Taking A Master Class As An Adult Dancer

Taking a master class or a workshop with a visiting choreographer or artist, can be a fun and great opportunity to expose yourself to new styles, build technique or learn something new outside of regular technique class. Last fall I decided to take a master class with Wendy Whelan, former New York City Ballet principal dancer, and dancer-choreographer, Brian Brooks, when they stopped in our city on their national tour for their “Some of a Thousand Words” program.

Several years ago I myself wouldn’t have had enough guts to come to a workshop with professionals and up and coming trainees and have fun. But, in recent years I’ve reached a new confidence and maturity in my dancing where perfect turnout and a 180 degree penche ultimately don’t matter at the end of the day.

The master class was timely as I watched Wendy Whelan’s Restless Creature documentary (If you have a chance watch the doc on Netflix!). It’s a really honestly made documentary and you really see the struggles dancers face in the supposed “twilight” of their careers. Wendy really found a voice of her own defying the definition of age in dance and what it means by finding new meaning outside of ballet and pointe shoes and leotards. So being inspired when I saw an ad at my studio for a class with Wendy (who I grew up watching) I thought yes I need to do this!


Me and Wendt after class #fangirling


I can say I really enjoyed the master class with Wendy and Brian. It never felt intimidating at any time and I never felt like I was “messing up” — we all were there to learn together. Wendy and Brian were actually teaching a master class for the first time on tour so they were also figuring out what the best format was.

First, we did a warm-up with some floor work combos with Brian leading and Wendy following along with us. Then, we got to watch Wendy preview some of her work with us. Last, Wendy and Brian taught us a combo from their new work. Although it was contemporary the movement had roots of ballet. Wendy and Brian allowed room for everyone to make the movement their own.

What I really like about this master class experience was that Wendy was with us on the floor learning the choreography with us. So it was a rare opportunity to experience chore0graphy side by side with such a legendary dancer. Wendy and Brian were also really fun and down to earth – you just don’t get that everywhere in the dance world.

Info on Wendy and Brian’s tour here.

If you are in a big city you might be surprised to find that a number of studios are offering master classes, usually around times when dancers happen to be in town for their tours. It’s becoming more and more common to cater these workshops for all ages. Typically I have found that master classes require some type of dancer experience, but it doesn’t hurt to ask the studio to make sure.

On a related note, here are some links to just a few adult master classes and intensive workshops I’ve heard about (more complete list to come soon – contact me if you know of any, I know there are more out there!):

Alonzo Kings Lines Adult Summer Intensive – San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Ballet Adult Summer Intensive and Winter Adult Repertory Series – San Francisco, CA

ODC Summer Adult Workshops — San Francisco, CA

Kat Wildish Workshops and Intensives – New York, NY and Italy (Summer)

Sarasota Ballet Weekend Workshops – Sarasota, FL

Also, by request, future post coming up on tips for getting choreography and class combinations down.

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