EXPLORING OPEN CLASS
Don’t know which ballet class to take this week? Start here.
Our open class teachers come from all backgrounds to offer six different intermediate/advanced ballet classes weekly, each unique in style, approach, and atmosphere. Below you’ll find open class faculty profiles that will give you a better idea of what to expect from each class. Although our open classes are intermediate/advanced, we welcome you at the level you are. Our teachers are always happy to offer modifications and adjust their classes to fit your needs.
We at Dance Fremont understand our responsibility to help dismantle white supremacy and other harmful structures in ballet. We celebrate differences, including differences in race, gender expression, and body type, and value self-expression, musicality, healthy movement and alignment, and joy in every class. Come dance! Remember: class is for you!
We hope this is helpful to you, whether…
- You’re new to Dance Fremont open class
- You’ve taken class with us before, but the last one you took wasn’t quite your speed
- You want to try a new class and don’t know what to expect
- You’re ready for a new challenge
…or you just want to learn more about our fantastic teachers! Read on to get to know them, and discover which open class is right for you this week.
I approach my ballet classes with an anatomic, musical and energetic sensibility. With my background in Pilates I enjoy helping people find ways to use the ballet form to connect to their own bodies in an efficient and clear way. I find inspiration through my own investigation of dance by taking classes (virtually) with teachers such as Christine Wright, Zvi Gotheiner, Vivian Little, Clarice MarshalI and Marcus Shulkind. I enjoy seeing how these teachers put their classes together and I also enjoy seeing how they make connections. These teachers are a huge influence in my own teaching.
I plan my class in such a way that we are building up towards a specific goal (for example a specific dance step or a dance concept) from the beginning of class. I enjoy this process because putting class together sometimes feels like a puzzle to work through. I often repeat combinations in class and I also repeat the same class every 2 weeks. I find repetition is helpful because the 2nd time around, dancers don’t need to spend as much energy focusing on the choreography. Instead, they can focus on their own bodies and dancing on a deeper level.
I always try to bring a light and positive energy to class. My hope is for people to feel good about themselves as they walk out the door after class.
Open class is a very special class for me. One where the participants attend for many reasons, but where true desire to be there is number one. I admire and respect each participant and always aspire to meet the challenge of providing the best class for all in attendance. This challenge includes offering a class that dancers of multiple levels, life/career stages, ages and backgrounds can enjoy, gain technical help and advancement, or just use to get some exercise. I love to help each dancer in some way. This may be by providing a fun combination or in honing in on a technical need for them personally.
My background includes early training in Royal Academy and Cecchetti techniques, and a professional performing career where Vaganova methods, Balanchine style, and a great deal of contemporary ballet helped shape me as an artist and as a teacher. I am passionate about teaching and I love to impart my knowledge and experience. My love of the art of ballet and dance inspires and motivates me. I believe in the basics of classical ballet technique, posture, and placement as well as good form and line. I like to focus on the detail of transitions, and detail of movement quality and phrasing. I stress details on where movement begins and how it ends, as well as the incorporation of a good sense of port de bras and use of the head. These can be applied and incorporated by anyone in my open class. I encourage participants to modify or adapt combinations based on their own need, physical condition or desire. My open class is for them.
Nothing is more exciting than an open class that includes a good group of regulars (I have several who are dedicated, committed and ever improving), a smattering of professionals, former professionals, more advanced students, another teacher or choreographer, and you — whoever you are. The energy of each person helps shape the class and informs me on adaptations I need to make, regardless of any pre-class plan.
If you are new to Dance Fremont and a bit nervous I encourage you to just show up and try a class. It may be too easy or too hard, but know that each class is different. I am always willing to chat so I can get to know your desires and to try to accommodate them. If you need a beginner class, DF offers them as well. If you want more push, more challenge, less challenge or just want a simpler option just let me know. Dance Fremont is welcoming to all. Teaching here is always a pleasure as all are always treated with respect and kindness and offered support and comradeship.
Image: rehearsal for William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. Circa 1990. Pictured left to right: Marquita Lester (Ballet Mistress), Barry Ingham (Artistic Director), William Forsythe (Choreographer) Leigh-Ann Cohen-Hafford (Dancer)
Like most dancers in this country, my training had a lot of different influences. I did the RAD syllabus for a number of years, but also had teachers who taught from French, Bournonville, Vaganova, and Balanchine perspectives. My experience as a professional dancer drove home the importance of being versatile, as most of us won’t ever be dancing in just one style. In my class I try to emphasize anatomy, placement, and movement quality that gives dancers the freedom to go in many different stylistic directions as they choose (and have the healthy longevity to do so!)
What I love about teaching open class is how engaged and invested the dancers are. They made a choice to show up that day to dance, and they really go for it. They have so much willingness to make personal artistic choices and try new things — I feel like I really get to see who they are as people come through in their dancing, and in every class there are amazing moments that just take my breath away Open class dancers are so smart and thoughtful in their approaches to their technique and placement, which is the best thing ever to see as a teacher.
I use the same warm up and plie exercises every class, because I think the brain needs to warm up just like the body does, and that it’s easier to get going in class if you’re not immediately bombarded with new information. So anyone who takes my class more than once will have that familiarity and easier ramp up into memorizing exercises. I always check in at the beginning of class to see how people are doing, and if there are any requests, questions, or things people want me to know about. I allow that to shift my lesson plan depending on how people respond. And though I come in with a plan for where I want class to go, I will change that if I see a different need in the room — if I wanted to focus on fast sharp movement, but everybody’s shoulders are super tense and up around their ears, I might change the emphasis to softer, flowing freedom of movement in the upper body. Regardless, through class I try to give a variety of options. This is both to make sure that dancers are making choices that work for them in that specific combination for what they need that day, and hopefully to make them feel like they can continue to do that through the entire class.
Come try a class! New studios can be stressful, but the dancers in open class are wonderful people, and we’re always excited to welcome new dancers. I really want class to be useful for each person — it’s ok to ask questions, or adapt combinations as you need, or take as much of class as works well for you. Take the plunge — you’ll have fun!
MONDAYS, 10AM (alternating with NATASCHA)
An open class devotee myself, I am very excited to have the opportunity to teach open class at Dance Fremont! I love creating combinations that allow dancers to tap into their performance quality, connect with the music, and find joy in the movement. In my open classes I often pick an element and use it to create a throughline and focus for class. This allows us to dive deeper into that element in a variety of contexts and find artistry even within the most technical steps. I hope to offer ways for dancers to move with ease and efficiency, and make ballet feel good in their body.
My style is influenced by many years studying GYROTONICÂ® and by working with Natascha Greenwalt and Christin Call to develop Postballet for Coriolis Dance. Since Natascha and I alternate teaching each Monday we play off the themes in each other’s classes, building on combos or being inspired by each other’s choreography. This gives our classes a fun, collaborative feeling.
Creating an inclusive class environment is also very important to me; I strive to support dancers of all experience levels, backgrounds, and body types to make ballet their own and feel empowered in their dance practice. Additionally, I love hearing input from dancers on what they are interested in focusing on or how they are feeling that day and adapting class to meet their needs.
MONDAYS, 10AM (alternating with MARIKO)
My classes are choreographic and playful. I work with imagery and qualitative direction to help us find new sensations in familiar vocabulary. Mariko and I developed Postballet for Coriolis Dance, along with Christin Call, where we manipulated classical ballet vocabulary with contemporary movement practices. One unique thing about this class is that Mariko and I swap week to week. While Mariko and I follow a classical class structure for Monday class, we bounce ideas off one another and use Postballet to shape the class. I draw heavily from my GYROTONICÂ® training as well to help dancers find efficient, anatomical ways to let ballet feel good in their body, and hopefully find new tools and ways of approaching their ballet technique.
I’ve heard from a lot of dancers recently that they want to get in shape or want to train on their own first before returning to class. I have also felt nervous at first that if I wasn’t impressive as a performer that would negate my teaching. But the joy is we are all learning together! It feels like a team. I have to remind myself as well: we go to class to grow, and you are welcome where you are at! I feel strongly that class is about the process and the creative expression not fitting into external ideals or expressions of ballet technique.
My ballet classes focus on exploration and movement through the framework of classical ballet. I encourage individuality, intelligence, and autonomy in my classes and love supporting dancers in this creative space. My ballet class is aimed at preparing dancers for whatever their dance environment is asking of them; be it classical work or contemporary dance. I encourage dancers to push their physical boundaries while exploring and inhabiting the tiny nuances available within the dance.
My class is an intermediate/advanced class but I encourage all levels to give it a try. I am happy for dancers to make adjustments to my class in order to enable it to fulfill their individual needs. I only request that each dancer has strong spatial awareness and gives adequate space to other dancers for their own safety and the safety of those around them.
WEDNESDAYS, 10AM on ZOOM
My eclectic ballet training influences my style of teaching in an open class, which borrows concepts and techniques from Balanchine, Vaganova, and Cecchetti methods, and other various contemporary movement styles and methods. I grew up in Bellingham, Washington and at the age of 6, I began my study of ballet with Lana Colley, a student of Dorothy Fisher. Lana started her small dance school with a strong emphasis on musicality and expressive movement. When I began dancing at PNB (PNW Dance at the time) in 1974, my professional training became much more intense and technical, with company classes from teachers who had worked professionally with George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and Anthony Tudor. We took company classes with Lew Christensen, Janet Reed, Todd Bolender, Melissa Hayden and Ronald Sequoia. After leaving PNB in 1977, I joined San Francisco Ballet and continued studying with Lew and Michael Smuin who were Co Artistic Directors at SFB, Tatiana Grantzeva, Richard Gibson, Anatole Vilzak and many other guest teachers.
These early years of my dancing life and the experiences I have had while teaching and observing colleagues at PNB School, in the dance departments at the University of Washington and Cornish College of the Arts have a significant influence on my teaching style today.
Though I am currently only teaching on Zoom from the comfort of my living room in Bellingham, I continue to emphasize clarity of movement and organization for the whole body. I will also emphasize using core support and muscular activation needed to sustain balletic movement and shapes. The construction of the ballet exercises will vary from week to week, but similar concepts or patterns of movement are presented throughout the barre and are carried on into center work. Though varied delivery of the live music through the Internet to each participant makes it difficult to give feedback on organizing one‘s movement to the music, musicality is very important in my class and Ben Verdier’s music choices and playing is inspirational and supportive to the students.
My other joyful activities are being with my grown children and grandkids, living part of the year in Guanajuato MX, staging movement for singers and actors in Opera Guanajuato, taking Zumba and yoga classes, and playing with my puppy Pocket Beagle, Vito.
Image: Vivian Little in George Balanchine’s “Allegro Brillante” Photo by James Armstrong and courtesy of Museum of Performance + Design
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