Our upper division dancers gathered at the entrance of studio 3 awaiting their masterclass with San Francisco Ballet Principal dancer, Frances Chung. From the Los Gatos Ballet studios, one could hear both the birds and the distance sound of the Oak Meadow train whistle in the background. A warm autumn breeze filled the air. It was a beautiful fall morning.
As the autumn breeze warmed and filled the air, Ms. Chung’s warm, yet confident teaching style filled the studio. Dancers were encouraged to focus on the details of grace and beauty supported by strength. Throughout the class, she gave specific directions to increase the dancers’ movement, sensitivity, and dexterity of their feet. To aid the students understanding, Ms. Chung used vivid imagery such as, “Massage the floor with your foot as though the floor were tiny kittens and you were massaging their heads with your foot.” Or, “Articulate as much as possible with your foot. Pretend you are creating a painting on the floor.” Her own visual examples exuded an elegance, grace, and precision that was inspirational to observe.
Throughout the class she demanded both elegance and precision from the dancers, continually challenging them with new combinations. “Show beauty and grace on your face, all the while being supported by incredible strength from your core.” It was obvious by her enthusiasm that Ms. Chung delights in both her dancing and teaching. She gave her all to demonstrate and verbalize the combinations to the dancers, sometimes even getting out of breath. Yet, it was her joyful demeanor that made the hard work fun. Ms. Chung instructed 44 of our Los Gatos Ballet dancers from Level 6, 7, & 8.
This time with Ms. Chung is only a precursor to her upcoming performance as The Sugar Plum Fairy in our Los Gatos Ballet Nutcracker to be held this December 9-11 at the Flint Center in Cupertino. Our Los Gatos Ballet students and staff are grateful for this and future opportunities to work with such an accomplished artist. Thank you, Ms. Chung!
This past Saturday, 21 excited upper-division dancers from Los Gatos Ballet boarded a shuttle heading to Lines Ballet in San Francisco. These dancers had the rare opportunity to train with the world-renowned choreographer, Alonzo King. The dancers were all smiles and thumbs-up as we pulled out of the Los Gatos Ballet's driveway. Little did they know the life-changing event the next several hours held for them.
Once we reached San Francisco, the dancers were escorted into the circa 1920s-30s building of Lines Studios. The energy was alive and bubbling with dancers rehearsing in the different studios. Our dancers patiently stretched on the floor of the hallway outside our designated studio. As our dancers waited, eager eyes peeked in to see what was going on in the class before us.
Mr. King graciously greeted us and invited us into the recently cleared out studio. His presence was kind and welcoming and exuded a strength of character. The dancers set down their bags and found their places at the barre. The studio was warm, moist and smelled of the remnants from the preceding rehearsal. There were large windows and colorful architectural details that whispered of another era. One wondered how many dancers had before graced the floor of this studio.
Mr. King started the class with extensive abdominal work, explaining that the torso is the center and power of their dance. From there he moved through detailed barre work. Using vivid analogies, he walked throughout the class, noticing the details of each dancer. His corrections were clear, direct and inspiring. Frequently, he called the dancers over to what looked like a football huddle to give more specific corrections and analogies. He challenged the dancers with technique, artistry, and strength, continually demanding that they give more. “Be generous, not stingy, with your dancing!”, exclaimed Mr. King. He then led the dancers through center work that demanded both technical ability and soul. He created combinations that quickly changed from fast, precision-like steps to long, graceful movements within the set. All the while, he called for the dancers to not hold back, but rather to give it their all. “Where is the dancing fool? I want to see the dancing fool.” said, Mr. King.
Our dancers time with Mr. King culminated in a sit-down discussion where he asked the dancers what they learned. Answers came from what they learned in his class about dance and about life. That is simply how Mr. King teaches. He gave further instructions, direction and advice to our dancers with inspiration, stories and a personal touch. He was fully present. This time with Mr. King was so much more than dance. It was about life, about what matters, about finding who you are. He instructed, demanded and inspired so eloquently through the art of dance.
Our exhausted, yet energized, 21 dancers climbed into our shuttle for the ride back home. There was awe, excitement, and enthusiasm that filled the conversations of that bus. Everyone in the room with Mr. King that day was lifted to a higher level and challenged to give more and be better. Thank you, Mr. Alonzo King!