Working Slowly

A post that I made on Facebook recently resurfaced. I had completely forgotten about it…so I thought I’d share it here.

I can’t express how important I feel it is for students to work slowly. As You probably know, I did my initial training with Luigi. One of the most brilliant parts of the Luigi method was what he called the “style class”. He taught this class every day, Monday through Saturday at 11:00 AM. The first 45 minutes of the class was a painstakingly slow breakdown and explanation of the most important parts of the technique exercises. The students performed the exercises full out with Luigi during the explanation at this very slow tempo. Exploring not only what the exercises look like, but what they FEEL like. The second 45 minutes was devoted to a slow combination focusing on quality of movement, phrasing, musicality and line. What this class really was: A beginner class.

There seems to be, in our society, a stigma surrounding being in a beginner class or in a low level class. But by brilliantly calling it “style”, it was filled with professionals from Broadway, Ballet and the concert dance world, dancing along side amateurs (in the true sense of the word) and preprofessional students. Luigi’s ideas of ” dancing from the inside” ” feeling the space around you” “Feel first, then do” and “never stop moving ” all help students develop a beautiful quality of movement . The combination of these concepts with his beautiful technique exercises , helped create some of the most beautiful dancers the stage has ever seen .

This is, of course, how I teach the Luigi jazz technique. But I also use these concepts when teaching ballet. These ideas can be applied to any dance form, but I have always felt that they add polish, shimmer and nuance to ballet dancers. Indeed, many famous ballet dancers have studied with Luigi. In fact Paul Boos, former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet once told me that Balanchine paid, out of his own pocket, for some NYCB dancers to take class with Luigi. Much of how I teach ballet (and I did have a full preprofessional ballet education under Madame Gabriella Taub-Darvash) is founded in the Luigi Technique.

The idea of working this slowly in a jazz class will often seem alien to a lot of today’s students. In fact, a Luigi Jazz technique class might not even look like “Jazz” to a lot of today’s students. But I always tell new students that I am not teaching them a dance, I am teaching them HOW to dance. And part of learning how to dance is developing a beautiful quality of movement. Some students get it, some students don’t. But I love watching students explore this way of working for the first time. I recently taught at Kellie Gwaltney ‘s Chesco Dance Center in Pennsylvania. The students were beautifully trained dancers and they really seemed to “get it” and love it. If you present the concept of working slowly and simply as a new and exciting way to work, as a way of exploring possibilities, as a way to become a more expressive and nuanced dancer, it can be like opening a door to a whole new approach. And nothing could be more exciting.

One thought on “Working Slowly

  1. I totally agree – When I was studying my teacher had bad hip problems, He used a company member in his beginner classes to demonstrate. I was one of them – and re-learned so many technical movements by going slowly. It also helped my learn how to teach because when you get to the advanced level you really forget how you got there.

    Liked by 1 person

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