An interview with Kara, a student at the Professional Children's School
132 West 60th Street
NY, NY 10023
Head of School, Dr. James Dawson
John Tucker, Coordinator of Public Relations
Carol Kleban, Principal
By Robert Abrams
March 4, 2003
Photo by John Tucker
Robert Abrams: What styles of dance do you do?
Kara: I am a ballet dancer.
RA: What types of ballet do you focus on?
K: I study the Balanchine technique, which is a derivative of the classical technique. I am thirteen now and I have been studying dance since I was eight at the School of American Ballet (SAB).
RA: If you had to describe Balanchine technique to a person on the street who knows nothing about ballet, what would you tell them?
K: Balanchine technique is quicker than classical. In addition, Balanchine technique is also very musical. Balanchine restyled some of the original dance positions. For instance, in classical ballet technique, in fourth position you use two bent knees before turns, while in Balanchine technique you only have one bent knee in fourth position before turns.
RA: What have you performed?
K: I am a veteran of the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker. I have performed as a child in this production for the past five years. However, this was my last year performing as a child in the Nutcracker. I have reached a level where you are not supposed to perform as a child, partly because I am almost the same height as some company members.
RA: What do you hope to do next with your dancing?
K: I am currently in an intermediate level at SAB. Basically, I will be studying for the next three to four years trying to improve my technique. When I get to D level…
RA: Could you explain what you mean by levels?
K: There are five children's levels at SAB (1-5). In levels B 1 and 2 (intermediate level)), there is no performing. We focus on improving our technique at school. When you reach the next level, C 1, there is also no performing, but you are considered an advanced student. At levels C 2 and D, you are an advanced student and you perform in Stamford, CT, as well as in the school's workshop performance. After this, you graduate into a company or go to college.
RA: What are you doing to improve your own dancing?
K: I go to a lot of classes each week. You want to get solid technique in these years so that when you get into a company, it is not only about technique: this is now second nature. I want to get everything perfect, so it is second nature.
RA: What is it like to be a ballet student?
K: We come into class. We work as hard as we can. The teachers are excellent. What ever is not perfect, teachers are there to help you get perfect. We repeat combinations over and over again so that they become second nature. The students' responsibility is to be focused. The teachers are there to help us become better dancers.
RA: How do you juggle your dance training with being a student?
K: I used to go to a private school in New York City. Most of the other students were able to go home and focus on homework. Here [at Professional Children's School] every student has a passion they are pursuing. You get what any other great school would give you in academics, but every other student has the same kind of after school responsibility. The teachers are more understanding [than they would be at a regular school]. They understand that it is pilot season or Nutcracker season. You always have to do your work, but the assignment sheets have flexibility that accommodates our schedules. I haven't had to go on Guided study, but I could if I needed to.
RA: What is Guided study?
K: Students who need to be away for more than a few days can keep up with classes by telephone or email.
RA: What particular ballets inspire you?
K: I go every Friday night to see the New York City Ballet. Every performance is inspiring. Almost all of the ballerinas have come through two years at the School of American Ballet. They are all beautiful.
RA: I have also been to many of the ballets this season, so I understand it can be difficult to pick a favorite. Can you pick one ballet and explain why it inspires you?
K: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue by Balanchine is my favorite. It is Broadway-ish and showy. I have seen the tape of Arthur Mitchell and Suzanne Farrell in the original production, which was wonderful. Still, every year the ballet gets better and better. It has ballet and jazz and tap. It has a story to it. It leaves you with an optimistic happy feeling.
RA: Is there a dancer who inspires you?
K: All of the New York City Ballet dancers bring something special.
RA: If you could pick one dancer you would like to be like in two or three years, who would that be?
K: Alexandra Ansanelli - she went to Professional Children's School - is a solist with the New York City Ballet. She can do any part and be so beautiful in it. She can identify with each character and bring something special to each role. She is beautiful to watch. She is one of the most gifted dancers in the New York City Ballet. And she is such a lovely person.