Bil Badolato had an excellent dance career including seven years as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. He currently teaches six-days a week at Peridance. Read about his career and how it has inspired his teaching philosophy today. He will be teaching the Ballet section of the Adult Beginner Workshop Series this Summer!
1. Who was your favorite dance teacher and why did he/she inspire you?
That would be Walter Camryn, who had a dance school with Bentley
Stone, the Stone-Camryn School of Ballet.
Camryn and Stone were choreographic and performing partners with Ruth Page, who was the dance director and choreographer for the Chicago Lyric Opera, and a giant in the ballet world. I studied with Camryn and Stone
for twelve years. Camryn was teaching more than ballet and demi-character dance. He introduced his students to music, painting, sculpture, photography, philosophy, and literature. He took generations of students to the Chicago Symphony, The Art Institute, and of course to the ballet. He had viewings in the studio of films ranging from Martha
Graham to the Peking Opera. The atmosphere of the studio was always one of community and collaboration.
In New York I was greatly inspired and taught by Vladimir Dokoudovsky with whom I was student and friend for twenty-five years. He was a premier danseur with Ballets Russe, and taught seven hundred thousand ballet classes in New York City. He began teaching company and school classes for American Ballet Theater, then at Ballet Arts at Carnegie Hall, and finally at The New York Conservatory of Dance, which he created and built, literally with his own carpentry skills and the help of his wife Patricia at Broadway and 56th Street. His classes were beloved for their bare
bones barre, original and poetic adagio, and brilliantly efficient petit and grand allegro. He sometimes suggested "Do it wrong" when a student was hesitant. When questioned about this, he explained that you must give yourself permission to dive into the process without judging yourself in order to give your body the chance to find how to successfully execute the dance phrase. His personal maxim was, "Art is truth, truth is beauty, and beauty may one day save the world."
Also in New York City I was very lucky to be a member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet as dancer and choreographer. The company hired in rotation master teachers for two month residencies to teach company class. Therefore I was blessed to study with Hector Zaraspe, Patricia Wilde, David Howard, Barbara Fallis, Royez Fernandez, William Dollar, Gabriella Darvash, Alfedo Corvino. Outside the Met, the city was teeming with great teachers, and I studied ballet, demi-character, jazz, and tap with Maggie Black, Eldon Day (Ed) Parish, Natashia Boscovitch, Lawrence Rhodes, Yurek Lazowsky, Teresita Latana, Eddie Williams, Bob Audi, Luigi, Michael Owen, Carlos Orta, all of whom were marvelous purveyors of the dance craft.
2. What first drew you to dance?
Seeing the concerts performed by the Stone-Camryn Ballet. I was a member of a children's acting company, "The Jack and Jill Players", from the age of eight through ten. We performed standards for paying audiences. I had roles in "I Remember Mama", "By the Skin of Our Teeth", and "Our Town". I was precocious, and unfortunately the director cast me as George in "Our Town". During a rehearsal, I was unable to cry over the grave of my character's young wife Emily because the actress playing Emily held me in contempt, perhaps because she was five years my senior and quite worldly at that. The director threw his script on the floor and snarled "I can't stand your acting". That day I resigned from the troup.
Meanwhile my brother Dean, who was six years old, had requested and received ballet training after our Mom took us to see a film of the Bolshoi's "Swan Lake." Dean was a natural and he was already performing in concerts with the Stone Camryn group alongside guest alumni who were soloists and principals with American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, and Broadway. For example, in the Walter Camryn ballet, "In My Landscape," Dean danced the young child personage of the young man danced by John Neumeier, who since then has piloted for decades the famed Hamburg Ballet. From the first time I saw Dean and these amazing artists perform, I realized that story telling and poetry is possible without speaking. Plus, I loved classical music. I joined my brother in studying at Stone-Camryn and began my career.
3. Tell us about the worst dance costume you ever wore on stage.
I don't have a worst costume. As a principal dancer I was always very well attended to. In general, the less the designers put on me, the better I looked.
4. What is your most embarrassing onstage moment?
I worked my way through college (Northwestern University) by working in summer stock musicals at the huge Dallas State Fair Music Hall. In "The Desert Song" starring Ann Blythe and Frank Poretta, I was one of a band of desert rebel bandits attacking a French foreign Legion fort around the year 1925. We were costumed in long robes, which masked rubber flip-flop sandals, and carried rifles with shoulder straps. I was one of three who were to join the attack by dropping through trap doors in a ten foot high parapet to the stage floor. In the first performance, I slung the rifle over my shoulder and as I went down feet first, the rifle got lodged horizontally in the door, and I dangled, hanging for
what seemed to me like an eternity. In my efforts to free myself, my flip-flops fell to the stage and that is when I became aware of the laughter from the audience. Looking back on the incident, I think the director should have left it in as a comic bit.
5. What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
This is a difficult question because I have been fortunate to have worked for superb artists: Alvin Ailey in "Carmen;"
Agnes DeMille in "Brigadoon;" Tod Bolender in "Les Troyens;" Dean Badolato in "Oh Boy," "Oklahoma," "Man of LaMancha," "The Boy Friend;" and Norman Walker in "Arc of Angels."
In addition, I have been encouraged by many wise and generous artists to realize that every day holds a new highlight dance experience, whether choreographing, performing, or teaching.
One of my most thrilling experiences was performing in "Aida" at the Metropolitan Opera 1975 and 1977. For the seven minute long "Triumphal Dance" in act two, director John Dexter d choreographer Louis Johnson decided to replace the usual lively spectacle of belly dancers, bedouins, lion hunters, and assorted exotic captives, with a bare hands fight to the death between a captured rebel warrior chief and an Egyptian captain. The ballet was highly stylized and extremely athletic. My dancing "partner/opponent" was Stanley Perryman, who at the same time was standbyfor the role of Jesus in the Broadway musical "Arms Too Short to Box with God." We got thunderous applause, great reviews from all the New York newspapers, and a two page photo spread in "After Dark " magazine.
(Daily News) "William Badolato and Stanley Perryman were magnificent,
earning an unadulterated spontaneous ovation."
(Wall Street Journal) "Danced impressively in one of the most powerful
dances seen at the Met."
(New York Times) "Far above standard"
(Village Voice) "The victory of the night."
6. What is your teaching philosophy?
I think each class should be a special event that begins with a warm-up and progresses to a satisfying experience of moving through space. Each class should build new technique based on the knowledge gained in previous lessons.
Teaching is a collaboration, the teacher guiding the students to teach themselves how to dance. I enjoy keeping a focus on artistry and musicality. A dancer is an athlete, a musician, a poet, and also a scientist, since the craft involves fundamental mathematics, geometry, and anatomy.
7. Have you learned anything from your students?
Patience. Also, simplify in order to allow for abundant repetition. Adapt to students' technical needs in the moment. A teacher is a gardener, nurturing the proper conditions and allowing the flower to grow.
8. When you aren't teaching a Peridance, what are you doing?
Researching, listening to music for class and choreography, reading the great books written on dance technique. I free lance as a choreographer. I help stage, and perform in, an annual production of "Nutcracker" on Long Island. Recently I helped Dean with historical research for a short film, titled "Life Lessons," due out in January, and for which Dean did the choreography. The film is about a young girl forced by her mother to take ballet lessons at a prominent metropolitan dance school.
Starting May 16th, Bil's schedule is:
Ballet, Open Level Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9-10:30 am & Sunday 11:30-1pm
& Intro Level Tuesday/Thursday 9-10am & 7:30-9pm
Checkout our website for more info on Bil.
Check out the Adult Beginner Workshop Series.