i do not come from a ballet or theater going family and where i get my obsession with ballet remains a mystery. i suppose i didn’t even know going to the ballet was a thing (tho i don’t guess there was much ballet in denver to go to back then) but i would always watch whatever ballets came on t.v. – which wasn’t much. of course this was long before youtube and all we got was a yearly nutcracker and the occasional “live from lincoln center” on PBS. as of now i can’t remember much of what i saw (it was a long time ago!) but i do have very clear memories of seeing martine van hamel and alexander gudonov (you know, the guy with the long blonde hair that bruce willis murders in die hard?) dancing excerpts from raymonda. i absolutely fell in love with martine. she was exquisite – not only for her incredible control and musicality but for her face! i was so taken with her wonderfully expressive face and from that moment she became my idol.
to make a short story long, a couple years later i moved to new york and began trying classes here and there in NYC (this was in the olden days when teachers all had their own studios instead of teaching out of Steps, or wherever) and eventually went to try class with maggie black. well, lo and behold, martine van hamel was in class and of course i was young and starstruck (now i’m old and can still get stupidly starstruck, but whatever…) and i decided “okay, this is where i’m taking class!” happily i loved maggie’s class, martine or no, as her placement theories and class structure were very similar to my previous training.
fast forward many (a lot of them non-dancing) years and 4 kids later, to where i am now teaching ballet, but fairly out of touch with the ballet world in general. somehow i got to wondering what martine van hamel might be doing now and with the brilliant invention of the internet it was easy enough to find out. and so i came to discover the kaatsbaan international dance center. kaatsbaan was founded by martine, kevin mckenzie, gregory cary and bentley roton primarily as a choreographic residency but in the summer they run a series of intensive workshops for students.
about this time we had some girls at our studio looking to go away to summer intensives so i suggested they consider kaatsbaan, not really knowing so much about it at the time but figuring with martine at the helm they couldn’t go wrong, and it was unlikely they would come home with any bad habits. (i’ve seen girls come back from intensives with forced turn out and rolled in feet and wonky hip placement and it’s very frustrating!)
so, over the last 4 or 5 years we’ve had several girls from our studio attend kaatsbaan’s “extreme ballet” and they always come back happy and looking wonderfully placed and beautiful. which brings us to today! today was the showcase performance for kaatsbaan’s third and final 2013 session and since we had one of our students performing (as well as one who is an R.A.) my friend, and fellow NBDT ballet staff member jacquie, and i decided to take a little day trip upstate to tivoli for the show. tivoli is a teeny tiny town about 2 hours north of NYC and kaatsbaan’s studios are situated on 150 acres of beautiful farmland. the back yard looks like this:
how inspiring! the showcase takes place in kaatsbaan’s studio theater and is wonderfully informal. martine introduces each piece before it’s performed and gives a bit of history or a synopsis. she also touches on the importance of learning to dance together as a corps de ballet, so frequently lost in these days of competitions, as well as learning stylistic nuances. well, i’m not going to give a review of the performance or anything like that but to say that all the dances performed today were extremely well done and a joy to watch! in addition to ballet, the dancers are also given training in modern dance and some form of character dancing (this year it was flamenco!! awesome!!) so we were treated to performances in these styles as well. wonderful!
after hugging and congratulating our lovely little ballerina after the show, jacquie and i had no great desire to head immediately home. instead, we wandered the grounds of kaatsbaan and discussed the beauty of nature, the beauty of martine van hamel and the beauty that such a happy and healthy training environment exists : )
for more info on kaatsbaan visit their website!