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Ballet Schools- Steps on Broadway Open Classes

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Dd would like to take an open ballet class at Steps while we are in NY. What are the ability levels in the various classes ( int/adv, adv,int etc.,) offered there? Which classes/levels would you recommend? Thanks! :angry:

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  • lampwick


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My daughter's favorites: Michael Vernon (long hard barre) and Fabrice Herrault. Vernon teaches during the week, every day I believe, at 1pm, where as Herrault is on the weekends. Both teachers demonstrate and are actively involved in their classes. Your daughter will probably find herself in class with a broad array of dancers - some recognizably famous, and others not... Always be sure, when the time comes, to check out the schedule updates on their website because it lists which teachers are out and who is covering. :wink:


As for those levels, such as Adv. Int vs Int Adv., they're all dependent on the teacher.


Nancy Bielski's class is a favorite with a number of more advanced SAB students only because she is very "fast". Burman's class is very advanced and mostly filled with a number of NYCB professionals. David Howard's class might be another good one, but he is not going to be giving too many individual corrections and he does not demonstrate. Howard's classes are at 10am during the week...


Have your daughter read the biographies of the teachers, too.:angry: It's a fun place, very hot in those studios on a warm day, don't leave anything in the hall - bring it inside the studio. The first time I went there, I felt as though I had stepped into a version of the bar scene in the Star Wars movie!:shrug:B)


P.S. There is a wonderful grocery store beneath Steps called Fairway - that's another New Yawk experience for you. :lol:

Edited by BW
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My daughter took David Howard's class while we were visiting NYC over the winter break. She enjoyed it -- and yes, it was broiling inside the studio! We recognized one dancer from ABT in the class. She also enjoyed shopping for a cute T-shirt in their boutique.

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If your daughter is not at the most advanced level, I would recommend Kathryn Sullivan. She has lots of experience teaching teenagers, gives a lot of individual attention (rare at Steps) and her classes are a good size.


The big-draw teachers have 30-40 students in every one of their classes and there's barely room to breathe as you line up to go across the floor. The barres are crowded and leg-lifting exercises are done in shifts. It's great to have the experience of being in class with the likes of Ethan Stiefel, Gillian Murphy, Julie Kent, Allegra Kent, Wendy Whelan, etc., but for getting something out of the class, I'd schedule some with the less popular teachers who really have time to instruct and correct.


For a real dynamo of a teacher, I recommend Emilietta Ettlin, who also pays attention to her younger students when she can. Her classes leave you breathless, literally! She is absolutely amazing. She also teaches a killer full floor barre as a separate class. If you take her ballet class, she will no doubt invite you to take her floor barre class to gain an understanding of the use of the inner thigh for placement, flexibility and turnout. After her floor barre, you'll think regular ballet class is a piece of cake!


For a more measured pace, Peff Modelski is a favourite with both professionals and students. And if you've read her column in Dancer Magazine, you know that she is an excellent ballet pedagogue and the logic of her classes displays this.


Fabrice Herrault gives a wonderful classical lesson, but you have to be quite advanced to handle it. He is a favourite, so his classes are well-attended. I love his soft-spoken manner and calm demeanour which belie the intensity of his class.


Another good advanced class with more room to move than in some others is taught by Alexander Tressor (son of Andrei Kramarevsky). This is a good choice for a first advanced class, since it emphasizes musicality, balance and stretching more than intricacy of steps. It's a nice "dance-y" class where you won't be so worried about being able to do the movements. He's also easygoing and amiable.


A real favourite of the professional dancer and advanced student is Wilhelm Burmann. His is probably the most regularly crowded class at Steps. It is difficult, but a very satisfying experience if you can keep up. As with anyone's class at Steps, you're there to work and be focused. Everyone is treated as an adult and as a serious student, although there is always room for a little light repartee between teacher and students to break the tense energy of the atmosphere.


And the atmosphere is charged at Steps! Between the dancers warming up in the hall waiting for their class to begin, to the jazz, modern and tap classes going on in studios between the ballet classes, to the banter among friends watching classes from the hallway (wear a tank top and shorts -- it gets hot in that hallway!), to the live music emanating from each studio's accompanist, to the well-known dancers hugging and chatting it up with each other in greeting between classes, to the funky interior of the space -- Steps is one happening place!


Steps has a new booklet at the beginning of each week, available at the sign-in counter, which has the full schedule for the week and who's teaching what. That booklet is your Bible for your days at Steps! Don't forget to take one, it's free.


As for the mothers accompanying their dancing daughters, of which I am one, they can spend class time in the Steps (air-conditioned) tiny cafe, walk up and across the street about a block to Starbucks, stop in at Citarella, an incredible 2-story modern deli/supermarket with absolutely wonderful fresh salads of all kinds, fruit, pastries, cheeses, etc., a block uptown at 75th (same side as Steps), or do what I do: watch class(es) from the doorway. It's a fascinating experience for us moms, too!

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Knock Knock. I just wanted to add my 2cents as a STEPS student.


Emilietta Ettlin has helped me more than any ballet teacher ever did. Your daughter could learn more in one day from her class than she’s learned in years of ballet, no exaggeration. She carefully builds each class around very helpful concepts. Her ballet class is listed as “advanced beginner”, but is appropriate for everyone through the most advanced levels. Emiletta privately coaches many young students from “big name” schools in New York and is good working with all ages. She can somehow construct a class which will benefit everyone from the recreational adult, to a serious 11 year old, to a professional dancer. She emphasizes working correctly from an anatomical perspective, while simultaneously building strength. In my humble opinion, she is the most talented teacher around, she LOVES to teach, and will be very available for any questions. Her class is not too crowded (they don’t know what they’re missing), and attracts a real mixed bag of ages and abilities. She really deserves more popularity. A real "secret weapon" for the lucky students who find her.


Yes, the floor barre can change your life. I wish I had before and after pictures.



Willy Burmann is another teacher whose knowledge I would completely trust and respect. His barre is extremely fast (it’s fairly “set”—so it “appears” like everyone is catching on quickly to his rapid fire demonstrations—but they’re just used to it). If you survive barre, his center really isn’t too hard. Simple adagio and tendu. Lots of difficult pirouettes in attitude en dehors, short and deceptive petit allegro (looks easy until you get all tangled up), and often a manege on Saturdays (you have to stay sharp and try to pick a group to go with will travel the same rate as you—the pros move a LOT more than you think) He’s got a dry sense of humor and is fairly blunt with the corrections. A self-effacing dancer who is serious about working, yet isn’t afraid to look bad will do best in this class. If your DD is insecure and takes things to seriously, she may be put off. He’s not mean, or a yeller or anything, just very dry sense of humor. A kid might not “get” it. I can tell that he really cares about his students and is a very thoughtful, talented teacher. No pretensions at all and is actually a friendly person. There are always famous dancers in his class so it would be fun for DD if she wanted that sort of experience. I really learn a lot in his class, both from him and from watching the other students.


Fabrice Herrault, David Howard, Michael Vernon…they’re all good. I like David Howard’s class but he doesn’t give any corrections. Challenging petit allegro and nice use of envelopee and pas de cheval at the barre to build rhythm. Fabrice gives a solid class with lots of turns and a broad sweeping use of the arms. Taste of a French style. Michael Vernon’s Int/Adv class is MUCH harder than his Beg/Int class. He gives quite a long barre. Good for basic work.


I’d be happy to give further hints if knew the age and experience of your kid.

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LRS, I think it's pretty obvious that there are going to be many opinions on this whole front. Everyone has a different idea, based upon their abilities and interests as to what is "good" or "better" or "advanced". :blink:


Just remember to remind your daughter that there is a very broad range of people in these classes: you and have a "little old lady" in her sweat shirt and dance skirt - even with pointe shoes on :o , next to a strapping young man, a gaggle of teenagers who are taking class during their prime school's break, to visiting dancers returning home from their companies, to middle aged :speechless: women who are doing their thing.


It's not scary for most - if anything it can be more relaxing. Play it by ear and wait till the time comes - you're daughter may be too tired from her YAGP activities to even think about anything else. :shrug:

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I am curious about the minimum age for these classes? Can advanced 14-15 year olds fit in? Are they rude to students who may get confused on a combination or two? Or could this type of student just stay to the back of the second group and blend in?

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Can advanced 14-15 year olds fit in?


This is New York City. Nobody fits in. BW is right. You'll get a little old lady who can barely stand up next to a 13 year old prepro student next to a principal dancer from ABT. Some classes more so than others, but a 14-15 year old advanced student will do just fine. Most teachers seem to enjoy having the young ones in class and give them some extra attention.

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No question about "advanced 14-15 year olds fitting in - and some 12 1/2 and 13 year olds. Have fun, follow ballet etiquette - such as waiting your turn to go across in center... And your younger dancers might even want to go up and introduce themselves to the teacher before the start of class. :flowers:

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to middle aged  women who are doing their thing

As a middle aged woman who has taken class at Steps there is every walk of life in class. The teachers were great and everyone just went into the class to get what ever they could out of it. No one seemed to mind the age range and in one of my classes it was 12 to 60+. I hear the old lady in red with the pointe shoes is quite famous. Like any place there were teachers that were fun and others that just taught didn't give much feedback but no one was mean.

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Have fun, follow ballet etiquette - such as waiting your turn to go across in center


Don't wait too long though. In some classes you'll never get a chance to go if you aren't a bit aggressive about getting your turn. These classes don't have neat lines which rotate. :flowers:

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These classes don't have neat lines which rotate. :flowers:

lampwick, could you please elaborate?

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