In a career spanning six decades, ballet legend Finis Jhung has left his mark on Broadway, in film, and on stages across the world. While still a dancer, he studied with the greats—Valentina Pereyaslavec, Vera Volkova, Stanley Williams, Erik Bruhn, Rosella Hightower, and David Howard—and danced in the San Francisco Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, and the Harkness Ballet. He danced for presidents and dignitaries and eventually founded and choreographed for his own ballet company. Now in the second phase of his career as a renowned and beloved dance instructor, Finis has taught everyone from prima ballerinas and Broadway stars to adult beginners. His goal is to make ballet accessible to everyone, to create innovative ways of teaching, and to inspire present and future generations of dancers. Not content with life in the studio, he has created more than 50 instructional dance videos, produced 18 music CDs, and authored The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students—all so that aspiring dancers of every level can learn his techniques, without ever leaving home. In Ballet for Life: A Pictorial Memoir, he shares his own story for the first time, starting from humble roots in World War II Hawaii.
Still actively teaching at the age of 86, his greatest joy is helping students find their “inner dancer.”
About The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique
Finis Jhung Ballet Technique (FJBT) guides students to the essence of classical ballet. The approach is non-traditional in that it is not predicated on a narrow standard of bodily proportions or youth. Moreover, it does not ask for distortion of the limbs to the detriment of joint health. In its early years, FJBT helped professionals renovate their technique, building and elongating their careers. In the decades since, the approach has demonstrated success teaching innumerable beginners to dance.
FJBT arose from the rich history of the Harkness Ballet, and the advancements the company made to ballet training through movement analysis and application of the principles of kinesiology. Finis shares with his students mechanics related to him from Joanna Kneeland, a pioneer in this effort. In this way, his instruction resembles that of the master teacher David Howard, who successfully brought the Kneeland principles to Harkness company classes. Neither shying from controversy, both Howard and Jhung have helped countless dancers make sense of these anatomical and kinetic principles with their bodies, even when they contradicted some of the cherished beliefs passed on by the old school.
While not limited in use in Balanchine ballets, FJBT imparts to students the movement qualities that came to epitomize the American style in the 20th century, owing to the influence of George Balanchine. The fast pas-de-bourrée en avant to sous-sus, for example, is precisely the type of step one sees in Balanchine classics, but Finis breaks down the technique to its constituent parts for dancers of any skill level to practice and perfect. FJBT also employs the forward hip placement, over-crossed fifth position, outstretched preparatory lunges, high center of gravity, and audience spotting, all of which phenomenal Balanchine dancers use to great effect to move bigger and faster than the generations before.
FJBT also takes the best from the Danish School through direct influences by Erik Bruhn—one of ballet’s greatest stars, who mentored Finis—and renowned teachers like Vera Volkova and Stanley Williams. The way Finis shapes his hands and carries his wrists through the air is a distillation of Erik’s unmatched style. Pushing down through the foot into the floor to move the leg is a principle Madame Volkova bestowed upon Finis, and as such he uses his toes with purpose and precision. Stanley’s teaching was well known for containing little verbal explanation, but he imparted to dedicated attendees incredible finesse. FJBT reveals for students today the elegance and skill Finis extracted from Stanley. For example, students never see Finis hop up to demi-pointe or pull away from the floor. On the contrary, FJBT teaches dancers to perform relevés down, never losing the connection between the big toe and the ground. When the relevé turns, as it does in a pirouette, this approach is more beautiful and outcomes are more reliable than when dancers hop (or worse, climb) up to half toe.
A lifetime of hard work as a professional dancer and teacher has led Finis also to seek out the best practitioners of body care. The knowledge he has gained from them is also visible in his teaching, taking the form of restorative stretching and calm strength building. Through FJBT, dancers employ fundamentals with purpose: dancing from the ground up in relation to the floor, examining the order of operations in the body, and attending to the flow of breath. These efforts make dancing look and feel better for dancers of all skill levels.
Finis in the News
|Finis was featured on the television show CBS This Morning! He discussed dancing well beyond retirement age and how he inspires dancers of every age. Watch the Video|
|Expert Tips for Bigger, Safer Jumps and Leaps Finis contributes his insights to a fantastic Dance Magazine piece for executing those thrilling onstage jumps and leaps. Read the article||How My Dance Teachers Helped Me Survive the Worst of the Pandemic Writer Dina Ruden shares how Finis’s online classes have helped her during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Read the article|
|Balanced Ballerinas on Finis Jhung’s Remarkable Life. Listen on Apple PodcastsListen on SpotifyRead the Post||New York 1 Interviews Finis Jhung amid COVID-19 fears.Watch the Interview|
|Meet Finis. The Adult Ballet Collective Blog interviews Finis Jhung. Read the Interview||These butt-kicking senior trainers are getting their peers in shape! Read the Article|
|Book Review: Ballet for Life
5 STARS! “The beauty of the writing matches the beauty readers will encounter in the numerous images that fill the pages of this memoir. A delight to read.” by Romuald Dzemo Read the Review
|Book Review: Ballet for Life “Finis Jhung has released a beautiful memoir.” by Tammy Rhoades-Baldwin Read the Review|
|A Dance Play that Began at the Barre Blogger Yasmine Beverly Rana relates her experience with Finis in Absolute Beginner Ballet at the Ailey Extension.
Read the article
|How to Teach Musicality—Even to Students Who Might Not Be Naturally Musical Finis discusses this most elusive quality with Dance Teacher.Read the article|
|A Dance Enthusiast’s A to Z: J is for Finis Jhung and Amy Jordan Finis sits down for a Q&A with the noted dance blog.
Read the interview
|“Leads by Example at 80—at the ballet barre”Read the article|
|Nothing Can Stop Finis Jhung From Teaching–Not Even His Recent Hip Replacement Surgery: “19 days after surgery, almost no swelling. No pain. No discomfort.” Read the post||Why Finis Jhung Thinks Teaching Ballet is Like Being a Great Cook: “Practice the correct mechanics of movement…Like following a good recipe when you cook, if you follow it to the letter, you are a great cook!” Read the post|
|“…I felt so good about going onstage because he made sure I was using my body correctly. When I finally retired in ’69, I didn’t have any regrets. With all that information and feedback from him, I was dancing at a high level.”—Finis Jhung on his teacher David Howard Read the post||Finis speaks to ConsumerMOJO about working with adult beginners: “They are people who love ballet. They have always wanted to learn and they work so hard. And they start to change.”Read the blogWatch the Video|
|“In Absolute Beginner Ballet there were no big moves across the floor but for a full 90 minutes, I felt graceful…”Read the blog||Christmastime Ballet: Finis Jhung on The Nutcracker and News at Paris Opera Ballet. Finis offers his insights and opinions on Bastille Opera Ballet Nutcracker and other Parisian ballet news.Read the article online|
|An interview in two parts with Emmy Award winning producer Christian Cudnik. First, Finis discusses his life and career. Then, in part two, he talks about his teaching philosophy.Listen to the interviews online||“Finis Jhung was one of many teachers with whom I studied back in the day. The place: New York. The time: the early 70s, which would have made him a relatively young man somewhere in his mid-thirties. He was phenomenal even then, having committed the single most astonishing physical feat I’ve ever seen a dance teacher perform.”Read the article online|
|“DanceMogulMagazine is proud to present a true Dance Mogul, Finis Jhung. He has been blessed with the gift of the dance and he has been giving back that gift almost his entire life, helping to empower others that come across his path. Not only is he a true Dance Mogul he also serves as an example of a real Dance Teacher. “Read the article online||“The dance instructor Finis Jhung puts prospective Billys through their paces in New York.” Read more in the New York Times’ article on Finis JhungView PDFView Video|
|“Congratulations to January’s winner for DTVideo of the Month, Finis Jhung. The excerpt from Jhung’s 1999 instructional video, ‘Partnering Techniques:The Nutcracker,’ features Griff Braun and Johanna Snyder…” Read more in Dance Teacher’s Magazine’s article on Finis JhungView PDF||“Three Billys, One Master. Finis Jhung coaches the newest crop of boys to play Billy Elliot.” Read more in Dance Studio Life’s interview with Finis Jhung.View PDF|
|“The Chicago Billys underwent intense training three days a week for six weeks with the New York-based coach and ballet master Finis Jhung, a former soloist with the San Francisco, Joffry, and Harkness ballet companies.” Read more in Chicago Magazine’s article on Billy Elliot.View PDF||“After a morning of acting, dialect and vocal tutoring, the three new boys cast to star in Billy Elliot: The Musical tumble into the studio, all smiles, testing out their turns. At the helm of coaching these new Billys is master teacher Finis Jhung.” Read more in Dance Teacher Magazine’s interview with Finis Jhung.View PDF|
|“I was born and raised in Hawaii and am of Korean-Scottish-English descent. I started dancing at the age of six, as I liked the wonderful old black-and-white Hollywood musical movies that we used to see…” Read more in Ballet-Dance Magazine’s interview with Finis Jhung.View PDF||“Fast and precise, Finis Jhung has a highly personal rubato that he weaves into the fabric of his movement.” Read more in Dance Magazine‘s feature on the Harkness Ballet.View PDF|
|“Whatever I teach is just a clarification and explanation of what dancing is—understanding the anatomical structure, the placement, identifying the center you start with. Then you must establish ideas.” Read more in Dance Scope‘s interview with Finis Jhung.View PDF||“I think from the inside out. Western philosophy places man against nature. Eastern philosophy sees man and nature as one. Life is energy. Energy flows. Everything has life.” Read more in Dance Pages‘ feature on Finis Jhung.View PDF|
|“What makes Jhung so special is that everything he does is original and, at the same time, based on strong traditions.” Read more in Ballet News‘ feature on Finis Jhung.View PDF||“Giving dancers the tools to move with strength and ease.” Read more in Dance Magazine‘s feature on Finis Jhung.View PDF|
|“Get legs like Natalie Portman.” Read more in Time Out New York‘s feature on Finis Jhung’s class.View PDF||“I always emphasize the need to make ballet appetizing and doable, because it remains one of the best training systems for all styles of dance.” Read more in Dance Teacher Magazine‘s feature on Finis Jhung.
|“I’ve loved ballet since I was six years old … I tell my students, I only have twenty more years to teach, you know.” Read more in the December 2012 issue of Movement Matters, published by the SERCCA.View PDF||“Nothing stills the dreams of dancers. … Some of the most fortunate, or discerning, begin to study with Finis Jhung.” — Connoisseur Magazine,