Magazine article Dance Teacher

Across-the-Pond Exchange

Magazine article Dance Teacher

Across-the-Pond Exchange

Article excerpt

ABT II and The Royal Ballet School partner up for master classes and performances.

On a bright morning early this past March, the atmosphere in American Ballet Theatre's Studio 4 was palpably tense. It was the first day of the 2011 exchange between ABT II and London's Royal Ballet School, a unique collaboration begun in 2003 that allows the two groups to periodically take classes and perform together. On one side of the studio, a jet-lagged group of graduateyear RBS students warmed up quietly. On the other, a cluster of ABT II dancers stretched and whispered. Many furtive sizing-up glances were cast across the studio.

Then ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie entered, and the dancers were all-business. McKenzie put them through their paces with a thorough, well-balanced class, giving corrections about the placement of the hip and torso and encouraging them to stay on top of the music. Initially the two groups kept to themselves, and McKenzie cracked jokes about the Sharks and the Jets. Eventually they relaxed and began observing each other with interest rather than apprehension.

And that's what the exchange is all about, says ABT II artistic director Wes Chapman. "The program is designed to allow these dancers to see where they are peer-wise-how they compare and what their relative strengths and weaknesses are," he says. "It's nice to have those reference points during your training, particularly right as you're about to begin a professional career."

Over the course of the weeklong exchange, the 34 (21 from RBS) participating dancers took master classes with RBS director Gailene Stock and RBS senior teacher Gary Norman, as well as McKenzie and Chapman, and gained exposure to a variety of teaching styles and techniques. …

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