A recent interview and a new link to an online Magazine…http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwdance/article/BWW-Interviews-Stephanie-Saland-20140210
Another article to peruse: http://www.ballet-dance.com/201105/SalandMay2012.html
on the Robbins Award in NYC on September 30th,2011…http://jeromerobbins.org/foundation/jerome_robbins_award
For examples of classwork, a few videos follow from prior years at the Northwest Dance Intensives
Past Interviews : 2005 Fall Edition of Ballet Review and Pointe Magazine (April 2006) with Suzanne Farrell, Stephanie Saland and Susan Jaffe: Page 42..
- July 2006/Interview by Gigi Berardi
- Stephanie Saland is a former star of the New York City Ballet, where she danced from the Stravinsky Festival of 1972 to the Balanchine Festival of 1993. In addition to taking NYCB company class, Saland studied outside the School of American Ballet with Maggie Black and others. After leaving NYCB, she relocated to the Pacific Northwest, where she has been teaching for the past 13 years. Saland believes that ballet is about alchemy and experimentation as much as technique and repetition. Her classes are a mix of Balanchine and Stanley Williams, Qi Gong and Gyrotonic, yoga and cranial-sacral work. She guest teaches throughout the United States and internationally.What priorities do you have in mind for your classes? Exercises are important, but really they are just steps. Certainly, the sequence, construction, and timing of the exercises help to access and hone skills. The form must be attended to. Beyond that, my passion is to help illuminate the combinations with a sense of intention. My main goal is to have students define for themselves the desired effects, so that they can experience themselves in a non-restricted way. It’s a freedom to move that I’m trying to facilitate. I reject the traditional model where the students are just passive. For me, class is more like a workshop, with everyone participating fully.What about technique? I continue to be surprised by how much of Balanchine makes sense theatrically and technically. For example, the weight shifts in Apollo–it was all there in 1928. If you analyze how the movement was being used, you see that the technique is so incredibly contemporary. There was an emphasis on the connection from the heel to the pelvis, and on how to strengthen any slackness in the muscles. This way of working can become utterly refined. There’s nothing bombastic about it. The emphasis is on the transitions. Basically, we’re talking about a sensuality and a fantastically deliberate way of moving. So, all this keeps coming back to me–the emphasis on weight shift and how movement is initiated.
What can students expect from your classes? My classes are like an open-ended dialogue. Much of what I do is based on formats that I learned in acting class, or comedy improvisation. I use any number of devices to encourage the students to get lost in the movement–and the moment.The first thing I do is get a sense of the environment. I try to be aware and quiet enough to notice all the students. Sometimes it’s easy for a teacher to react to the large personalities in the room, but I don’t instantly hone in on “the talented one” or “the flexible one” and leave everyone else alone. Rather, I’m looking for those who truly want to learn and understand what it is I have to offer. The richest experience is to seek and nurture the particular gift of each student.What disciplines and practices inform your teaching? Usually, the last greatest thing I’m learning permeates my class. Last year, I focused on Qi Gong, and how one warms up using it. I’m not a master practitioner, but I find it fascinating. In warm-ups, you can create a softness in the joints and an expanded sense of inner space. It’s like having a slightly frosted ground, which you lightly rake to plant seeds. The ground then becomes more porous and fertile, opening up the dancer to new relationships with the movement. So, we do a shaking in the beginning of class, playing with different imagery. This allows me to check in with the students, and it lets me know what they’re thinking and feeling. It also creates a sense of community. That’s what I try to do–create these situations in a safe environment. And then we proceed to the technique part of class.Another practice I use is yoga. It grounds the students so well. I use eagle pose arms [in which the arms wrap around each other like a vine], which opens up the scapula and broadens the back. It helps to connect a line from the pubic synthesis to the elbows. It unifies the core, makes the back of the body wider, and helps with alignment.Who are your role models? I was very smitten with Gelsey Kirkland, and with Suzanne Farrell and Arthur Mitchell. Suzanne and Arthur won me over to ballet as I watched them in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. Suzanne was a model of reserve and fire. We were all in the Balanchine bubble, but still I went to see everybody dance: Plisetskaya, Makarova, Bausch, Bejart, Kylian.
What advice would you like to share with young dancers? One of the best strategies for longevity in dance, and maintaining sanity, is to always remind yourself of the bigger picture. Comparing rather than loving is incredibly harmful. Find it in your heart to acknowledge what is beautiful and valuable in yourself and in people around you. In the “reality” of the company or school situation, your peers are both colleagues and competitors. As a survival tactic, you can adopt another view. Rather than see dance as competition, you have the option to look at people around you and appreciate the gifts they have–embrace everybody’s beauty and look at your own particular glass as half full rather than half empty. Simply stated, you need to live in the moment.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Dance Magazine, Inc
- ” Beyond Technique””Teacher’s Wisdom” Dance Magazine