American Ballet Theatre
National Training Curriculum Launch
The Joyce Theater
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Lead Artistic Advisors, National Training Curriculum:
Franco De Vita and Raymond Lukens (ABTís JKO School Admin.)
Chairman, Medical Advisory Board:
Gary I. Wadler, MD, NYU School of Medicine
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 5, 2007
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Introduction: Kevin McKenzie
Technical Demonstration: Choreography by Raymond Lukens, Pianist: Mihoko Suzuki, Performed by Dancers from ABTís Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.
Panel Presentation-Training Curriculum: Rachel Moore, Exec. Director, Moderator
Panel Presentation-Guidelines for Dancer Health: Gary I. Wadler, MD, FACP, FACSM, FACPM, FCP, Chairman, ABT Medical Advisory Board, Clinical Assoc. Prof. of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, Moderator
This morning at The Joyce Theater, following an elegant breakfast in the downstairs lobby, Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, introduced both the National Training Curriculum and a new Masters Degree in Ballet Pedagogy at New York Universityís Steinhardt School, to begin in Fall 2008. Mr. McKenzie spoke informally and enthusiastically about the educational expansion of ABT, which was declared in 2006 to be Americaís National Ballet Company by the United States Congress. Now ABT has a written curriculum and a certification and examination system, which, in itself, will enable teachers of students, who pass the ABT exams, to become Affiliate Teachers, with special benefits for those teachersí students, such as early notice of auditions.
Following Mr. McKenzieís comments was a sparkling performance of 22 students from the JKO School at ABT, at the ballet barre and freely onstage, with Mihoko Suzuki at the piano, playing various selections sequentially and seamlessly. Students were varied in age and experience, and all were well rehearsed and buoyantly in motion. David Alvarez was featured in solos and later demonstrations, and he certainly has a bright future. Skylar Brandt has been noticed and favorably reviewed in The Sleeping Beauty and Le Corsaire.
Of the other JKO students, each had his/her unique personality and sense of poise that shone onstage with youthful fervor. Raymond Lukens, choreographer and on the JKO Staff, kept the motion flowing with elegant lines and lush changes from one ballet position or spatial level to another, using three ballet barres. The music picked up in volume and rhythm as the choreography progressed. Students entered and exited on cue with a thrilled attitude, so comfortable and confident.
Franco De Vita, JKO School Principal, and Raymond Lukens, Artistic Associate, ABT/NYU Masters Program, addressed the audience, comprised of dance educators, current and retired dancers, parents of JKO students, ABT Board members, faculty of NYU Steinhardt, and glitterati of the NYC ballet community. Mr. De Vita has been dancing onstage since the age of nine and performed with numerous European ballet companies. He has received awards and degrees, such as one from the Italian Ministry of Education. Mr. Lukens studied at the Harkness Ballet and danced in the American Classical Ballet. Later he became Director of Boston Ballet II and ballet master for Boston Ballet. Together they outlined a comprehensive program for ballet training and curriculum: in Summer Intensives, in the upcoming NYU Masters Degree Program, and in the various certification and exam systems.
A panel, moderated by ABT Executive Director, Rachel Moore, included Mr. De Vita, Mr. Lukens, and Dr. Lindsay Wright, an Assistant Dean at the NYU Steinhardt School. Some of the panelís comments reflected a need to create dancers with ďan acute eye for eclectic repertoireĒ. Mr. Lukens demonstrated on one dancer the difference between Italian, French, and Russian gestures, just from the position of the head. Mr. De Vita spoke about the difficulties of being en pointe, and Dr. Wright of NYU spoke of the integration of medical expertise and orthopedics to the physical training of young ballet students. Ms. Moore spoke about the raising of standards for dance teachers, and Mr. McKenzie spoke about summer intensives and ABT II studio company training.
The panel also mentioned the relevance of teachers knowing about modern dance and theater, as well as ballet, for genre contrast and theatrical elements. The curriculum guidelines also focus on student readiness and physical health. In addition, there is a new Capezio ABT Academy Collection of leotards and tights, the official uniform for ABTís training programs. Each level of training requires a different color of leotard, such as the pink, Pre-Ballet, the lavender Level II, and the black Level VII, the highest. A major component of the new Masters Degree-Teacher Training Program at NYU is the involvement of specialists in orthopedics and physiotherapy. Joining todayís panel were Dr. Gary Wadler and Dr. William Hamilton, both orthopedists, and Peter Marshall and Julie Daugherty, both physical therapists. They shared with the audience the nature of various stress fractures and strains that occur regularly from repetitive ballet rehearsals and performances. The audience was invited to ask questions.
Kudos to American Ballet Theatre for its innovation and organization in its National Training Curriculum Launch.