Category Archives: BalletSJ School

Catching Up with ABT’s Franco De Vita and Raymond Lukens

Franco De Vita and Raymond Lukens with attendees of the first session of ABT's National Training Curriculum Teacher Training.

Franco De Vita (far right) and Raymond Lukens (center) with attendees of the first ABT teacher training session at Ballet San Jose.

In May, Ballet San Jose hosted American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) first National Training Curriculum Teacher Training session. Led by Principal of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT Franco De Vita and and Director of the National Training Curriculum Program Raymond Lukens, Ballet SJ School faculty, along with dancers from the company and dance teachers from around the country, completed the training for levels Primary through 3.

Recently, Principal of Ballet SJ School Dalia Rawson wrote a two-part blog series for 4dancers exploring the teacher training experience. With the second session beginning this Sunday, August 12, we wanted to take a closer look at the curriculum from the perspective of the two people who know it best.
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A Fairytale Evening: Guest Blog by Mesa Burdick

ABT's Sascha Radetsky and Ballet SJ's Alexsandra Meijer pose for a photo backstage with Mesa Burdick and friends.

ABT’s Sascha Radetsky and Ballet SJ’s Alexsandra Meijer pose for a photo backstage with Mesa Burdick (center, in blue) and friends.

At the beginning of May, Ballet San Jose School student Mesa Burdick participated in one of Ballet SJ’s online contests and won the chance to go behind the scenes of Cinderella (May 4 – 6, 2012) with two of its stars, American Ballet Theatre’s Sascha Radetsky and Ballet SJ’s Alexsandra Meijer. We asked twelve-year-old Mesa to blog about her experience. Continue reading

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A Conversation with BSJ Apprentice Vimala Jeffrey-Howe

Vimala Jeffrey-Howe was recently promoted to apprentice at Ballet San Jose.

Vimala Jeffrey-Howe was recently promoted to apprentice at Ballet San Jose.

When Ballet San Jose announced the promotion of 22-year-old Vimala Jeffrey-Howe, a former Ballet San Jose School student, to apprentice in the professional company a couple of weeks ago, she called her parents immediately.

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Audition for the 2012 Ballet San Jose School Summer Intensive this Sunday, March 25

Advanced Students from Ballet San Jose School, photographed by Scott Belding

Advanced Students from Ballet San Jose School, photographed by Scott Belding

A reminder from Ms. Rawson, Principal of Ballet San Jose School:

Ballet San Jose School’s 2012 Summer Intensive Audition will be held this Sunday, March 25. This year’s Summer Intensive will include classes taught by Ballet SJ School’s world-class Faculty, all of whom will be certified in the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum. Rounding out a full schedule of focused ballet training that already includes Pointe, Mens Class, Variations and Partnering, we will be offering some new classes on our schedule this year: Modern, Contemporary, Ballet Mime, and Music for Dancers. Advanced students will also participate in Classical and New Works Repertoire classes, where they will be coached in selections from the Classical Repertoire and will have the opportunity to participate in the creation of a new work.

For more information, please visit the Ballet San Jose School website or call the School Registrar at (408) 288-2820 x223. We hope to see many of you there!

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Coming Full Circle at Ballet San Jose School

Breanna Palermo, Ballet San Jose School Registrar

Breanna Palermo, Ballet San Jose School Registrar

AS SCHOOL REGISTRAR of Ballet San Jose School, one of my favorite parts of the job is our Friday Outreach Program. We reach out to local schools and provide a complimentary tour of our building at 40 North First Street, which itself is a really neat building. The first time I came in to work, I felt like I was back in New York, taking a class in a studio building. The kids always get a kick out of the many stairs and passageways, and they really love finding out what many of our rooms used to be before they were dance studios.

After taking them around, we show them the Costume Shop, which is a highlight for many of the kids. (When Ms. Sue asks them what they think is in the tip of a pointe shoe to make it so hard, someone always guesses “rocks!”) After that, they get to watch the end of a company class, which is an extremely special treat! The kids can’t help but “oooh” and “ahhh” as our dancers fly through the air just feet in front of them. Then, they get to take a class with Mr. Eriksen, who is on the faculty here at Ballet San Jose School and is famous amongst the BSJS kids for his Pirates of the Caribbean and Angry Birds ballets. Though some of the kids may have hesitation at first about taking ballet, they always leave Mr. Eriksen’s class with happy and eager faces.

Today’s tour was from Trace Elementary, so it was a special day for me as I am a graduate of Trace! While much of the school has changed since I was there (a fire destroyed the building I learned in), there is so much that is still the same. They are still the Trace Tigers and still have a huge focus in the performing arts. When I was in elementary there, I participated in Drama, Dance and Orchestra, which are still programs at Trace today. I told the students about the time I was in the musical Annie at Trace and I played Annie’s dog Sandy (I even barked along when Annie sang “Tomorrow”), and they happily told me about the shows they were putting on. The kids in this group were so eager to learn everything about our school, and it was absolutely fantastic to share with them.

The best part of the tour is the very end, where Mr. Eriksen and I get to tell the children that because they came to the tour today, they get a whole free semester of classes in our First Step Program, as well as a free uniform. Without fail, every time we announce it, their faces light up and they cheer. Today’s announcement was no different. I can’t wait to see some of these Trace faces in my school!


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Happy Thanksgiving from Ballet San Jose

Our Marketing Director Lee Kopp poses with "Nutty" from Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER, which opens Dec. 10, 2011.

BSJ Marketing Director Lee Kopp poses with "Nutty" from Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER, which opens Dec. 10, 2011.

AS THURSDAY APPROACHES, our staff is anticipating a short respite from a busy schedule full of holiday events. Here is a quick recap of some events we’ve had lately:

  • The most important event is, of course, The Nutcracker, which will open Dec. 10th and run through the 23rd. Our dancers, who are on vacation this week, have been rehearsing tirelessly every day. Tickets have been selling like hotcakes! (Dennis and Lauren declined to write a blog post for this week because they have been so busy fielding calls and taking ticket orders.) Our costume staff has been busy as well — though they’ve still had just enough time to give an interview about ballet costuming to Access Magazine. Even our Marketing staff has ventured out of the office to mingle and socialize at local arts events around downtown San Jose.
  • Just last Tuesday, Nov. 15th, Wilkes Bashford, Ballet San Jose and Gentry Magazine threw a fashion fundraiser from which 10% of the proceeds went to the Ballet San Jose School. “An Evening of Cocktails and Couture” was a smashing success. We were delighted to see many of our friends and biggest supporters, and our dancers and staff modeled gorgeous couture fashions for a good cause.
  • We’ve also planned some appearances for our “Nutty” characters for the rest of this month and the beginning of December. This past Monday, Nov. 21st, characters from our Nutcracker dropped by the Downtown Ice opening to skate and take pictures with attendees. The event, which was hosted by Hawaiian Airlines and the San Jose Downtown Association, featured special guest Kristi Yamaguchi and kicked off a seasonal San Jose tradition that is near and dear to many of us. Make sure you check out the ice rink sometime this winter!
  • If you missed “Nutty’s” appearance at the Downtown Ice opening, come out for the Christmas tree lighting at Christmas in the Park this Friday, Nov. 25th. Our Nutcracker characters will be here again, and they will have plenty of time to take pictures with you and your family. All are welcome!

That’s the news from Ballet San Jose. We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it, and a nice long weekend even if you don’t! Please be safe and happy this holiday season. You are all part of the BSJ family.

Ballet San Jose 

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Ballet San Jose School Gets Funky at ZERO1 with Electronic Tutus

Students of the Ballet San Jose School dance in electronic tutus created by Benoit Maubrey. Click this still to watch video footage of the performance!

Students of the Ballet San Jose School dance in electronic tutus created by Benoit Maubrey. Click this still to watch raw video footage of the performance!

IN 1960, Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline coined the term “cyborg,” defining the idea as a system that “deliberately incorporates exogenous components extending the self-regulatory control function of the organism in order to adapt it to new environments.” Since 1960, the idea of the “cyborg” has gone from a scientific hypothesis to a metaphor for social-feminist theory, to a half-man-half-machine pop culture icon. But if we trace the “cyborg” back to Clynes and Kline, you’ll realize that the essentials haven’t changed much at all. A “cyborg” is still more or less a system or machine that helps an organism to adapt to new challenges or environments.

This evolution of the “cyborg” popped into my head as I was sitting down to write this blog post about last year’s ZERO1 Festival, which featured students from the Ballet San Jose School wearing some unique hardware of their own. In 2010, our students performed a series of dances at the ZERO1 Festival in conjunction with artist-choreographer Benoit Maubrey. Rather than traditional leotards and tights, our girls wore solar-powered sound-generating electronic tutus. Instead of dancing to recorded music, they moved to the sound of their own movement — each student wore a device on her hand that emmitted otherworldly frequencies based on the way she moved her arms.

Electronic tutus? Futuristic sound devices? What kind of weirdness was this?

It seems like ballet is generally thought of as a “classical” discipline, the kind of laced-up, traditional sport that appeals only to a rich, white upper class that has no sense of humor. One of the problems that ballet companies struggle with in promoting their craft is the preconceived idea of ballet as an old art form, as high-brow culture, as the kind of cerebral pastime that can only be enjoyed by the literati. (This is, of course, untrue. Anyone can enjoy ballet!)

Ballet does place enormous emphasis on discipline. Every line, every turn is tightly controlled. Even now, when contemporary ballet, jazz, lyrical and hip-hop dance have become popular dance forms in their own rights, classical ballet is still considered to be the foundation of choreographed movement. The very beauty of ballet is its emphasis on control, the incredible harnessed power of its dancers, and the sheer gutsiness of its choreography.

Like all forms of art, ballet isn’t for everyone. Some people think it’s a relic of times past. That may be true in some places, but in the diverse landscape of the Silicon Valley, we do ballet differently. The spirit of entrepreneurship and technology that thrives in San Jose also shapes the way we approach visual and performing arts. There is no better example of this diversity, this progressive thinking, than the students from the Ballet SJ School tapping metal rakes against a concrete sidewalk and dancing in electronic tutus.

In a festival geared toward transforming downtown San Jose’s South of First Street Arts District (SoFA), electronic tutus may seem weird and out of place. But artists are using technology more than ever to give traditional art forms a 21st century makeover. In the unending barrage of technology, some performing arts may need that extra push in order to adapt.

So the “cyborgs” on my mind when I started this post were the students of the BSJ School, who strapped on funky electronic tutus and learned some unconventional choreography. To what end?

Classical ballet is alive and well in San Jose and in many other parts of the world. But there is definite value to stepping outside the confines of tradition once in a while and using technology to explore a new environment: this shifting arts culture set against a technological backdrop that is constantly evolving.

With that in mind, do yourselves a favor and check out the video posted above. You can also see still photos of the performance here. Then, tell us what you think. Do you agree with the sentiments of this post? Do you think ballet needs to adapt? Or is it a timeless discipline that will survive any cultural shift?

Thanks for reading!

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