to its ‘Performing Arts Professional Program’. New appointments to the teaching faculty include Bolshoi Ballet Maestro Gabor Menich, Allison DeBona and Rex Tilton from US based company Ballet West and Jon Orton previous vocal coach at Stage Door Manor (and tutor to Lea Michelle).

The school aims to set a new national standard for the delivery of vocational training, taking into account all elements of health and wellness, while in pursuit of professional technical excellence.

What does AEDA stand for?

A – Alison
E – Ernest
D A – Dorothy Alice
My mother , my maternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother. These people have been the biggest support and inspiration throughout my life. My grandmother took me to my first ballet class at the age of 3 years old and my grandfather would work extra shifts at the local coal mine when I needed new dance shoes, an exam fee or private tuition. My mother always told me to follow my dreams and fought for me to be able to take my place at ballet school when I was accepted at the age of 14 years old. For both Stuart and I (AEDA Directors) acknowledging the importance of our families’ encouragement, support and contribution has been extremely significant. Our largest studio the ‘Shaw-Begg Studio’ is named in honor of their legacy.

How long has your school been in existence?

The school officially opened in September 2013 after a planning and development process of 18 months. Although, in actuality I think I had always wanted to open a training facility of my own since my early days at ballet school. We opened with three planned phases. The first of which was to operate as a part-time provider at weekends and evenings. The time scale of our building project didn’t allow for anything more ambitious than this! It wasn’t how we originally hoped to start, but it was a useful process and we used this period to launch our brand, build our reputation, test drive the premises and make plans to achieve the ‘bigger picture’. We realized the second, and for us most crucial, phase in September 2014 with additions to our faculty and the launch of full-time vocational training. The third and final stage of development – our Easter and Summer intensives opening in 2015, will see the completion of our initial business plans.

AEDA AttitudeTell us about the people who founded the Arts Academy. What kind of careers did they have and why did they start an Academy?

I (Carmen Shaw) founded AEDA with Stuart McPherson, a friend who at the time was running his own UK based professional theatre company – ‘Upstage Left’. Stuart came on board as Artistic Director in 2012 and was a driving force in planning the level of tuition the school would eventually deliver. As Executive Director, most of my time during those early days was taken up with practicalities and legalities. We realized that our roles developed naturally and that as a partnership we complemented each other well. Stuart trained at Bretton Hall, completing his BA Acting with Honors in Dramaturgy. He also holds a Masters in Media Production and has extensive directing experience. Alongside developing his individual work, Stuart oversees the artistic vision for AEDA the school and all our students. As part of the wider work we undertake Stuart is also responsible for the ongoing support we give to new creative individuals and organizations. I trained at my local dance school (the Marilyn Baker School of Dance) from the age of 3 years old and at 14 years was accepted at Elmhurst Ballet School. I also studied at the Russian School of Ballet (now no longer in operation). I was privileged to work with and learn from, such luminaries as David Wall, Alfreda Thorogood, Christopher Gable and Dame Antoinette Sibley, and it was in recognition of the opportunity that had been gifted to me that I decided to open AEDA. I danced professionally in classical ballet and performed in musical theater, but always had a passion for the pursuit of excellence through training and it is this that motivates me every day as I work with my own students.

You follow both the Vaganova Method and RAD Syllabus for ballet. Why did you choose both these schools?

We offer both programs as we feel it essential to address the needs of each student individually. For some students the Vaganova Method is more effective, for others a syllabus based system is preferred. It is a slightly controversial approach as the two don’t traditionally align! However, the school has a variety of students each with their own ambitions, abilities and potential. These two schools of teaching allow us to work at the most optimum level for the development of every individual. That said, the arrival of Maestro Gabor Menich has been very widely celebrated and the school is attracting new students on a weekly basis, all with the desire to train in the Vaganova Method. As a former student of this school myself, I can attest to the beauty and technical perfection attributed to this form of training. It is the basis for both our classical, vocational programs and the pre-professional program.

Besides ballet, what other programs do you have? What other types of dance do you teach?

Our vocational training delivers two options for study:
The Performing Arts Foundation Year – a one year program designed to improve and accelerate technical development.
The Performing Arts Professional Program – a two year program delivering professional (vocational) training and with the option to combine academic studies. Both operate two cohorts – Classical Dance and Musical Theater. Additionally the school operates a Pre-Professional Program (part-time for students aged 12 years and above) and a full schedule of evening and weekend recreational classes. We even host a ‘Show Choir’ led by a former ‘Stage Door Manor’ vocal coach and tutor to Lea Michelle! Overall we deliver training in: Acting, Ballet, Contemporary, Drama, Jazz, Modern, Musical Theatre, Singing, Tap and Vocal Technique.

AEDA Barre Stretch

AEDA offers international students an opportunity to study abroad. What countries are currently represented?

Earlier this year I worked privately with Australian ballerina Robyn Begg who traveled over to experience the dance scene in Europe. Current students represent Brazil, France, Germany, Greece and the Ukraine. Those joining next year already include China, Japan and Portugal.

Do you offer boarding for international students?

Yes. We have a variety of options for international students ranging from traditional student accommodation, living with host families or taking a more luxurious approach and residing at the English country manor house that we use for our Easter and Summer intensive programs.

How many studios do you have?

The AEDA premises were refurbished in 2013 and the building redeveloped to house five purpose built studios. These currently comprise; Pilates, Musical Theatre, Drama, Wellness and the ‘Shaw-Begg’ studio (predominantly used for ballet). All studios have state of the art sprung floors and specialist equipment specific to their purpose. For example, the Drama Studio is a ‘black box’ and the decor in the Wellness Studio was designed to encourage a sense of calm. The ‘Shaw-Begg’ studio can also be used as a small performance space. Day to day the facilities work extremely well, but we are rapidly growing and will soon need to add a second site to the school. We may look to develop our own theatre with rehearsal rooms attached.

Do you have live accompanists?

The school has two accompanists and also engages the services of other musicians when needed. Our Musical Director has access to a substantial pool of talented musicians and we hope to develop work towards a performance including a live orchestra.

At what age can someone from another country go there to study? Do you offer school courses so students can complete their high school requirements?

For vocational tuition we take students from the age of 16 years and academic studies are an option for every candidate successful in achieving a place on the Performing Arts Professional Program. We provide academic subjects with the services of private tutors and so yes, we can offer training to younger students. Exceptions can be made for younger students where needed.

Do you have scholarships?

Yes. We launched ‘The Ernest B Shaw Scholarships’ in March of 2014, in memory of my grandfather. Further funding and support is accessed through ‘The AEDA Foundation’ – our official charity.

Photographs courtesy of AEDA, 2014

 

Rond de Jambe a terre 3/4

Begin 5th position R foot front

1               Tendu R to side
2-3           Temp lié onto R (stay in fondu) and tendu L, port de bras away from barre
4               Temp lié to point tendu R, arms 2nd
5-8           Rond de Jambe en dehors 4 times finishing point tendu front on count 8
1               Close 5th position plié
2-3           Releve passé to developpé derrière
4               Close sous-sus back
5               Plie 5th position
6-7           Relevé passé inside leg to developpé derrière
8               Close sous-sus back
1               Tendu front in fondu on supporting leg
2-4           Straighten and rond de jambe en dehors 3 times
5               Finish lifting leg to 90° front (arm to 5th en haut)
6-7           Grand rond de jambe en dehors to arabesque
8               Close 5th position back
1-4            Grand port de bras forward with inside leg front in 5th position
5-8           Grand port de bras back with inverted arm
1-24         Repeat all en dedans
25-32      Grand circular port de bras in sous-sus and balance arms 5th en haut

Teaching Creative Movement

Young dancer

Ballet class with children ages 3-5 is often called “creative movement” rather than ballet class. Then at age 6 it is sometimes referred to as “pre-ballet”, which is when they are usually ready to stand at the barre and learn the mechanics of alignment and ballet positions. Creative movement can be taught many different ways—none better or more effective than another—so I will just share some of the things I did with this age group (and felt were effective) when I was teaching them dance.

First of all, kids this age don’t have a very long attention span! Two minutes is about as long as you can stretch one activity before moving on to something else. I always felt that a 45 minute class was the absolute longest these kids could handle, unless you are combining it with some tap, too. I’d also say that if you have more than eight children in the class then you should probably have an assistant there to help you out.

I structured my creative movement classes more or less the same way each week. Kids do like repetition and it helps them feel more comfortable if they have a good idea what to expect. We would begin sitting on the floor in a circle, wide enough that when they put their arms out to the sides they wouldn’t touch their neighbor. At the beginning you can have them sit cross legged or with the soles of their feet together or their legs stretched out straight in front of them. Sitting cross legged is easiest for them, and when you want them to focus attention on sitting up straight and using good posture through their backs, necks long, and shoulders down, this is helpful. [Read more…]

Pirouette in 3/4

Dancing

Begin 5th position R foot front en face

1-2          Tombé R, pas de bourrée to 4th position en face preparation plié
3-4          Pirouette en dehors to cou de pied devant in fondu
5              Relevé and extend R leg 45° side (arms 2nd)
&             Fondu supp leg and cou de pied R leg back
6&a        Pas de bourrée entournant to 4th pos. lunge prep for pirouette dedans
7-8          Pirouette en dedans on R to finish L foot front 5th en face
1              Balancé to R
2              Balancé to L
3-4          Soutenu turn to R finish 5th pos. croisé R foot front
5              Tendu R croisé devant
6              Lower to 4th lunge prep for pirouette
7-8          Pirouette en dedans to finish L foot front, en face
1-16         Repeat all to L

A conversation with Ken Ludden Artistic Director of the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet

Ken Ludden drama class

Can you imagine what it would be like to be the only person given permission by the Dame herself to use the name Margot Fonteyn on a ballet school? Ken Ludden knows: he is the Artistic Director of the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet.

I met Ken through my LinkedIn group Teachers of Classical Ballet where I first learned about his new book My Margot. Prior to our phone conversation last weekend, I read his book and found it fascinating. (If you’re interested, you can read my review of My Margot.) Ken was one of Fonteyn’s closest friends, yet their relationship had to be guarded during her lifetime to keep the press at bay. In his book, Ken tells us the story of that friendship, beginning at 15, when he first met one of the world’s most beloved ballerinas. Now, on to the interview!

How and why did you go about writing this book?

I originally started writing it for my children so it could get passed down in the family. I began by writing down phrases to help jog my memory and kept adding to the list as I remembered things for the next several years. By the time I had around 175 phrases it was 2003, and for health reasons began to feel pressure to start the book. Along with my own diaries and letters I’d received from Margot and BQ (her mother), I pulled together friends and had them read one of my 175 phrases aloud while I proceeded to relate the story that went with it. These sessions were recorded.

Ken Ludden with "The Wind's Bride"

Ken Ludden with “The Wind’s Bride” at Bassler Kuntsmuseum, Switzerland 2007

In the book you tell of Margot apologizing to you and you had no idea why. Do you think it was because she had orchestrated so much of your life?

Margot told me that no one has the right to do to another person’s life what she’d done to mine. I think she was referring to the future…to the time when I would begin running our school.

Margot held to the belief that at every turn of the century ballet dies. She specifically told me to let ballet die, and said no single person could save it. She said that after it had died, and when, then, I found even one person who wanted to really learn the truth about dancing, to teach them. The hope was that from my students, or their eventual students, would come one who would awaken the art form again. Her legacy is to give yourself, as an artist, completely to the art form holding nothing back, yet not using it for ego in any way.

Margot Fonteyn at the Royal Ballet studios

Margot Fonteyn at the Royal Ballet studios
(c)Royal Ballet Archive

From the academy’s website:
Dame Margot Fonteyn d’Arias envisioned an international fine arts institution in which all of the arts would be studied under one roof.
Her belief was that young artists of divergent fields of expression would enter into conversations about the core issues of art (expression, interpretation, focus, et cetera), and would consequently develop a deeper understanding of the artistic purpose of their endeavors.

“She believed in ballet, the importance of it as an art form and the vitality of it in the formation of the cultural aspect of civilization.” – Ken Ludden

How many students do you have, and how do people go about taking ballet there?

We have 40 professional dancers who come to my class for retraining, and prospective students must all go through a rigorous audition process which includes:

1. Dancing
2. A written exam
3. A psychological exam
4. A physical exam
5. Submission of an original piece of art they have created

Since it is a nonprofit organization, we can be very selective. Our first audition brought 70 hopefuls, only 12 of whom got in.

Ken Ludden teaching ballet

Ken Ludden teaching Olivia Picard (L); and Rauri Wilcox (Rear)

How do you feel about the concept of an ideal body type for ballet?

Ballet tells a story, and stories require many kinds of people. I feel that ballet accommodates every body type there is. Not everyone can be the prince; there’s also the need for soloists, demi soloists, and demi character dancers. I have a passion for bringing a story to life with authenticity.

Do you think ballet companies resort to doing more contemporary choreography to interest the public?

Instead of asking ‘what does the audience want’, we should be considering what we say to the audience and ask ourselves ‘what does the audience need to hear’? It is the responsibility of the Artistic Director to fulfill these needs; the Director would be remiss in his duties by offering his audience an altered artistic tradition in the hopes of sustaining their interest.

Ballet at its most basic, within an arabesque for instance, has so much meaning. In an arabesque you’re grounded, yet reaching up, and the leg behind you represents the past or where you’re coming from. In its truest form, classical ballet can convey life: tension, struggle, the promise of the future. It can be entertaining, but also shocking, or dazzling. Sure, we can do impossible things with our bodies, but where is the meaning in the end? You have to know who you are and not compare yourself to who you aren’t.

The Nutcracker

(c)2009 MFAB;
Photographer: Hank Ganz
Clara: Kieko Nakamura
Drossylmeyer: Dariusz Lewandowski
Children: MFAB Students

You mention in the book that Rudolf Nureyev had a “fiery temperament” and often stormed off after rehearsal. Why do you think he was like that?

My Margot concludes with a chapter called My Rudolph. Rudolf’s talent became his legacy to the world, and he didn’t take that lightly. While he appeared rude and self-centered, I believe Rudolf was actually so focused that he couldn’t be distracted by being nice to other people; that to let down his guard at any time would derail his success as a dancer. Yet, a woman, innocent but conscientiously determined, and a man, driven yet blind with denial, chose to accept each other’s shortcomings and became the greatest artistic duo of their time.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

The thing that is difficult is that I must always be aware that I in some vague way represent her, and that kind of grace, finesse and diplomacy are things I must always be aware of. It isn’t what is said, but realizing the significance of it and being true to the responsibility of that honor.

Ken Ludden and Joy Williams Brown

Ken Ludden and Joy Williams Brown

Many thanks to Ken Ludden for spending part of his Sunday afternoon with me so that I could share the treasure that is his life with others!

Order My Margot in hardcover. His book is now available in paperback too! Order My Margot in paperback.

Featured Image: Ludden monitoring drama class with Briana Rivera
(c)MFAB

 

9 Reasons I’m a Thankful Dancer

Dancer loves to dance

As we approach Thanksgiving I am moved to recall past events or routine encounters in my daily life that make me grateful I’m a dancer. I’m sure that dancers everywhere appreciate the values that dance, and especially ballet, instill into them. I’m grateful that dance taught me to keep trying until I figure something out, to be on time (if not early) to any appointments, to be patient with myself and others, to notice the beauty of things all around us, to recognize classical compositions and composers, and to keep myself healthy and strong — to name but a few!

Dancer Dilemmas flowchartAre you really a dancer?

What reasons make you thankful to be a dancer? Leave them in the comments!

Here are 9 of mine…

1. One time my dad and I got stuck on the way to ballet in a snow storm and kept frostbite at bay by putting lamb’s wool in our shoes.

2. In 9th grade I got upset over a boy and ate a whole bag of Reese’s cups without gaining a pound.

3. On final exam day I didn’t hear my alarm clock but wasn’t late because I could get dressed in 30 seconds flat.

4.  I’m thankful I can get whipped cream on my hot chocolate at Starbucks.

5.  I’m thankful I can hop up on the kitchen counter to reach something on the top shelf of my cupboard.

6. I’m thankful for the ability to jeté over puddles.

7. I’m thankful to walk into my closet and only have skinny clothes to choose from.

8. I’m thankful that no matter how bad a mood I’m in, hearing ballet music in public makes me smile.

9. I’m thankful I don’t have to clutter my  bonus room with gym equipment; I can just pull out a chair and do barre.

Here’s a bonus one that’s not so weird, but I’m thankful that I know how much work it takes to become really good at something worth doing.

Leave a comment telling us why you’re thankful for dance in your life!

Interview with Carmen Shaw AEDA - The Arts Academy

Ballet

Many thanks to Carmen Shaw for this interview! AEDA The Arts Academy is a performing arts school based in Nottingham, UK. AEDA launched in September 2013 and has just seen the first intake of full-time vocational students to its ‘Performing Arts Professional Program’. New appointments to the teaching faculty include Bolshoi Ballet Maestro Gabor Menich, Allison DeBona and Rex Tilton from US based company Ballet West and Jon Orton previous vocal coach at Stage Door Manor (and tutor to Lea Michelle).

The school aims to set a new national standard for the delivery of vocational training, taking into account all elements of health and wellness, while in pursuit of professional technical excellence.

What does AEDA stand for?

A – Alison
E – Ernest
D A – Dorothy Alice
My mother , my maternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother. These people have been the biggest support and inspiration throughout my life. My grandmother took me to my first ballet class at the age of 3 years old and my grandfather would work extra shifts at the local coal mine when I needed new dance shoes, an exam fee or private tuition. My mother always told me to follow my dreams and fought for me to be able to take my place at ballet school when I was accepted at the age of 14 years old. For both Stuart and I (AEDA Directors) acknowledging the importance of our families’ encouragement, support and contribution has been extremely significant. Our largest studio the ‘Shaw-Begg Studio’ is named in honor of their legacy.

How long has your school been in existence?

The school officially opened in September 2013 after a planning and development process of 18 months. Although, in actuality I think I had always wanted to open a training facility of my own since my early days at ballet school. We opened with three planned phases. The first of which was to operate as a part-time provider at weekends and evenings. The time scale of our building project didn’t allow for anything more ambitious than this! It wasn’t how we originally hoped to start, but it was a useful process and we used this period to launch our brand, build our reputation, test drive the premises and make plans to achieve the ‘bigger picture’. We realized the second, and for us most crucial, phase in September 2014 with additions to our faculty and the launch of full-time vocational training. The third and final stage of development – our Easter and Summer intensives opening in 2015, will see the completion of our initial business plans.

AEDA AttitudeTell us about the people who founded the Arts Academy. What kind of careers did they have and why did they start an Academy?

I (Carmen Shaw) founded AEDA with Stuart McPherson, a friend who at the time was running his own UK based professional theatre company – ‘Upstage Left’. Stuart came on board as Artistic Director in 2012 and was a driving force in planning the level of tuition the school would eventually deliver. As Executive Director, most of my time during those early days was taken up with practicalities and legalities. We realized that our roles developed naturally and that as a partnership we complemented each other well. Stuart trained at Bretton Hall, completing his BA Acting with Honors in Dramaturgy. He also holds a Masters in Media Production and has extensive directing experience. Alongside developing his individual work, Stuart oversees the artistic vision for AEDA the school and all our students. As part of the wider work we undertake Stuart is also responsible for the ongoing support we give to new creative individuals and organizations. I trained at my local dance school (the Marilyn Baker School of Dance) from the age of 3 years old and at 14 years was accepted at Elmhurst Ballet School. I also studied at the Russian School of Ballet (now no longer in operation). I was privileged to work with and learn from, such luminaries as David Wall, Alfreda Thorogood, Christopher Gable and Dame Antoinette Sibley, and it was in recognition of the opportunity that had been gifted to me that I decided to open AEDA. I danced professionally in classical ballet and performed in musical theater, but always had a passion for the pursuit of excellence through training and it is this that motivates me every day as I work with my own students.

You follow both the Vaganova Method and RAD Syllabus for ballet. Why did you choose both these schools?

We offer both programs as we feel it essential to address the needs of each student individually. For some students the Vaganova Method is more effective, for others a syllabus based system is preferred. It is a slightly controversial approach as the two don’t traditionally align! However, the school has a variety of students each with their own ambitions, abilities and potential. These two schools of teaching allow us to work at the most optimum level for the development of every individual. That said, the arrival of Maestro Gabor Menich has been very widely celebrated and the school is attracting new students on a weekly basis, all with the desire to train in the Vaganova Method. As a former student of this school myself, I can attest to the beauty and technical perfection attributed to this form of training. It is the basis for both our classical, vocational programs and the pre-professional program.

Besides ballet, what other programs do you have? What other types of dance do you teach?

Our vocational training delivers two options for study:
The Performing Arts Foundation Year – a one year program designed to improve and accelerate technical development.
The Performing Arts Professional Program – a two year program delivering professional (vocational) training and with the option to combine academic studies. Both operate two cohorts – Classical Dance and Musical Theater. Additionally the school operates a Pre-Professional Program (part-time for students aged 12 years and above) and a full schedule of evening and weekend recreational classes. We even host a ‘Show Choir’ led by a former ‘Stage Door Manor’ vocal coach and tutor to Lea Michelle! Overall we deliver training in: Acting, Ballet, Contemporary, Drama, Jazz, Modern, Musical Theatre, Singing, Tap and Vocal Technique.

AEDA Barre Stretch

AEDA offers international students an opportunity to study abroad. What countries are currently represented?

Earlier this year I worked privately with Australian ballerina Robyn Begg who traveled over to experience the dance scene in Europe. Current students represent Brazil, France, Germany, Greece and the Ukraine. Those joining next year already include China, Japan and Portugal.

Do you offer boarding for international students?

Yes. We have a variety of options for international students ranging from traditional student accommodation, living with host families or taking a more luxurious approach and residing at the English country manor house that we use for our Easter and Summer intensive programs.

How many studios do you have?

The AEDA premises were refurbished in 2013 and the building redeveloped to house five purpose built studios. These currently comprise; Pilates, Musical Theatre, Drama, Wellness and the ‘Shaw-Begg’ studio (predominantly used for ballet). All studios have state of the art sprung floors and specialist equipment specific to their purpose. For example, the Drama Studio is a ‘black box’ and the decor in the Wellness Studio was designed to encourage a sense of calm. The ‘Shaw-Begg’ studio can also be used as a small performance space. Day to day the facilities work extremely well, but we are rapidly growing and will soon need to add a second site to the school. We may look to develop our own theatre with rehearsal rooms attached.

Do you have live accompanists?

The school has two accompanists and also engages the services of other musicians when needed. Our Musical Director has access to a substantial pool of talented musicians and we hope to develop work towards a performance including a live orchestra.

At what age can someone from another country go there to study? Do you offer school courses so students can complete their high school requirements?

For vocational tuition we take students from the age of 16 years and academic studies are an option for every candidate successful in achieving a place on the Performing Arts Professional Program. We provide academic subjects with the services of private tutors and so yes, we can offer training to younger students. Exceptions can be made for younger students where needed.

Do you have scholarships?

Yes. We launched ‘The Ernest B Shaw Scholarships’ in March of 2014, in memory of my grandfather. Further funding and support is accessed through ‘The AEDA Foundation’ – our official charity.

Photographs courtesy of AEDA, 2014

 

Rond de Jambe a terre 3/4

Begin 5th position R foot front

1               Tendu R to side
2-3           Temp lié onto R (stay in fondu) and tendu L, port de bras away from barre
4               Temp lié to point tendu R, arms 2nd
5-8           Rond de Jambe en dehors 4 times finishing point tendu front on count 8
1               Close 5th position plié
2-3           Releve passé to developpé derrière
4               Close sous-sus back
5               Plie 5th position
6-7           Relevé passé inside leg to developpé derrière
8               Close sous-sus back
1               Tendu front in fondu on supporting leg
2-4           Straighten and rond de jambe en dehors 3 times
5               Finish lifting leg to 90° front (arm to 5th en haut)
6-7           Grand rond de jambe en dehors to arabesque
8               Close 5th position back
1-4            Grand port de bras forward with inside leg front in 5th position
5-8           Grand port de bras back with inverted arm
1-24         Repeat all en dedans
25-32      Grand circular port de bras in sous-sus and balance arms 5th en haut

Teaching Creative Movement

Young dancer

Ballet class with children ages 3-5 is often called “creative movement” rather than ballet class. Then at age 6 it is sometimes referred to as “pre-ballet”, which is when they are usually ready to stand at the barre and learn the mechanics of alignment and ballet positions. Creative movement can be taught many different ways—none better or more effective than another—so I will just share some of the things I did with this age group (and felt were effective) when I was teaching them dance.

First of all, kids this age don’t have a very long attention span! Two minutes is about as long as you can stretch one activity before moving on to something else. I always felt that a 45 minute class was the absolute longest these kids could handle, unless you are combining it with some tap, too. I’d also say that if you have more than eight children in the class then you should probably have an assistant there to help you out.

I structured my creative movement classes more or less the same way each week. Kids do like repetition and it helps them feel more comfortable if they have a good idea what to expect. We would begin sitting on the floor in a circle, wide enough that when they put their arms out to the sides they wouldn’t touch their neighbor. At the beginning you can have them sit cross legged or with the soles of their feet together or their legs stretched out straight in front of them. Sitting cross legged is easiest for them, and when you want them to focus attention on sitting up straight and using good posture through their backs, necks long, and shoulders down, this is helpful. [Read more…]

Pirouette in 3/4

Dancing

Begin 5th position R foot front en face

1-2          Tombé R, pas de bourrée to 4th position en face preparation plié
3-4          Pirouette en dehors to cou de pied devant in fondu
5              Relevé and extend R leg 45° side (arms 2nd)
&             Fondu supp leg and cou de pied R leg back
6&a        Pas de bourrée entournant to 4th pos. lunge prep for pirouette dedans
7-8          Pirouette en dedans on R to finish L foot front 5th en face
1              Balancé to R
2              Balancé to L
3-4          Soutenu turn to R finish 5th pos. croisé R foot front
5              Tendu R croisé devant
6              Lower to 4th lunge prep for pirouette
7-8          Pirouette en dedans to finish L foot front, en face
1-16         Repeat all to L

A conversation with Ken Ludden Artistic Director of the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet

Ken Ludden drama class

Can you imagine what it would be like to be the only person given permission by the Dame herself to use the name Margot Fonteyn on a ballet school? Ken Ludden knows: he is the Artistic Director of the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet.

I met Ken through my LinkedIn group Teachers of Classical Ballet where I first learned about his new book My Margot. Prior to our phone conversation last weekend, I read his book and found it fascinating. (If you’re interested, you can read my review of My Margot.) Ken was one of Fonteyn’s closest friends, yet their relationship had to be guarded during her lifetime to keep the press at bay. In his book, Ken tells us the story of that friendship, beginning at 15, when he first met one of the world’s most beloved ballerinas. Now, on to the interview!

How and why did you go about writing this book?

I originally started writing it for my children so it could get passed down in the family. I began by writing down phrases to help jog my memory and kept adding to the list as I remembered things for the next several years. By the time I had around 175 phrases it was 2003, and for health reasons began to feel pressure to start the book. Along with my own diaries and letters I’d received from Margot and BQ (her mother), I pulled together friends and had them read one of my 175 phrases aloud while I proceeded to relate the story that went with it. These sessions were recorded.

Ken Ludden with "The Wind's Bride"

Ken Ludden with “The Wind’s Bride” at Bassler Kuntsmuseum, Switzerland 2007

In the book you tell of Margot apologizing to you and you had no idea why. Do you think it was because she had orchestrated so much of your life?

Margot told me that no one has the right to do to another person’s life what she’d done to mine. I think she was referring to the future…to the time when I would begin running our school.

Margot held to the belief that at every turn of the century ballet dies. She specifically told me to let ballet die, and said no single person could save it. She said that after it had died, and when, then, I found even one person who wanted to really learn the truth about dancing, to teach them. The hope was that from my students, or their eventual students, would come one who would awaken the art form again. Her legacy is to give yourself, as an artist, completely to the art form holding nothing back, yet not using it for ego in any way.

Margot Fonteyn at the Royal Ballet studios

Margot Fonteyn at the Royal Ballet studios
(c)Royal Ballet Archive

From the academy’s website:
Dame Margot Fonteyn d’Arias envisioned an international fine arts institution in which all of the arts would be studied under one roof.
Her belief was that young artists of divergent fields of expression would enter into conversations about the core issues of art (expression, interpretation, focus, et cetera), and would consequently develop a deeper understanding of the artistic purpose of their endeavors.

“She believed in ballet, the importance of it as an art form and the vitality of it in the formation of the cultural aspect of civilization.” – Ken Ludden

How many students do you have, and how do people go about taking ballet there?

We have 40 professional dancers who come to my class for retraining, and prospective students must all go through a rigorous audition process which includes:

1. Dancing
2. A written exam
3. A psychological exam
4. A physical exam
5. Submission of an original piece of art they have created

Since it is a nonprofit organization, we can be very selective. Our first audition brought 70 hopefuls, only 12 of whom got in.

Ken Ludden teaching ballet

Ken Ludden teaching Olivia Picard (L); and Rauri Wilcox (Rear)

How do you feel about the concept of an ideal body type for ballet?

Ballet tells a story, and stories require many kinds of people. I feel that ballet accommodates every body type there is. Not everyone can be the prince; there’s also the need for soloists, demi soloists, and demi character dancers. I have a passion for bringing a story to life with authenticity.

Do you think ballet companies resort to doing more contemporary choreography to interest the public?

Instead of asking ‘what does the audience want’, we should be considering what we say to the audience and ask ourselves ‘what does the audience need to hear’? It is the responsibility of the Artistic Director to fulfill these needs; the Director would be remiss in his duties by offering his audience an altered artistic tradition in the hopes of sustaining their interest.

Ballet at its most basic, within an arabesque for instance, has so much meaning. In an arabesque you’re grounded, yet reaching up, and the leg behind you represents the past or where you’re coming from. In its truest form, classical ballet can convey life: tension, struggle, the promise of the future. It can be entertaining, but also shocking, or dazzling. Sure, we can do impossible things with our bodies, but where is the meaning in the end? You have to know who you are and not compare yourself to who you aren’t.

The Nutcracker

(c)2009 MFAB;
Photographer: Hank Ganz
Clara: Kieko Nakamura
Drossylmeyer: Dariusz Lewandowski
Children: MFAB Students

You mention in the book that Rudolf Nureyev had a “fiery temperament” and often stormed off after rehearsal. Why do you think he was like that?

My Margot concludes with a chapter called My Rudolph. Rudolf’s talent became his legacy to the world, and he didn’t take that lightly. While he appeared rude and self-centered, I believe Rudolf was actually so focused that he couldn’t be distracted by being nice to other people; that to let down his guard at any time would derail his success as a dancer. Yet, a woman, innocent but conscientiously determined, and a man, driven yet blind with denial, chose to accept each other’s shortcomings and became the greatest artistic duo of their time.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

The thing that is difficult is that I must always be aware that I in some vague way represent her, and that kind of grace, finesse and diplomacy are things I must always be aware of. It isn’t what is said, but realizing the significance of it and being true to the responsibility of that honor.

Ken Ludden and Joy Williams Brown

Ken Ludden and Joy Williams Brown

Many thanks to Ken Ludden for spending part of his Sunday afternoon with me so that I could share the treasure that is his life with others!

Order My Margot in hardcover. His book is now available in paperback too! Order My Margot in paperback.

Featured Image: Ludden monitoring drama class with Briana Rivera
(c)MFAB