Ballet Instructor Profile: Sarah Arnold

402866_2821845154489_388810707_nHow long have you been dancing?

I began dancing 45 years ago.

Why do you dance ballet?

I began dancing classical ballet because my father played Chopin waltzes on the piano and I loved to dance to his music. Whenever I would be with him, there was always wonderful, inspiring and rich classical music.
I continue to dance because that is when I feel most alive.

Who/What inspires you to dance?

Anna Pavlova has always been my inspiration. I love that she was an international ambassador of ballet, devoted her life to the art and believed that art should be taught along with reading and writing. She was the epitome of the first classical ballerina with her slender figure, arched feet and dark intense look. Some of my favorite photos are of Pavlova with her swans. I can just imagine her affinity with nature that translated seamlessly into her signature “Dying Swan”.

A particular memory stays with me of Pavlova’s exhibit that travelled to Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco in the early ’80’s. They displayed her pointe shoes, costumes, photographs, letters and a movie of her dancing. Her pointe shoes were the most dainty and light I had ever seen.

I am inspired to dance in response to the music. It brings forth emotions, a sense of peace and personal expression.

DSC_0015How long have you taught ballet?

I have taught ballet full time for 32 years.

Where do you teach ballet?

I currently teach at Pacific Academy of Ballet in Mountain View, CA. I directed two schools of my own for 25 years and directed a professional company school for Ballet Idaho in the 90’s. I sold the schools and moved back to the Bay Area with the intention of no longer directing, but wished to concentrate entirely on teaching.

Who do you teach?

I have taught all ages and levels but now just teach Intermediate – Advanced pre-professional dancers. Additionally, I teach private lessons for the most serious students. I have taught the Adult classes and Ballet Conditioning as well.

What other types of dance do you teach (if any)?

(Ballet) Dance conditioning. I love to explore the mind/body connection in dance and conditioning.

No other dance form.

Why do you teach ballet?

I teach ballet because as a late starter, I am on a never-ending constant quest to understand the technique for all bodies and mindsets. This is particularly true in America where students do not audition for entry in most schools. It is challenging and rewarding. I love those “ah-ha” moments, when the idea clicks for me and the student! I believe that the method that works well for you, is the correct one.

If someone tells me there is “one true way”, I run the opposite direction. Seriously.

What is your favorite ballet step to teach and why?

I love to teach jumps because it is something that a lot of people avoid but it is very freeing. As a student, I loved adagio. I find it very useful to teach for two reasons— it shapes the essential form for all the other steps and it develops a sense of artistry in each student. However, jumping is when I see kids smile. They may groan, but they smile!

Jumps are the ultimate fun and I sense that it is natural for me. I am a fast talker and mover, so the movement comes easily.

What advice/tips would you give to adults who want to begin ballet for the first time/adults starting ballet again?

Don’t put limits on yourself but don’t expect your body to be the same one as before. Your mind may know more, your body may catch up depending upon your age and facility; but be realistic. Enjoy the moment because ballet has a way of focusing the present moment. When the plies, start— let your day fade away.

Anything else to add?

My favorite ballet is “Giselle”. My favorite pointe shoes are Freed. I believe that classical ballet is one of the few living arts where dancers express themselves through their bodies and music. Our bodies are the art and both are sacred. Used together to create art, is penultimate.

My least favorite step is any turn. They feel entirely unnatural but I love to teach them because I want to prove that anyone can turn well. Ballet is a science and complex with many exceptions to the rule. (The rule is the student)!

Achieving Balance in Your Workouts — Part One

By Chris Hunkeler under CC BY-SA 2.0

By Chris Hunkeler under CC BY-SA 2.0

The past two weeks have been rough.

We had a huge event at work and I had other events to go to — so much that with Halloween, HQ and I didn’t make to ballet at all. Then I was having another rough time this week (and felt sick at the beginning of it) that I didn’t think we’d get our workouts in any workouts at all — currently we’re trying to balance ballet, running, and cross-training (mostly pilates, but some cardio, too).

I hadn’t been doing much running, but after we went running when the streets were open thanks to the Pope being here, HQ and I decided that we were trying to go running a bit more. We’ve done a fair amount of running in the past, but ever since I ended up with stress fractures, we never really got into it. A great community, Run215, has also helped motivate me as well to keep going and we’re registered for the Rothman 8K later this month. After a 5 mile run last weekend, I feel more ready than we have for a race in the past.

But — the struggle has been balancing everything, especially with running and ballet feeling like they take up so much time by themselves. Trying to fit everything in has been tough, but usually my system is to schedule my workouts ahead of time, so I know what I’ve got in the upcoming week (work, events, fun) and how I can fit in workouts around that, with a balance of running, ballet, and cross-training.

But sometimes it fails — like when you’ve had a really rough day at work, daylight saving change has messed with your head, and end up quitting .66 miles into your workout. When that happens, I find the best thing to remember is your body needs rest and time to recover. Sometimes taking a break is just what you need.

So my question for you is, how do you achieve balance with all your workout goals? How do you know when it’s time to take a break? I’ll do a follow up post later this week with responses!

Ballerina Profile: Melissa Kolbeck

melissaWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started back about 2 months ago (early September 2015) after a 2 1/2 year hiatus.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I did! From age 4 and up through college and beyond.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I thought I was done with ballet because of the emotional toll and having gotten married an started a family. But I simply cannot live without it. It’s who I am, and I knew I needed to get back.

Where do you take classes?

Lois Ellyn Ballet Studio in Fullerton, CA. I’ve also studied at UC Irvine (while in college) and at Maple Conservatory in Irvine, CA

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I love the challenge. I love that you will never attain perfection yet you always work for it. I love the grace of ballet and freedom that comes with movement. I also love the work ethic that ballet taught me growing up.

What is your least favorite part?

The pressure to be skinny and the intense competition. Those are what caused me to take a break for a few years. I needed to grow and mature and realize that I dance for me and no one else.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

There have been many over the years, but my current favorite is Misty Copeland. The fact that she is local to Southern California, broke a racial barrier, and does not have the “typical” body yet is a principal dancer with ABT just makes me HAPPY. As a girl who can put on muscle very easily and struggled with not having the “perfect body,” I love seeing dancers with similar bodies to me make it big.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

I took a break already, and I don’t want to do that again and have to come back again. I’ve been lucky this time in that my technique still seems pretty solid and most things have come back to me. But that may not be the case if I ever were to take a break again. I also want to keep dancing and share my love of it with my daughter. She may not end up loving it as much as I do, but if she does she needs the encouragement to stick with it even when it’s hard.

Do you take any other dance classes?

No, ballet is my favorite. Nothing else really compares for me.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I enjoy other types of workouts, especially PiYo, and have also run some half marathon and marathons. But right now it’s all ballet, writing my blog, and working with women to help them get in shape physically and emotionally.

What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

Don’t give up!! When you first start, especially as an adult, there is a very steep learning curve. Give yourself some grace and just enjoy learning something that not many people in this world can say they’ve learned.
Anything else you’d like to add?

Try ballet. Seriously, just do it. It’s the best.

Do you have a blog?

Ballet Instructor Profile: Sharon Girard

sharonHow long have you been dancing?

I started ballet and dance at age 2.  I’m 61.  Off and on, let’s say 40 years?

Why do you dance ballet?

I love ballet.  No matter what I keep coming back.  My heart sings when I take class or teach.  When I stand tall at the barre nothing else matters.  The music makes me want to move and I feel whole again. (I have lots of medical issues, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, etc.)

Who/What inspires you to dance?

I am not inspired by outside influences.  It comes from within.  Ballet is not a question , it is an answer.  It is not a choice.  It just IS.

How long have you taught ballet?

I have taught off and on for many years.  I was fortunate to teach my daughter who would have rather danced hip hop but she took my class and stopped ballet when I stopped teaching because she only wanted to take with me.  At 33 she returned to class and still does from time to time now at age 35.

Where do you teach ballet?

Right now I am living at an adult retirement resort community.  I teach women over 55.  Many new to ballet.  They love it.  At this late age they finally get to do something they never did as a child or adult.  Have time to follow a dream and learn ballet!

What other types of dance do you teach (if any)?

I don’t teach any other dance.  I am ballet focused.  It’s all I know.

Why do you teach ballet?

I teach because there isn’t anything better than passing on the knowledge of something you really love.  I had just moved into the community, saw a beautiful unused dance studio and said why not?  Why not me?

What is your favorite ballet step to teach and why?

Something graceful but fun.  This week I’m teaching chasees across the floor.  Should be interesting….

What advice/tips would you give to adults who want to begin ballet for the first time/adults starting ballet again?

Don’t think about the negatives.  Think about how much you will gain.  Take it for yourself.  Give it a try.  You’ll be surprised.  And don’t think you are too old, too damaged, too fat, too short or too anything….It’s your ME time. Just be in the moment.

Ballet Instructor Profile: Christina Koinis

Ballet Studio PicHow long have you been dancing?

17 years.

Why do you dance ballet?

I dance ballet because it is good for the body and the soul. I love the movement and structure of taking daily ballet class. I’ve found that ballet requires both strength and fluidity. Ballet has become very personal, giving me a way to express my emotion.

Who/What inspires you to dance?

Both my family and nature inspire me to dance. My family has taught me to set goals with my dancing, as well as teaching. I live in Florida so I spend a lot of time outdoors near the water. I’ll often replicate and integrate movement similar to the ocean waves into the classes that I teach.

How long have you taught ballet?

12 years.

Where do you teach ballet?

I teach at my own ballet academy, Christina Koinis Ballet LLC.

Who do you teach?

Ages 3 through adult seniors.

Why do you teach ballet?

I want to help each individual reach their own personal goals. I have a passion for sharing what I have learned with other people. There are dancers everywhere who have that spark inside of them, but need the right teacher to pull the ability and talent out.

What is your favorite ballet step to teach and why?

My favorite step is rond de jambe à terre (circular movement of the leg on the ground). This one step incorporates so many applicable lessons for body placement. I personally had a breakthrough in my understanding of technique when this step was explained accurately and I understood it. Now when I teach, I love seeing a student’s expression as they begin to find their own turnout and body placement.

What advice/tips would you give to adults who want to begin ballet for the first time/adults starting ballet again?

Do not be afraid! I recommend finding the right teacher who has a good perspective on adult ballet students. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. Every dancer has a starting place where they can work from and progress! I recommend getting a ballet notebook. From day one of your lessons write down vocabulary, class notes, and corrections.

Anything else to add?

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