Magazine article Dance Magazine

Ballet in Buffalo

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Ballet in Buffalo

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"Make me want to look at you; get my attention," Maris Battaglia tells her advanced class during their center adagio. She reminds her students to knead the floor with their feet. "I'm Italian, I use a lot of food metaphors," Battaglia admits with a sly smile. In 1965, she founded the American Academy of Ballet, in Williamsville near Buffalo, the area's premiere ballet academy. Today, her studio boasts approximately 620 students, four bright studios, and an impressive list of nearly 90 alumni who have gone on to dance professionally.

Although her studio is primarily a ballet academy, the schedule is peppered with tap and jazz classes. Battaglia regularly brings in guest teachers such as Daniel Ulbricht and Michael Vernon. She's known for being a stickler for detail and discipline, all delivered with an open heart and a love of the ballet tradition. Last month she was honored by the Arts Council of Buffalo & Erie County with the Arts Supporter Award.

Battaglia shines with her youngest students, taking an animated approach by using fun metaphors such as "hips as headlights," and the torso as "toast going straight down the toaster" during plies. "I have a gift for breaking things down so a 7-year-old can understand," says Battaglia. Building musicality from a young age is high on her list of priorities.

Her more advanced classes are known for their rigorous mental challenges. "Nobody ever called my class boring. I never give the same combination twice," she says. …

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