Sunday, 10 May 2020

Classes in Lockdown

Author NIAID Licence CC BY 2.0

After I felt obliged to postpone the Snowflakes workshop that Mark Hindle had kindly agreed to give us on 14 March 2020 I had reconciled myself to a long delay before I would ever do a plié again. I did broach the subject of online classes with a teacher for whom I have particularly high regard but she was sceptical.  She was worried about limited space, unsprung floors and insurance and so was I. 

On 21 April, Maria Chugai of the Dutch National Ballet gave us an online class which made our spirits soar (see An Unforgettable Class 7 May 2020).  Encouraged by Maria's success, I asked Charlotte Ingleson of Ballet North UK to give us an online class on 2 May in lieu of the March company class which she had agreed to deliver.   Again, that was very successful.   She made us work very hard for the full 90 minutes.    As we have also missed our April class I have arranged with Jane Tucker to give us an extra class on 16 May.  Jane will also deliver her usual class on 30 May.

As Maria and Charlotte have shown that online classes are not only possible but fun I have been trying out a few more.  Online classes fall into two categories.   Some are given by ballet schools and companies over Facebook or YouTube,   They offer training by the likes of  Ernst Meisner and Tamara Rojo for free.  The disadvantage is that the teachers can't see us so there is no chance of corrections.   The other option is to enrol in a class that is held over Zoom. That is the next best thing to a class in a studio because the teacher and see and correct her students and give corrections.  For those classes, there is, of course, a fee.

Of the classes offered by schools and ballet companies, my favourites are those by Ernst Meisner.  Recordings of those classes are available on the Dutch National Ballet's YouTube channel  I am not an unbiased critic because I am a big fan of Meisner for the work that he has done for the Junior Company and the Dutch National Ballet Academy.  However, my opinion appears to be shared by two experienced teachers who certainly know what they are talking about. 

Our guest ballet mistress, Yvonne Charlton of the Dolstra Dance Centre in IJsselstein, wrote:
"Jane Lambert he is a great teacher i am doing his classes."
To which I responded:
"Yvonne Charlton de beste leraar ooit!"  
Taxing the very extremity of my command of the Dutch language.   She agreed with me.

The other person who commented on Meisner's class was our first choreographer, Terence Etheridge.   Having been one of the founder members of Northern Ballet and later its ballet master, as well as ballet master in Hong Kong, Terence knows everything there is to know about classes.   When he wrote in Facebook that it was a very good class we can be sure that it was.

I have also attended two Zoom classes.   One was given by Karen Sant of KNT Danceworks, my usual teacher in Manchester.   The other by Sonya Pettigrew of Brighton Ballet School. 

KNT usually offers classes in Northern Ballet School's studios.   I first came to KNT in August 2014 when my over 55 class in Leeds was on vacation and I have been a regular visitor ever since.  I have taken classes at various levels with all of the teachers and I have got on well with every one of them.  I have also attended some excellent choreography workshops on  Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Coppelia, Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker given by Jane Tucker and Martin Dutton as well as days of intensive classes known as "Days of Dance".  Over the years I have made some good friendships and close acquaintances with many of the other students.  I love KNT and am very fond of Karen.

Since the lockdown, Karen has created a portal to her online classes called the class manager.  As far as I could see from the "upcoming classes" section, everything that KNT offered in the studio is available online.  I joined my usual "Pre-Intermediate Class" which meets on Tuesdays between 18:30 and 19:45  The barre was almost identical to the studio but we had a few modifications for the centre work. Nevertheless, we finished with a joyful temps levé carrying me from the kitchen through the hall to my sitting room and back again.  Karen charged £3.50 for that class and I shall certainly be back.

Although Sonya had invited me to attend and review one of her classes several months ago I never had an opportunity to take advantage of it.  After the lockdown, she invited me to attend one of her online classes which I did on 24 April.   I joined the entry-level class and found that it was quite rigorous.  Again, there was a full barre and some demanding centre exercises.   I counted 8 of us in gallery view, mostly women but one gentleman.   Sonya is a good teacher.  She gave me several corrections for which I am grateful.   She has a very easy manner and it is clear that she is well-liked by her students.  If I lived in Sussex I would almost certainly be one of her regulars.

New online classes are coming onto the market all the time.  On 7 May Northern Ballet Academy announced that it is about to launch a new online class for the Over 55s to be given by Viki Westall from 11 May.   As it meets in office hours I am not sure how many classes I can attend but I shall certainly do one and report back to you with my findings.

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