It’s always a problem for dancers to decide where to spend
their precious resources while they are in training. More classes? Better toe shoes? Physical therapy? Private lessons? Here
are few of the reasons that people have come to me for private lessons over the years. (I have not used their real names.)
A 10-Year-Old's Progress
came to me in 2012 at age 10, having recently been accepted at the beginner's level in a major European ballet school. This
year his father wrote to me that Eddy had become one of the top students in the school, and credits his work with me as a
major influence. I couldn't be more pleased.
An 11-Year-Old's Progress
came to me at 11 after some years in an excellent school. But though she had good skills for her age, she was still terrified
of pirouettes. We worked on them slowly and carefully for a month or two -- she soon achieved her first pirouette. Now, at
17, she is a member of ABT II. She will have a wonderful career.
Ina, bright and motivated at age 13, had trained since she was 8, and had never been good with balance, although balancing
exercises were a regular part of her daily classes. For some reason, she did not know about the principles of placement that
are so crucial for a good balance.
We worked intensively on strengthening her abdominal muscles, placing her lower back, and freeing up the tension in her shoulders.
Within a year, Ina could not only balance in any position, but could move from one pose to another on half pointe with nary
Bruce had studied for several years when I first met him, but though his legs were strong, his jumps were low and without
energy. He needed much faster foot action and he needed to get his hips placed under him where they could provide more thrust.
Once he mastered those basics, his jumps began to soar.
Ellen had been studying for 11 years at a midwestern school affiliated with one of the big schools in New York, but she had
never achieved a double pirouette. When I saw her, the reason was clear--her placement was way off. I suggested an intensive
program of study for about 2 months, which I thought might be enough time to correct the problem, but I warned her that she
would have to make some big changes in the way she worked.
That was too much for Ellen--she said she simply couldn’t change after all those years of study. She went back home,
and I was sorry I didn’t get the chance to work with her.
Gretchen had studied as a child, but had barely begun on pointe when her family moved and she was unable to continue. She
took up ballet again upon moving to New York, but could find no basic pointe class, only intermediate and advanced, so she
came to me. After a lot of basic barre work we slowly moved her into center. Once she achieved her first pirouette on pointe,
she took off--no need for any more coddling!
Mia, an unusually talented 14-year-old girl, came to me after studying at a well known NYC school for 2 years. The third
year she was not accepted, the reason being, according to the school, that she had no turnout.
I found that her hips were so poorly placed that she could not possibly have turned out her legs. Mia was bright and determined
and in some ways her technique was excellent. Retraining her hips took about two months, and once her hips were placed she
had excellent turnout. I expect she will have a rewarding career.
Sarah at age 19 was a beginner, and she passionately wanted to dance. Unfortunately, her feet were tight and not well formed.I
told her that though she could improve her feet somewhat, she might never achieve the shape and flexibility required for a
She still wanted continue, so we launched upon a full program of training, with special emphasis on the feet. Sarah’s
feet improved a bit, and she enjoyed dancing tremendously, and though a performing career seems unlikely, she has never regretted
her decision to dance.
Joan, a computer programmer, had studied off and on for about 15 years, and didn’t understand why she still had so many
problems in her ballet training. After working with her for a few lessons, I realized that her movements were not well coordinated,
and that she seemed not to hear the music at all.
We began intensive efforts, first to get her to hear the musical rhythms, then use them to coordinate her movements. Slowly
her work improved, across the board. Ultimately, though I continued to increase the difficulty of the exercises, I never again
saw her make a musical mistake.
J.S., a lawyer, came to me as a 35-year-old beginner. He said he had been a ballet fan for years, and had finally realized
that he did not have to enjoy it only on the sidelines. He wanted to do it himself, no matter what it took.
After 4 years of weekly private lessons and daily practice at home, he finally left the nest for a group class. To his great
surprise, he didn’t see a single step that he had not tried before, and sometimes he even found himself in the front
row. He still comes over now and then for brush-up sessions.