August 10, 2023
An SAB Student’s Perspective on The Beauty of Ballet
Every year, the School of American Ballet travels throughout New York City presenting The Beauty of Ballet —a series of lecture demonstrations that introduce children of all ages to the art of ballet. Led by faculty member Katrina Killian, The Beauty of Ballet is one of the best opportunities for NYC communities to catch a glimpse of how ballet dancers are trained in our studios. The SAB students are always enthusiastic about the chance to inspire the next generation of dancers, and we asked Pramit – a student in SAB’s advanced division – to share a bit about his experience taking part in the program over the past two years.
“It’s a very full circle moment to have kids looking up to you and being so curious about you after you perform,” he says. “Particularly for me, going into the boroughs and seeing a lot of South Asian people in the audience is really special… I think it’s clear that after seeing this performance, the kids seem more enthusiastic about wanting to pursue dance than they would have been if they didn’t have that exposure.”
Each lecture demonstration starts off with a condensed version of a typical ballet class taught at SAB. Ms. Killian leads students through barre work and a center demonstration followed by pointe work and partnering. Crowd participation is encouraged, giving budding ballerinas an opportunity to join in with SAB students as they attempt some ballet basics.
A series of performance excerpts from popular ballets follows, highlighting how the skills and techniques previously demonstrated translate into choreography. The Nutcracker, Stars and Stripes, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Agon are all included in the presentation.
This year’s program included the male duet from George Balanchine’s Agon which stands out to Pramit as a key demonstration of the fluidity given to male dancers in the Balanchine style: “I think when a lot of people think of ballet, especially people who haven’t been exposed to it, they often think it’s just a lot of tutus and traditional male and female norms. But including repertory such as Agon really challenges those pre-concieved notions because it’s not traditional.”
This portion of the ballet, which is set to music by Igor Stravinsky, features two male dancers who are dancing together in a kind of musical canon.
“They’re supporting each other,” Pramit explains, “neither taking a particularly masculine or feminine role. They’re neutral to each other. And it makes for a really compelling piece that most young children aren’t likely to have seen before.”
It was in fact videos of a solo performance from Agon that originally sparked the love of ballet for Pramit: “I wasn’t necessarily interested in ballet at all at first, but then I saw videos of Agon, and I was so inspired by how expressive the dancers were. At the time, I thought ballet was very stiff and men had to be very stoic, only partnering and lifting. But for the first time, I got a feeling of like, ‘Oh, I can do something like this.’” The mission of The Beauty of Ballet is to give the same inspiration to the children in our audience.
Our program ends with a dancer Q&A, giving the crowd an opportunity to talk with students about their ballet training and life at SAB. While often the questions asked by young audience members elicit laughter from the adults, it’s a heartwarming moment of connection between our student performers and potential performers of the future. Having these simple dialogues we hope will spark an interest in the art form that can last a lifetime.
We have one more performance left of our 2023 The Beauty of Ballet lecture demonstrations on Sunday, March 18 at 2 PM at The City College Center for the Arts in Harlem. We hope to see you there!
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and by grants from the Rose M. Badgeley Residuary Charitable Trust and The Cestone Family Foundation.