Saturday, August 6, 2011

Alexandra at The San Francisco Ballet School

Alexandra and Friends in Front of the SFB Building
This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to attend San Francisco Ballet School to train in their Summer Intensive.  It was such an incredible, life-changing experience and I made friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

Although I was super excited to be able to attend such a world-renowned program, I was also a little nervous.  I knew that everybody was going to be amazing because it is a hard program to get into and along with such talent can come big personalities and sometimes even bigger egos.  But as soon as I reached the dorms, I was welcomed by cheerful chaperones and kind-hearted dancers.

We resided at the San Francisco State University campus during our stay in the city. I was both surprised and overjoyed to see that the bedrooms, lounge areas and bathrooms were all nicer than standard dorms.  Students of the SFB Summer Intensive stayed on the 2nd and 3rd floors of Mary Park Hall, just one of the many dorm buildings at SFSU. Mary Park Hall was walking distance to a shopping mall, bus stops and college common areas that include restaurants, a book store and also the school’s cafeteria.

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (commute and freedom in the city):
The commute from the dorms to the San Francisco Ballet studios was long. However, this was one of my favorite parts of my experience because I could really get a feel for traveling around the beautiful city of San Francisco.  Every day we walked through campus to the MUNI bus-stop to catch our ride. After boarding the MUNI, a public transportation system (half subway, half bus), we would travel about 40 minutes to our destination where we walked 6 blocks through the city until we reached the gorgeous company studios. Overall, the commute took about an hour.
Alexandra in the SFB Studios
Students were definitely not held back from exploring San Francisco.  We were given the freedom to go anywhere as long as we did not miss class or curfew.  Besides the studios where there was lots to see, we were able to take trips to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square and experience the beauty, art and unique personality of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Ballet School facilities are gorgeous. All studios have wood flooring, multi-level bars, and a ton of natural light. There was even one particular studio that had floor to ceiling windows that gave you a view of the city. It was really nice to be able to dance and still see the day go by outside.
What was amazing was that I was able to dance in the same building as the professional company, San Francisco Ballet. The first floor of the building was the lobby, second floor was the ballet school, third floor was offices, and the fourth floor was the company’s rehearsal and class studios. A few times, I was lucky enough to take class in one of the studios on the fourth floor. What was crazy was that we were able to watch company classes and rehearsals whenever we wanted. One of my favorite ballet dancers, Maria Kochetkova, is a principal with the company. The highlight of my summer was being able to actually watch a dancer, who is my biggest inspiration dance and rehearse!  I also saw other remarkable dancers including Yuan Yuan Tan, Vanessa Zahorian, Sofiane Sylve, Frances Chung, Sarah Van Patten, Luke Willis, Pierre-Fran├žois Vilanoba, and Davit Karapetyan.  It really helped me realize how badly I want to become a professional ballet dancer, possibly even with San Francisco Ballet. Also, after watching them in rehearsal and class showed me the hard work it takes to make everything look so effortless on stage.  It is just like how hard we as students work to get to the next level.  I was humbled to be able to dance in the same place as such amazing artists.
Along with challenging Ballet and Pointe classes daily we were also able to take Pas de Deux, Pilates, Contemporary, Character and Repetoire classes. We were even able to learn some company repertoire, such as William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated” and “Artifacts Suite”. We also learned more classical works like Paquita Pas de Trois and others.
The teachers were top-notch and were not only focused on technique but also on dancer’s artistry and use of upper body.  Some of my favorite teachers were Tina LeBlanc and Sherri LeBlanc, Shannon Bresnahan, Pascale Leroy, Jeffrey Lyons and Wendy Van Dyck.

The dancers I met were some of the most amazingly nice and interesting people I have ever met.  They came from all over the world and all had all had a very strong work ethic, but knew how to have fun.  I was impressed by the diversity of the students and although all were extremely talented, there were many different body types and strengths represented in the dancers at this Summer Intensive.  Even more surprising to me was the fact that these dancers were all friendly and modest about their extraordinary talent in dance.
I am deeply grateful to have had the experiences I did this summer at San Francisco Ballet Summer Intensive.  It is a wonderful company and school. It gave me a much better idea of what I am working towards and why it is so important to keep my focus and attention on ballet and my future.  I would return to San Francisco Ballet in a heartbeat!

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