On a recent trip to visit a friend in New York City earlier this month (one of my absolute favorite cities), I decided to take some open adult ballet classes. Although I’ve been dancing for a while, it’s been a recent thing for me to try to take class in every city I travel to. I decided to ask my ballet friends who I knew traveled a lot for suggestions (Check out the worldwide ballet studio list for adults – work in progress).
It depends on which borough of New York City you are in but I was told across the board that Steps on Broadway was one of the places I should check out. From what I knew, Steps was where a ton of professionals from the big companies take class – a chance to rub shoulders with Misty Copeland or who knows! The studio, located in the Upper West Side near Lincoln Center, has been around for nearly 40 years and I also heard that many greats like Gelsey Kirkland and the likes have taught there.
Steps had a ton of open adult ballet classes of all levels on schedule at all times of the day. I arrived on a Thursday evening (my Airbnb happened to be a couple blocks away) and I decided to take the Friday morning advanced professional class with Wilhelm Burmann (who I heard was one of the popular teachers at Steps) since it fit my busy sightseeing and friend-seeing schedule that day.
I arrived early for class but made the mistake of sitting at the front of the barre in a corner (I have a weird habit of standing in corners at a new class because I myself hate to be distracted by looking at others in class) but I should have known it could be a really fast barre. Wilhelm didn’t show the combos much so you have to be a regular to know exactly what he wants. Not entirely sure, but I think the barre was very Balanchine technique inspired so it was pretty brisk and sharp aka very hard to pick up without someone who knows what they doing standing in front of you!
After barre was over and once I got my bearings I was comfortable enough to really focus and be myself. The center and across the floor were fun and dynamic. He gave some great corrections on musicality and developes that I will take home with me. It seems there are regulars in his class that he will show the combos and corrections on.
There were some pros in class (not sure where they were from although there were a number of people from the Broadway scene and even one guy from the opera) and of course some older dancers that had started dancing later in life – so it was a very diverse class of dancers and there was a healthy accepting atmosphere amongst everyone.
Ultimately, it was a great class for me and I got my New York dance experience in – but no Misty…maybe next time. (I probably wouldn’t suggest the adv/pro class at Steps for people new to ballet, even with years of dancing a new teacher and technique can be hard to pick up in one class).
I also will add that the facilities at Steps are great and you really feel like you are dancing in New York. The studios are a decent size (except the fact that one of them has these awkward poles in the center of the room that you have to avoid when going across the floor) with the studio windows looking out onto the city and neighboring buildings.
The other studio I took class at was the Peridance Capezio Center in the East Village area. I had heard from friends that Kat Wildish was a really great and well-known teacher teaching adults in the area so I decided to fit another class in on the Monday morning before I left (luckily my friend’s place I was staying at was in the Lower East Side).
The dance center is tucked away on a more alley-like street. My class was down in one of the basement studios. Unfortunately, the basement floor was sticky (making it a little difficult to do multiple turns)–a hard to avoid thing in the cold climate where you run the heater and it gets humid. I didn’t get to see the other studios, but I have seen photos of the classes on the ground level and the studios on that floor are really nice.
I really liked Kat’s class as it reminded me of the adult ballet community I have at home. Kat is known to teach adults and she seems very dedicated to her students. There were people of all ages and backgrounds in her class and it seems like she has some regulars. Kat also gave me a really great personal correction on my bow legs – I don’t get this type of correction from every teacher I encounter so I appreciated her advice on how I could hold my turnout properly and avoid the build-up of quad muscle.
Unfortunately, I don’t the Center doesn’t have as many adult class offerings as Steps, but it has some great quality adult ballet classes. Each class is $20 (a bit expensive compared to studios in my native California) — if you get a package it’s cheaper. They even have a deal if you for a second class it’s half off. The classes at Steps are also $20 each so maybe there are others places in New York that are cheaper…I will have to explore next time!
I will say after doing this a couple of times the important things to remember are: arrive early; check the schedule before-hand; look at reviews on the teacher online; and make sure to stand behind someone at barre who takes the class regularly.
All in all, I thought it was a great experience taking class in another city and I’ll definitely be doing it again when I’m in New York. I will say you learn a lot about yourself as a dancer when exposing yourself to new teachers and methods. Ultimately ballet never changes — you always start with plies and that’s the beauty of the language of ballet no matter where in the world you are.