Coping with Coronavirus:
YAGP-sponsored and other Online Ballet Classes
By now, everyone who cares to know is aware that online classes are being offered by organizations like Youth America Grand Prix and individual dancers to help themselves and others deal with this age of isolation and yet more anxiety. Sometimes it’s done out of a need for supplemental funds to tide the dancers through, sometimes to keep their names in the already-aware public eye, and sometimes out of pure altruism and sensitivity to their own and others’ needs. From what I can see, the final alternative is the most prevalent, but each is understandable, and the product is invaluable especially if helping to support a suddenly unemployed dancer goes with it.
I don’t pretend to be qualified to judge what constitutes a “good” or a “not-so-good” online class, and this article is by no means a review of any of them. Rather, in addition to possibly being informative, I look at what I’ve already seen from a different angle. I’ve watched ballet classes before: no big deal, right? Wrong. In addition to these online classes doing what they’re supposed to do – providing opportunities to take a ballet class when situations prevent that from happening in the usual manner, they open up the art form and the dancers teaching / demonstrating them to an extraordinary level, joining rehearsal footage and performances as essential building blocks to appreciating the final product.
These classes are, somehow, revealing, educational, and surprisingly entertaining – even if you’re just watching. Those of us who attend ballet performances regularly (as well as those of other forms of dance) may think we know what it takes, but we really don’t. Those of us who consider the dancers we watch on stage as acquaintances or perhaps friends may think we know them as individuals, but we don’t. These online classes give us, the viewing public, a chance to know the art form and the dancers giving the classes in a different way – even though I recognize that in certain respects these classes may be a different form of performance.
In addition to many of the companies themselves and some central online venues that funnel live or taped classes, YAGP appears to have taken the lead in offering a central location for programs by a variety of artists and teachers in addition to their usual complement of master classes. To date, it’s sponsored classes by alumnae and affiliated teachers and judges and guest artists who appeared, or were scheduled to appear, at its various annual Galas have included (either live or pre-recorded) San Francisco Ballet Principal Sasha De Sola; American Ballet Theatre Soloist Skylar Brandt; Luca Masala, Artistic Director of the Princess Grace Academy; former Bolshoi Ballet Principal Natalia Bashkatova; and The Mariinsky Ballet’s First Soloist Maria Khoreva. [Parenthetically, I was able to watch Khoreva’s class via YAGP’s YouTube channel, and was enthralled as well as impressed (and hearing her live accompanist play “Moon River” through one of the exercises was icing on the cake).]
As of this writing, scheduled to teach YAGP-sponsored classes are a second class by Masala (March 30) and one by Miami City Ballet Soloist (and former member of NYCB) Kathryn Morgan (March 31), and with dates still to be announced (I’ll supplement this with schedule dates as soon as I receive them): Anna Ol, Principal at Dutch National Ballet; former Ballet West Principal Christopher Sellars; Artistic Director of Next Generation Ballet (and former NYCB Principal) Philip Neal; Nilas Martins, former NYCB Principal; Associate Director of Boston Ballet II and Head of the Boston Ballet Men’s Program, Peter Stark; former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater member Karine Plantadit (who will teach an entire course on the Horton technique for ballet dancers); Dmitri Kulev, former member of the Bolshoi Ballet and Pittsburgh Ballet Theater and Founder and Director of Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy; Oliver Matz, Director of Zurich Dance Academy; and Jean Yves Esquerre, Founder and Director of European School of Ballet (Netherlands). To my understanding, all of these classes will be available indefinitely following their initial presentations. For additions and up to date scheduling, check out the YAGP web site or its social media platforms: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YouthAmericaGrandPrix/ ; Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yagp/ ; and YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/YAGPBalletArchive .
ABT dancers also have already or continue to offer online classes, some of which may be interactive and/or require pre-registration, and some of which may continue to be accessible. The dancers include, in addition to Brandt, ABT Principals and YAGP alumnae Isabella Boylston, Sarah Lane, Christine Shevchenko, and James Whiteside. I’m aware also that Khoreva has been providing classes on other platforms. NYCB Principal Dancer Tiler Peck, English National Ballet Artistic Director Tamara Rojo, Bolshoi Ballet Principal Evgenia Obraztsova, and Juilliard Dance Chair and former Alvin Ailey Principal Alicia Graf Mack are also offering classes. For scheduling, and, where necessary, sign-up information, go to their respective company or individual web sites, and Facebook or Instagram pages.
I expect to supplement the above as I obtain additional information, and would welcome the opportunity to include online class schedules by these and other dancers, or from companies. Please contact me at the email address that I have set up specifically to receive such information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Make no mistake. For audiences as well as for professional dancers, nothing is an adequate substitute for live performances. In particular, the loss from the inability to see performances, including especially anticipated and long-awaited role debuts that might provide memories to last a lifetime, is incalculable. But these online class offerings prove that there’s a silver lining to almost anything.