Monday, December 20, 2010

An Interview with Peridance's Dorit Koppel

Photo by Jaci Berkopec

Taking Technique

Ballet technique classes are a huge part of any dancer’s training, but taking them day after day can be highly repetitive. How is it that dancers, beginner through professional, go back to class day after day and year after year without getting discouraged? While this commitment to training depends on the individual dancer’s diligence, an excellent teacher can be what takes a class from repetitive to enjoyable. I talked to one of Peridance Capezio Center’s own ballet teachers, Dorit Koppel, to see how she makes each class a new experience.
This is what she had to say:

Every class I teach is like a precious jewel or a kaleidoscope of movement that I switch and turn. What is most important to me when giving a class is that my students do not leave my class the same person they were when they entered. They should have something to take with them: a new step, a correction, an image, a new way of approaching their practice. A dance class should be an hour and a half of great experiences. Otherwise, it becomes tedious and tedious you cannot survive. I use imagery extensively to bring the outside world into the dance studio, using visually palpable examples. I believe it makes for a more creative and colorful class and one to which all students can relate.

Photo by Jaci Berkopec

In my classes a great deal of emphasis is placed on the movement of the upper body. These little nuances of the head and arms, are difficult to pick up, but they make a dancer. You have to learn how to use the upper body at the barre so that in the center it becomes second nature. Therefore, I encourage my students to dance the barre rather than execute the exercises.

Ballet can be quite restrictive, there are all these things that we are told not to do; it can begin to feel very confining. It is important to learn to move with freedom, in order to fully explore your body and space. A technique class is only class, not an audition, and in my view it should be treated as a laboratory, a place for experimentation. No matter the level of the student, I still want them to dance the class. This is how you build, little by little, day by day.

Photo by Jaci Berkopec

The classes I teach are open classes, not a closed program. I enjoy the variety of students and the energy they bring. It is much more interesting and colorful, because you get people from all walks of life and ability levels. I always have several class plans up my sleeve, just in case because I do not know who will be in the class.

Ballet naturally demands precision and thus tension, so I always try and relax the class because you cannot approach it with stress and fear. I bring humor into the class, to keep everything in perspective. If you do not enjoy the dancing, then don’t do it. It is not merely exercise; it is an art form. I tell my students, if you want to get in shape, go to the gym, not a ballet class. Dance requires a giving of oneself to something; it is greater than you. It can be a humbling experience, but it is okay to be humbled by it because it is such a high art form.

Dorit Teaches at Peridance Tuesdays & Thursdays Slow Intermediate 5:30-7:00pm.
Click here to see her schedule on the website.

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