" I travel all around the country teaching master classes and seldom do I go into a school where the students are so well prepared as your dancers. They are very fortunate indeed to be receiving such fine training. "
– Jeremy Blanton, Southern Methodist University faculty member; former Artistic Administrator, American Ballet Theatre Studio Company; and former Artistic Director, Joffrey II Dancers.
The Ballet program at the Academy
The ballet program is carefully structured to promote the development of strength, flexibility, and artistic expression. Drawing on the European traditions of the classical ballet, the Academy directors have developed their own syllabus to move young students logically and securely through the stages of technical development. The Academy offers both an Intensive Program for those students who wish to progress toward pointe work, and an Enrichment Program for those students who wish to focus their training on other dance disciplines or use dance as a supplement to their sports involvement or other activities. Additionally, the Academy offers separate classes for older groups – one for adults and one for students in the middle grades and above – who have no previous training and wish to begin taking ballet classes.
For 3-4-year-olds, this is the first step for the young dancer, incorporating ballet movement in a semi-structured class using improvisation, musical play, and introducing the concepts of barre and center-floor work. Children typically take only one class per week, and sessions for this age group are shorter than the normal one-hour class. Children should be toilet-trained and developmentally ready to separate from their parent and participate in a group in order to enroll.
Elementary Levels I and II
For children 4 through 6 years of age, these classes instill the most basic skills of barre and center work at an age-appropriate level while developing strength, coordination, and musicality.
Ages indicated are approximate. Placement levels are decided based on the student's ability, and admission to any class is at the discretion of the instructor. Students 8 years or older without previous training, and those joining the Academy from other schools, must be evaluated in the studio for proper class placement.
Students ages 10 and up are evaluated on a regular basis to determine their readiness for pointe class, but neither age nor placement level is a guarantee of being invited to go on pointe at the Academy. Other variables that weigh in this decision are experience, basic alignment, and strength in ankles and back. To be considered for pointe, students must have been taking ballet classes for at least 3 years, at a minimum of 2 classes per week for the past 2 years. Students are notified by mail that they are eligible to begin studying on pointe, and Mrs. Logrea accompanies them to Beam & Barre (Greenwich, Connecticut) in January to supervise their first pointe-shoe fitting.
Conservatory and Children's Workshop
Conservatory class, an accelerated technique class for dancers enrolled at the Ballet IV, V and VI levels, is attended by invitation. Children's Workshop is a performance and repertory class focusing on character dance and, later in the term, provides an introduction to pointe work. Registration in Children's Workshop is by invitation from the Academy directors.
Intermediate and Advanced Levels
All class requirements apply to students in the Intensive Program. Students are not required to follow this schedule if they are not studying pointe or are not performing with Westchester Ballet Company. Students may enroll in any technique classes at or below their placement level. Taking class above the assigned placement level requires permission of the Academy directors.
Junior and Senior Workshops
Junior and Senior Workshops are performance and repertory classes, and registration is by invitation. Turn class and Pas de Deux (partnering) are advanced technique classes, also enrolled by invitation only.
Master classes and special workshops are offered at various times during the regular term. Academy students may be eligible to participate depending on their placement level. Noted teachers and performers who have taught in the past include Jeremy Blanton (former artistic administrator of American Ballet Theatre Studio Company), Russel Fratto (noted artistic consultant and dance educator), Ted Kivitt (noted teacher and former principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre), Natalia Stavro (former principal of the Bolshoi Ballet), Christine Spizzo, Marilyn Miles, and Valentin Bartes and Erica Oshono (principals of the Oshono Ballet Company in Japan). Most recently, intermediate and advanced students took master classes in the flamenco class as part of their repertory class, and the Academy is committed to making such opportunities available to its students whenever possible.