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School of American Ballet - Visit and Comments

- Arts and Education

Arts and Education

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

May 21, 2003

School of American Ballet
Visit and Comments

70 Lincoln Center Plaza
NY, NY 10023

What could be lovelier than spending a morning watching a Tango friend, Suki Schorer (See Bio), a renowned and retired ballet dancer, from New York City Ballet (NYCB) (See Website), who has also taught many of today's Ballet Principals, teach her Wednesday morning class at School of American Ballet (SAB) at Lincoln Center's Rose Building. I remembered attending classes at the Rose Building and Juilliard for many years, myself, as a collaborative teacher and school administrator, with Lincoln Center Institute ( I also recently interviewed an SAB graduate and NYCB Corps dancer, Deanna McBrearty, (Danskin Spokesperson), in the Rose Building's Cafeteria. It's was so thrilling this day to see Peter Boal and other NYCB Principals warming up, as they often do, in the spacious and spotless rehearsal studios at SAB. The genial and informative Director of Public Relations, Amy Bordy, kindly introduced me to the spaces and the concept of this Ballet School, which also includes Life Classes for ballet students, for medical and nutritional questions. Ms. Bordy informed me that the graduates of SAB may join NYCB or other ballet or contemporary dance companies, may attend college, or may transition to other personal goals. Competitions are not necessary for these students, as they are in such demand by the major companies, due to the rigorous and professional training and performance practice. In fact, I will attend the Annual 2003 Workshop Performance (Watch for Review).

I walked into a gray/white large rehearsal studio, already in the ballet mood, as the entire SAB space, with ballet students in various positions of practice or relaxation, was so reminiscent of Degas' ballet studies in oil and pastel (See Recent Degas Dance Review), but with the details. About 17 female students wore black leotards and pink tights, pink toe shoes, and a variety of leg warm-ups, etc. The class pianist, a woman from Russia, Alla Reznik, was already practicing and was eager to share her background, which includes study at St. Petersburg Conservatory. Ms. Reznik has accompanied ballet classes and workshop rehearsals at SAB for twelve years and regularly accompanies Suki's classes. She may play original music, which fits the teacher's combinations, or Chopin, or other piano music.

This was a most serious class, with total focus and no down time. For 90 minutes Suki brought her students through ballet barre work, large group floor work, and sequential, smaller group combinations. Her teaching methodology was excellent, as she was nurturing, but structured, with rapid, one-time-only instructions, and a bit of one-on-one coaching, where needed. Suki Scorer, in pink dance shoes, black leotard and tights, and an adorable, short, ballet skirt, modeled each combination or set of footwork, and the students spread out on the ballet barre, at first, with their gazes fixed on the front mirror. These students all appeared healthy, content, and secure, and any extra, in-between time was used to individually repeat, with the mirror, the previous figure. Suki would pause between combinations to try something, quickly, in her mind, with a bit of body language, and then give the instructions, softly but firmly. She also would adjust postures, here and there, while students take fifth or second position, and privately offer some advice. Students did not once engage in small talk, but held heads high and straightforward, to whichever wall they were facing.

Ms. Reznik adjusted her piano accompaniment, with no written music, to a more rapid speed, at times, as the footwork, leaps, or arabesques required. The students exhibited unbelievable control and tightness of muscles and torso. As the students shifted placement in the studio, from barre to open floor, from whole group, to sequential, smaller groups, only the smallest amount of fatigue was apparent, in facial expression and posture, again associating these young, ballet dancers with the scores of ballets studies in Degas' life work. Yet, Suki continued to encourage and inspire, and there were no complaints or requests for a break. In fact, just as I thought they may have run on a lower energy level, toward the end of the class, Suki brought the speed to high gear, and small groups, in sequence, leaped and jumped and kicked, with amazing elevation and elasticity. To my further amazement, students continued to practice, long after the last piano notes were played.

Kudos to Suki Schorer for her professional, educational methodology in dance and dance technique, as well as for her positive and uplifting personality that permeated this most pleasant environment. And, Kudos to SAB for creating such a wonderful preparation facility for dancers in ballet companies and ensembles.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at