2023 OPEN CLASS FACULTY
Get to know our talented Open Class Faculty!
Our open Ballet classes focus on correct placement with an emphasis on style and musicality. Imagery and anatomical information help the adult student to understand movement mechanics. Each instructor brings a unique style and approach to class, offering personal feedback and thoughtful concepts in a warm, supportive atmosphere. You will dance to live piano from our talented staff pianists!
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 we value self-expression, musicality, healthy movement and alignment, and joy in every class. Come dance! Remember: class is for you!
THURSDAYS + SATURDAYS, 10-11:30 AM
SUMMER 2023: TUESDAYS + SATURDAYS, 10-11:30 AM
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!
TUESDAYS, 10-11:30 AM
SUMMER 2023: THURSDAYS, 10-11:30 AM
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)
WEDNESDAYS, 10-11:30 AM
I studied ballet at The Juilliard School back in the early 1980’s, where we had wonderful teachers teaching the Cecchetti and Vaganova styles. Of course, they were doing things their own way, but I believe every teacher should find their own way as they mature in their teaching careers. In terms of ballet, I’ve also been very influenced by the famous NYC teacher Maggie and Black and her disciples, who all taught open ballet classes around NYC and where most modern and contemporary dancers trained when they were in town, and before their company rehearsals. Having trained in that world of mixed techniques, I understand and believe in a flexible interpretation of classical ballet in terms of working within (and with) one’s anatomy. The structure of the class is conventional; the format (barre, center, across floor).and the vocabulary (traditional ballet steps) remain constant; however, all the positions, shapes, and movements will vary from one dancer to another.
The spirit/energy of my class has been described as “fun” and “challenging.” Most people who gravitate to ballet usually very self-motivated and goal-oriented. However, they can get caught up in their own perfectionist attitudes, and blame the technique and teacher for those tendencies. Over the years, I’ve learned to take this into account, providing challenges, yet being far more detached about results (that’s the Buddhist in me). It can be so much fun to challenge oneself — loving every minute of that challenge — simultaneously knowing it’s not the outcome (success/ failure) that matters as much as the journey! So for any student who gets intimidated seeing the word “challenging,” I say just come and throw yourself around and have fun screwing up, figuring things out, watching your Self find its unique way into something that brings it happiness.
Class switches up every week. We always do about a 40-minute barre and a 50-minute center. Someone told me that a ballet class was basically one big warm-up to be able to jump and leap off the floor by the end. And someone else once told me “try leaping across the floor and frowning.” It wasn’t easy to do. I mean, how can you go wrong with a class that ends with jumping for joy?
Photo by Jim Coleman
WEDNESDAYS, 7-8:30 PM
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.
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