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WITH TAMARA ROJO, BRIAN MALONEY & TIM MATIAKIS e Royal Opera House, 30 January 2003.
For the fi rst time the Ballet Association held its ent to cut Gelsey Kirkland’s hair when working with her in New York. However, a back problem prevented him very special meeting. David Howard, a regular guest from continuing in a hairdressing career. teacher with the Royal Ballet, gave a private demonstra- e millionairess, Rebekah Harkness, was starting tion of his teaching methods. Before the class began, he spoke about his career and his teaching methodol- ing on a kinaesthetic way of teaching. Th e meeting sold out within a few days of being ing for potential teachers to train. David went to New announced. Unfortunately, poor weather conditions York in 1966, intending to return to England to teach meant that some with tickets were unable to get to the jazz dance, but he is still in New York. meeting. However, the meeting was still the largest in the Association’s history. At the age of 26 or 27, he stopped David was joined by Tamara Rojo, Brian Maloney and Tim Matiakis, who had generously agreed to give dancing. He became a hairdresser’s up an evening to participate in the class. David Howard apprentice, later using this talent to cut had worked extensively with Tamara and Brian both Gelsey Kirkland’s hair when working with here and in America, where he is based. He had worked with Tim over a period of time, when he was recovering from an injury. Sometimes David works with dancers up to 8 p.m., an indication of their commitment, and e kinaesthetic method is about bio-mechanics, not just pedagogy. It is a diff erent method of training, in David Howard trained, not with the Royal Ballet parallel with the Russian, English and Cecchetti meth- School, but with the Cone-Ripman School, later the Arts ods. It works on picture positions and seeks to explore Educational School. He had wanted to join the Royal how the body connects. It works from the feeling to the Ballet from the age of 15, but he did not want to go to the school. In 1954 he won the Adeline Genée medal, but he David Howard stayed at the Harkness School of began dancing in the commercial theatre. Subsequently Ballet until 1977, coaching Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail he received a letter from Dame Ninette de Valois, Baryshnikov amongst others. One day he went into the expressing concern that a winner of the Adeline Genée ce, to hear that he was bringing a lot of money into medal was dancing in the commercial theatre. She invit- the school. At the time he was earning $125 per week for ed him to meet her in Stratford-on-Avon and off ered a seven day week. He was off ered a $25 raise, so he left .
him a place in the Sadler’s Wells Ballet. He danced with Shortly aft erwards, he opened his own studio them for seven years, from 1957 to 1963. His fi rst salary in New York, with an initial fi t-out of $15,000 and an was only £7 per week and soon he had spent all the sav- ings he had accumulated from the commercial theatre. many years, but by 1995 the rent had risen to $31,000 He left in 1963, to join the National Ballet for Canada, per annum. He was spending too much time in fund- but shortly thereaft er returned to London. He spent raising and he closed the school to teach internationally.
time dancing in cabaret across Europe and appeared in Since then he has travelled around the world as a freelance teacher, including regular visits to the Royal At the age of 26 or 27, he stopped dancing. He Ballet. He is interested in other aspects of training. In became a hairdresser’s apprentice, later using this tal- 1982 he produced his fi rst CD for a ballet class. Now he has 125 CDs available and 16 videos. His own shoe • cushioning – through all the joint areas of the body – is about to come out for Prima Soft , a company in America he is signing an exclusive contract with to rep- • landing – with a feeling of sound in the body, toe to resent their ballet slippers, pointe shoes and dancewear.
David told us that a dancer has to be a short, mid- dle and long distance runner, a high and long jumper • usage of eyes, horizontal vision.
and a hurdler. A dancer must be well-proportioned, look beautiful and be willing to work for very little He was now running training programmes for dance e fi nancial situation is particularly diffi teachers all over the world. He was working with in America, where dancers are constantly laid off for ting up a teacher training program and school in New A teacher is aware of the diff erent shapes and sizes of a dancer’s body: the shape of their head, the width of When class begins at 9.30 a.m., there is a general their shoulders, the length of their arms, the shape of rehearsal. It begins at 10.30 on other days. Royal Ballet classes last 1 hour 15 minutes, whereas American Ballet legs can be long, medium or short; bow-legged, hyper- eatre classes last an hour and 30 minutes. Class at the extended or knock-kneed. Many dancers have been born in the wrong bodies at the wrong time! Very sad.
Music is important for class and David pays pia- nists well. Class music is not for listening, but for work-ing. Th e music must provide impetus and drive, for the a dancer has to be a short, middle and dancers to work against. For the class, he used one of his long distance runner, a high and long own CDs – “A Covent Garden Class,” played by Stephen jumper and a hurdler. A dancer must be is included an interesting range of music, including “Giselle’s Last Tango,” a tune from Giselle in well-proportioned, look beautiful and be willing to work for very little money. Aft er talking us through various barre exercises, Nowadays dancers must encompass a huge span of David asked his dancers to undertake a couple of fl oor movement from the romantic style to modern masters, exercises, which were performed in silence, without such as Martha Graham, Paul Taylor and Twyla Th music. He told us that this was unconventional in class, Dancers must tackle Balanchine’s Th but these exercises were for strengthening and stretch- e Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote. Th ing. Sylvie Guillem, probably the most fl exible dancer must change styles, be profi cient in all areas, embrace in the world, was very willing to participate in fl oor David told us that class should be varied with dif- work with dancers who have trained classically.
ferent combinations, providing food for the mind and David Howard took us through the principles of ese days, many dancers work with weights. movement under the kinaesthetic approach: Gelsey Kirkland, who had a very powerful body, tough thin, being under a 100 lbs, worked with 10 weights on each, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., seven days a week. She • balanced place – maintaining equilibrium in that place was so strong that when she stood fi rm, four boys were • control area – your range of movement • back – to be kept as wide as it can, since it contains the As David moved into the allegro section of class, he identifi ed two purposes, strengthening the body and • state of neutral – dancers are always fi dgeting and want building a vocabulary of steps. Dancers might choose • release – dancers breathe shallowly to avoid heavy was relatively limited. He told us that good choreogra- breathing and pulsating stomachs; teachers seek to phers invent steps, whereas bad choreographers merely arrange them. Also class must become aerobic so that • circles of movement, over and under – teachers must the information gets into the nervous system.
train these feelings, not train them out; natural dancers Tamara put on pointe shoes for the allegro section must assume fi gures of eight and 3/4 circular rhythms; of class. David told us that thirty years ago, not many the folkloric feeling of Latin Americans is a natural dancers had ever worn pointe shoes for class, whereas part of the kinesthetic approach (Tamara Rojo laughs) nowadays it was very common. Some dancers turn bet- • levels of gravity – the plié is not the answer to everything ter on pointe, some on demi-pointe. Some say it is easier to turn on pointe, but Tamara told us that only the boys dancing four performances of Swan Lake every week for David likes his pianist to push the rhythm in the allegro section and told us that sometimes the dancers of performing on stage, so that they built up less fear. approach the pianist secretly, asking him to play slower, Madam (Dame Ninette de Valois) was always watching so that they have time to fi nish their turns. Rhythms from her box and it was nerve racking, because she was tend to be faster in New York classes, refl ecting the very stern. George Balanchine watched performances “American physicality.” David demonstrated both styles from the wings. He had a diff erent relationship with the of exercise, fi rstly pushing the rhythm and secondly dancers, maybe refl ecting his closer involvement with slowing the rhythm to allow the dancer time to fi nish.
them as a working choreographer. Madam had relin- A member asked whether the dancers took class, quished choreography by the time David was danc- whilst on holiday. David told us that it was a matter of ing with the company, but he had danced in Madam’s personal preference. Tamara spent some weeks of her Summer holiday each year, working with David in New Checkmate (appearing with arms fl ailing as a Castle)! York. She had fl own into New York on the morning of In David’s day, the company consisted almost entirely of English dancers, all of them trained in the same style. Now the company was diff erent, very het-erogeneous. For example, Tamara Rojo was from Spain, David likes his pianist to push the Brian Maloney was from California and Tim Matiakis rhythm in the allegro section and told us that sometimes the dancers approach the David referred to Tim Matiakis’s unexpected appearance in Sinfonietta the previous week. He had pianist secretly, asking him to play slower, been summoned back to the Opera House from the so that they have time to fi nish their turns. underground, aft er Ivan Putrov had sustained an inju-ry during Scènes de ballet. David also thanked Brian Some dancers continue to work out long aft er Maloney, for taking part in the class, given that he would they have retired from the stage. David cited Natalia be making his debut as Lescaut with Sylvie Guillem and Makarova and Allegra Kent, formerly of the New York Laurent Hilaire in the following evening’s performance City Ballet, who spends time in the swimming pool and at age 66 is in much better shape than many youngsters.
David Bain thanked David Howard for a very Asked what roles he had danced with the Royal informative and entertaining presentation and thanked Ballet, David told us Benno in Swan Lake, a friend of Tamara Rojo, Brian Maloney and Tim Matiakis, for giv- the Prince in Cinderella, the Moon in Blood Wedding, ing up their free time for us. Response to the meeting the Foxtrot in Façade, the Spanish Dance in the 1950s has been enthusiastic, with many members requesting production of Swan Lake with Leslie Hurry designs.
David told us that, in his day, the home and tour- ing company were integrated as one entity. Aft er a spell Reported by Kenneth Leadbeater, checked by David at the Royal Opera House, you might go out on tour,
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