By Kate Feinberg Robins, PhD
Racial equity within ballet and capoeira has always been an important part of our mission at Find Your Center. It is implicit in everything we do. The events of the past few weeks have led us to realize that we need to make this work more explicit:
We believe that race and social justice are relevant in all of the work that everyone does every day, not just during moments of crisis. Joining together in protest, advocating for justice, and demanding humane policies are our duty as citizens, in whatever forms these actions take for each of us. Beyond this, our everyday work needs to be guided by respect, compassion, a willingness to see, and a willingness to listen.
We are committed to bringing social justice explicitly into our dance and martial arts curricula from here on out. We want every student at Find Your Center to be able to express, in age-appropriate ways, issues of racial inequity in the arts they are learning. All of our students should be able to appreciate the struggles and contributions of Black dancers and martial artists, as well as other marginalized groups.
Teaching Race in the Dance Classroom
As an anthropologist running a dance school, I recognize that I am possibly in a unique situation. Most dance teachers are not trained to facilitate discussions of race. I believe that needs to change, and I hope that the work we are doing at Find Your Center will help change it.
Predominantly Black dance schools and companies like Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey do not have the luxury of not talking about race. It is a privilege of predominantly white dance schools to be able to remain silent. White dancers cannot continue to put the burden on our students and colleagues of color to educate us about their experiences. We need to make sure that our students see. We need to give our students space to talk respectfully, space to remain silent, and space to express their complex emotions through movement.
We must make mistakes—and correct them—in order to learn. This is true in dance and martial arts, and it is true in discussing race and inequality. We don’t always know what to say. Sometimes we hurt each other without realizing it. Our job as teachers is to make our classrooms supportive spaces where we can call each other out on our mistakes, correct them, and learn.
Using Dance to Teach and Discuss Race
Art is a powerful tool for communicating experiences that we don’t know how to talk about. As an art whose canvas is the body, dance is a particularly powerful tool for conveying the kinds of unspeakable acts that we as a society are grappling with now—brutality, genocide, claiming ownership of other people’s bodies. Dance performances that address these issues can serve as prompts for discussions and reflection on racial injustice in churches, homes, and workplaces, not just dance schools.
Dance is also a powerful tool for communicating emotions and encouraging children to express their emotions in productive ways. Some children are experiencing racial tensions personally and emotionally, while others have little awareness of them. Dance videos can serve as inspiration, permission, and an invitation for children to share emotions they may not understand.
By sharing and valuing the contributions of Black artists in ballet and capoeira, we also teach our children to look up to Black role models. We make race visible. We don’t allow ourselves to look the other way.
Lesson Plans for Teaching Race through Ballet and Capoeira
Stay tuned for more blog posts on how to bring race and social justice into your dance and capoeira classrooms in age-appropriate ways.
By Kate F Robins and DeShawn "Quiabo" Robins
For Spring Break next week, we're sending our students recommended ballet, capoeira, and flamenco movies to enjoy at home. We found most of these on YouTube, and many are available on other streaming services as well (Netflix, Amazon, etc).
Recommended Ballet Movies
A Ballerina's Tale (unrated/ all ages)
The Company (PG13/ all ages)
Billy Elliot (R for language/ all ages)
Leap (PG/ kids)
White Nights (PG13/ adults)
Black Swan (R/ adults)
Recommended Capoeira Movies
Only the Strong (PG13/ all ages)
Fight Science - Stealth Fighters by National Geographic (all ages)
Mestre Xuxo - Enjoy Yourself (available on Amazon; all ages)
Undisputed 3: Redemption (R/ adults)
The Protector (R/ adults)
Recommended Flamenco Movies & Productions
Flamenco Flamenco by Carlos Saura (unrated/ all ages)
El Amor Bruja by Carlos Saura (PG/ all ages)
Flamenco Hoy by Carlos Saura (all ages)
Carmen by Carlos Saura & Antonio Gades, Teatro Real de España (all ages)
By Kate Feinberg Robins
Una Transición Suave
Find Your Center transicionó suavemente de clases en nuestra escuela a clases virtuales apenas el Gobernador Inslee anunció las clausuras de las escuelas de Washington el día 13 de marzo. Para lunes 16 ya estábamos enseñando todas nuestras clases en sus horarios programados, conectándonos virtualmente con nuestros estudiantes desde nuestro nuevamente configurado “estudio en casa.” Desde el principio hemos tenido un salón virtual seguro, monitoreado para que no entre nadie que no esté inscrito en la clase. Nunca hemos compartido fotos o videos de casas ajenas y no lo haremos sin permiso explícito.
Durante estas dos semanas, hemos entregado la misma instrucción de alta calidad en grupos pequeños que nuestros estudiantes nos han llegado a esperar, a través de las reuniones en línea. Aunque no podemos ofrecer nuestro estudio espacioso, piso de baile profesional, barras de ballet y bolsa de patadas, hemos aprovechado de la oportunidad de enseñar a nuestros estudiantes cómo practicar en sus propios espacios en sus casas.
Nuestras clases siguen siendo interactivas, respondiendo y adaptándanos a las necesidades de cada estudiante en cada clase. Hemos creado coreografía colaborativa en Ballet para Niños, corregido la técnica de nuestros estudiantes a través de conversaciones en video, compartido letras de canciones en português en nuestra pizarra virtual para Música de Capoeira, y sobre todo disfrutado de bailar, mover, cantar y estar juntos.
Seguimos enseñando el mismo programa de estudios que ofrecimos en nuestro estudio (lo que se puede ver en nuestras descripciones de clases en www.FindYourCenterPasco.com/classes). Seguimos registrando el desarrollo de habilidades de cada estudiante a través del portal estudiantil en línea, preparando las presentaciones estudiantiles para el verano, y personalizando nuestra instrucción para cada estudiante y cada grupo.
Agradecemos a nuestros estudiantes y familias por su colaboración en esta transición. Mantener nuestro horario regular de clases nos ha permitido a nosotros y a nuestros estudiantes a encontrar estabilidad en nuestras vidas cotidianas durante tiempos de mucha inseguridad. Cada día anticipamos la hora en que podemos ver y trabajar con nuestros estudiantes, y esperamos seguir viéndoles por muchos días que vienen.
Bienvenidos a Nuevos Alumnos Cercas y Lejanos
Mientras la circunstancias actuales han necesitado que algunas familias salieran de nuestra escuela hasta poder reunirnos nuevamente cara a cara, también hemos podido dar la bienvenida a nuevos estudiantes en nuestro salón virtual.
Nuestras inscripciones siempre son mes a mes y abiertas durante todo el año. Estudiantes nuevos se pueden juntar en cualquier momento inscribiéndose en el sitio web www.FindYourCenterPasco.com.
Esperamos que esto sea una oportunidad para reconectar con antiguos estudiantes que ya no viven en el área Tri-Cities, con seguidores de Find Your Center que viven lejos, y con cualquiera que no haya podido juntarse a nuestras clases en persona. Una vez que podamos volver a tener las clases regulares en nuestro estudio, nos comunicaremos con los alumnos de distancia para retirarse de las clases, o para seguir enseñándoles a través de secciones en línea.
Nuestras descripciones de clases, horarios y precios se pueden encontrar en www.FindYourCenterPasco.com/classes.
Mirando Hacia Adelante
Tenemos varios talleres y presentaciones programadas para este verano y otoño. Manténte al tanto para las fechas y detalles. Esperamos tener a todos de vuelta en nuestro estudio para la Presentación Estudiantil de Verano en junio. Siempre hemos hecho presentaciones simples, así que mientras podamos juntarnos, ¡el espectáculo seguirá!
Por mientras, necesitamos seguir pagando la renta para poder tener un estudio a donde podremos volver. Hemos estado abiertos por poco más de dos años, y dependemos de los pagos mensuales de los estudiantes para sostener nuestra escuela. Tenemos una próspera comunidad de estudiantes que se han juntado para seguir aprendiendo y entrenando en línea, y esperamos que juntos podremos superar esta situación y regresar a nuestro estudio antes de que pase mucho tiempo.
Sin importar si te juntes o no a las clases de Find Your Center, recomendamos que tomes un poco de tiempo cada día para centrarte entre medio de los cambios diarios y la inseguridad que todos estamos experimentando. Haz ejercicio, medita, crea arte—haz lo que tú necesitas para poder enfocar en tu propio bienestar.
Find Your Center ofrece recursos gratis en línea a través de nuestro canal de YouTube (Find Your Center - Pasco, WA on YouTube), página de Facebook (facebook.com/FindYourCenterPasco) y blog (www.FindYourCenterPasco.com/blog). Puedes utilizar estos recursos para entrenar solo, mirar espectáculos inspiradoras, leer sobre la historia y las teorías de aprendizaje, encontrar recursos recomendados para la meditación, libros empoderadores para niños y más.
También recomendamos que tomes un poco de tiempo sin pantallas y conexiones virtuales para estar presente contigo mismo y con los que viven en tu casa. Para poder estar presente en nuestras comunidades, nuestras naciones y nuestro mundo, es necesario mantenernos centrados y sanos.
Entre medio de las luchas existen grandes oportunidades—de surgir como una sociedad más unida y compasiva; disfrutar de la compañia de las personas con las que vivimos; reconectar con los amigos cercas y lejanos. Hasta las oportunidades más cotidianas—de encontrar maneras de seguir bailando y jugando capoeira en los espacios pequeños de nuestras casas—pueden ser justo lo que necesitamos para poder tomar un descanso, centrarnos y resurgir listos para dirigirnos a los desafíos sin precedente que todos estamos enfrentando juntos en este momento.
By Kate Feinberg Robins
A Smooth Transition
Find Your Center transitioned smoothly from in-person to online classes as soon as Governor Inslee announced statewide school closures on March 13. By Monday, March 16 we were holding all of our classes at their regularly scheduled times, connecting with students virtually from our newly set-up home studio. From the beginning we've had a secure virtual classroom, monitoring our door so that only enrolled students can enter. We have never shared photos or videos of other people's houses and will not do so without explicit permission.
Over the past two weeks, we have delivered the same high quality, small group instruction through our online meetings that students have come to expect from us. While we can't offer our spacious studio, sprung marley floor, ballet barres and kick bag, we have been taking advantage of the opportunity to teach students how to practice in their own spaces at home.
Our classes continue to be interactive, responding and adapting to the needs of each student in each class. We've created collaborative choreography in Children's Ballet, corrected students' technique through video chat, shared Portuguese lyrics on our virtual white board for Capoeira Music, and overall enjoyed dancing, moving, singing, and being together.
We're continuing to teach the same curricula that we offered in our studio (outlined in our class descriptions at www.FindYourCenterPasco.com/classes). We continue to track students' skill development through our online student portal, to prepare for summer presentations, and to personalize our instruction for each individual student and each group meeting.
We would like to thank our students and families for helping to make this transition smooth. Maintaining our regular class schedule has enabled us and our students to find stability in our daily lives during uncertain times. Each day, we look forward to seeing and working with our students, and we hope to continue for many days to come!
Welcoming New Students Near and Far
While the current circumstances have led some families to withdraw until we are able to meet again in person, we have also been happy to welcome new students into our virtual classroom.
Our enrollment is always month to month and open year-round. New students can join at any time by signing up at www.FindYourCenterPasco.com.
We hope this will be an opportunity to reconnect with past students who no longer live in the Tri-Cities area, with Find Your Center fans who live far away, and with anyone who has been unable to join our classes in person. Once we are able to move regular classes back into our studio, we'll touch base with our distance learners to either unenroll or continue teaching online-only sections of some of our classes.
Class descriptions, schedules, and tuition rates can be found at www.FindYourCenterPasco.com/classes.
We have several workshops and presentations planned for this summer and fall. Stay tuned for dates and details. We hope to have everyone back in the studio for our Summer Student Performance in June. We have always kept our student performances simple, so as long as we are able to get together, the show will go on!
In the meantime, we do need to continue paying rent in order to have a studio to go back to. We have been in business for just over two years now, and we count on monthly tuition payments for our school to be self-supporting. We have a thriving community of students who have come together to continue learning and training online, and we hope that together we'll get through this and return to our studio before too long.
Whether or not you join Find Your Center classes, we urge you to take some time each day to center yourself in the midst of the daily changes and uncertainty that we are all experiencing. Exercise, meditate, create art—do what you need to do to focus on your own wellness.
Find Your Center offers free online resources through our YouTube channel (Find Your Center - Pasco, WA on YouTube), Facebook page (facebook.com/FindYourCenterPasco), and blog (www.FindYourCenterPasco.com/blog). You can use these to train on your own, watch inspirational performances, read about history and learning, find recommended resources for meditation, empowering children's books, and more.
We also encourage you to take time away from screens and virtual connections to be present with yourself and those in your household. In order to be there for our communities, our nation(s), and our world, we need to keep ourselves centered and healthy.
In the midst of struggle there are great opportunities— to emerge as a more unified and compassionate society; to enjoy the company of the people we live with; to reconnect with friends near and far. Even the most mundane opportunities—to find ways to keep dancing and playing capoeira in our own small spaces at home—can be just what we need to be able to take a break, center ourselves, and re-emerge ready to address the unprecedented challenges that we are all facing together.
By Kate Feinberg Robins
My beginning adult ballet students often ask what they should practice at home. One challenge in practicing ballet is that there is so much, it’s hard to know where to start when you don’t have a teacher to guide you. Every class I teach is different, because an important part of dance training is putting steps together in different ways. This is why even professional ballet dancers take company classes, where the company’s ballet master or ballet mistress gives practice exercises.
A company class at the Royal Ballet
Once you’ve been studying ballet for a few years, or even a few months, you’ll start to understand the patterns of ballet exercises, which we call “combinations.” At that point, it will be easier to make your own exercises to practice at home. But if you’ve just begun and everything is new, then where do you start? Or maybe you understand how to create a combination, but you just want to focus on doing it, without the extra complication of also putting it together. You just want a simple way to practice at home between classes, without putting too much thought into it. So where do you begin?
These three ballet barre videos offer good practice routines for beginning adult students.
I chose them for 3 reasons:
How to use these videos when you practice at home:
And most importantly, have fun!
By Kate Feinberg Robins
Lazy Dancer Tips is one of the most thorough and well produced Youtube channels demonstrating how to use ballet exercises for general fitness. Here is my list of pros and cons:
Overall, the pros far outweigh the cons, so I encourage you to take a look at these videos and add them to your fitness routine.
By Kate Feinberg Robins
As an adult ballet dancer, I am continually working to find that balance between correct technique and the joy of dancing. I’m always worried about protecting my lower back. Like many dancers, I spent years training to bend in all different directions, without always doing it correctly. As I got older, the flexibility stuck, but the strength to hold my posture in alignment did not.
Then there was pregnancy with its joint-loosening hormones, all the extra weight my body had never carried before, and my pelvic floor and ab muscles moving into new positions. Nearly two years after childbirth, it’s still a constant struggle to keep my knees, ankles, feet, and pelvis all safely warmed up and in safely aligned positions.
But the secret of ballet is that correct technique is what allows you to find a place of calm strength where you can confidently center yourself, feel the music, and let the joy of dancing move you.
Ballet technique is incredibly complicated. If studying ballet is new to you, or if you've never trained at a professional studio, this might come as a surprise. If you have been training for a while, you're probably painfully aware of how hard it is to simultaneously do the million and one things that make the most basic of steps look both correct and easy.
On his website A Ballet Education (aballeteducation.com), former professional dancer and ballet teacher David JoongWon King has written a series of blog posts with detailed notes and drawings explaining how to perform ballet steps correctly. He covers basics like second position and tendu devant, as well as more complex steps like pirouettes and attitude derrière.
For beginning students, these "Notes" on ballet technique will feel overwhelming and abstract. I encourage you to take a quick look anyway, for these reasons:
When we look at all A Ballet Education’s drawings of perfectly proportioned people performing ballet steps with perfect technique, it’s easy to lose sight of the joy of dancing. But hidden within this complexity are basic principles of alignment that can keep you dancing safely and confidently through all kinds of challenges.
Sometimes to rekindle that joy, we need to pause, re-center ourselves physically, become one with the music, and just dance.
By Kate Feinberg Robins
Mikhail Baryshnikov is widely considered to be the greatest male ballet dancer of all time. The strength and power of his dancing embody all of the reasons that ballet training can be such a powerful tool for athletes, artists, and all kinds of others.
If ever you thought that ballet was only for little girls, Baryshnikov’s performance in the 1985 movie White Nights will change your mind. If you want to see the whole movie, you can rent or buy it on YouTube. If you just want to see the most amazing dance scenes, you can watch them for free. Remember that it’s rated PG-13 and be prepared for some mature content. Here are my recommendations:
If you know a little girl who finds inspiration in pink tutus, good ballet training will teach her to channel that excitement into power and strength. If pink tutus aren’t your thing, check out Baryshnikov. You won’t be disappointed.
By Kate Feinberg Robins
My rediscovery of ballet after retiring from a pre-professional performance career at age 18 has been gradual, to say the least.
During my last couple years of high school, I was dancing lead roles with the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet and preparing to audition for professional companies, or to continue my training at professional schools if I wasn’t yet good enough to be hired. At 5’ 1”, good enough to be hired meant good enough to be a soloist. No one would hire a dancer my height for the corps.
I auditioned for American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company, and unsurprisingly, didn’t make it. I made the second cut at Julliard, but didn’t quite get in. I finished high school prepared to enter Butler University’s ballet program on a merit scholarship. There I would stay, perfecting my skills until I could finally get paid to do what I loved—or so I thought.
But during that summer between high school and college, I discovered that I no longer loved it enough to give up everything else. I wanted to reach beyond the walls of the dance studios and theatres, to do all those things I had always had to say no to. I wanted to study philosophy and travel the world.
It would be another ten years before I could enjoy a ballet class again. I was afraid to set foot in a studio and see how terrible my dancing had surely become. I was embarrassed to be seen at less than my prime. I feared that a ballet class would only bring frustration over what I could no longer do.
In the years after I stopped performing, I was occasionally asked to teach ballet—first to young gymnasts in Indiana, and later to professional flamenco dancers and amateur folk dancers in Chile. Eventually, I began seeking out opportunities to work with students who didn’t see ballet as a serious career option, but enjoyed and appreciated it alongside their main interests and pursuits.
I taught middle and high school students who cared more about orchestra, drama, academics, and athletics than ballet. I taught children who were enjoying their childhoods. I taught adults who were finishing their PhDs, building their careers, and raising their children. Through these students, I rediscovered my own love for ballet and discovered that it could be part of my life—and so many other people’s lives—without giving up everything else.
Ballet study as a casual pursuit has traditionally not been taken seriously by professionals. No one likes to see their profession cheapened by amateurs claiming to know it all. Yet, like with all fields, I think there is a happy medium. Students with a passing interest in a subject can learn from professionals with the awareness that their growing knowledge and skills will only ever scratch the surface.
Ballet study has a great deal to offer to adults and children of all ages with all kinds of goals and interests. The website balletforadults.com, while aimed primarily at adults, offers practical tips for any casual student who is serious about doing their best in ballet class, even if their best will never be good enough for a professional career.
What I like most about this site is that it clearly explains things that tend to be taken for granted in ballet classrooms. When young people train intensively, they are socialized into the norms of ballet study. For casual students who take the occasional class or start learning later in life, this socialization doesn’t happen. They enter the studio unaware of where they should stand, what they should wear, or how they should address the teacher. Balletforadults.com breaks down these norms, kind of like a guide book for tourists who don’t expect to pass for natives, but do hope to get by and enjoy themselves.
This website is also a great example of the kind of high quality work that can be accomplished when professionals from a variety of fields put their energy into promoting ballet. The blog’s creators are graphic designers, photographers, writers, and teachers. Their skills in all of these areas shine through in a beautifully presented and accessible blog.
My main critique of the site is that despite its posts encouraging all kinds of people to study ballet, the photographs portray almost exclusively slender young women. If you don’t see yourself on this site, don’t be deterred. Just take it as a useful source of information, so that you can go into your next ballet class a little better informed.