How Age-Defying Therapeutic Stretches for Seniors Turns Back Time

Age-Defying Therapeutic Stretches for Seniors

Not as young as you used to be?

Nobody is! So I have designed a class — inspired by my video collection of the same name — to help seniors restore mobility and strength.

Tuesdays at 6 p.m. at The Ailey Extension.

Together, we will improve your balance, restore joint mobility, relax tense muscle, increase flexibility, and calm your mind. These slowly paced, easy-to-follow exercises are done both standing and sitting. Regain your youthful vitality and feel better!

“EVERY Body can benefit from Finis Jhung’s Age Defying Therapeutic Stretches. In this 45 minute class, Finis offers a path to a lifetime of flexibility — fluidity of movement and an agile mind too. This artfully designed series of deceptively simple stretches literally works the musculature of the entire body from head to toe — while requiring a focused mind attentive to the details of each movement. The class is rooted in the dancer’s warmup Finis developed during more than six decades as dancer and teacher. I consider it a gift that will never grow old.

Arleen Lebe

“Most of us make time to exercise but you don’t realize how right it feels to dedicate time to stretching until you do it. Every time I’m in class I think, this is so good for me. I think people don’t know what to expect from the stretch class. I would note that because it’s Finis it’s stretching but through fluid movement, utilizing the same principles from his ballet class to gain awareness of mobilizing your whole body from your toes, through your spine to your finger tips.

Jin Kang

“I welcomed Finis’s new class, Age-Defying Therapeutic Stretches at Alvin Ailey Extension, as a great way to keep flexibility and easiness of movement in my body and laugh in the face of time. I was also looking for new and safe ways to stretch to add to what I already know from Finis. The class did not disappoint! Finis created a very pleasant and restful atmosphere playing inspiringly meditative music to support the carefully choreographed movements for loosening up the body. He insisted on stretching parts of the body we routinely mistreat day in and day out: the neck, the shoulders and fingers. For example, I loved how we stretched the fingers pushing out the air, lengthening and separating each finger, as we opened our hands. Using the computer, a lot every day, our fingers are quite curled up most of the time, therefore, making the opposite movement allowed for increasing flexibility. We kept on swaying our bodies, creating circles with waist and arms and hitting all the tricky spots in the back, those that hurt. When we sat on the chairs, we all became swans creating beautiful movements with our arms. I was immediately reminded of the famous Swan Lake ballet. Actually, the class has an elegance and ease in each movement, typical of all Finis Jhung classes. And to top everything else, Finis demonstrated and did the full class with us. What a delightful experience at the end of a workday! I recommend you try it, too.

Ileana Ray

These easy and unique exercises immediately helped me achieve greater side stretch and openness at the barre. They really lengthened the area at the front of my hips and I noticed the difference in my alignment and in my arabesque in the very first class afterward. Thank you Finis!”

Amy M. Shapiro

“Finis is a master of dance movement, and with his new stretch class he’s developed stretches that are simple movements, rather than poses. The movement lets the muscles release gently and gradually, instead of forcing them to hold a pose, which can be stressful. I felt terrific after the class and plan to go back again.”

Donna Knipp

Natalia Shulgina Dances with Absolute Beginner Ballet Group Class 1

Natalia Shulgina’s review on Amazon.com was so detailed and helpful that she let us post it here, as well.

Natalia A. Shulgina is a native of Russia. She holds an M.Div. from the Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Emory University. When not impersonating an adult ballerina, she is involved in the teaching and practice of pastoral care, spiritual formation, and  clinical pastoral education. She lives, with her husband Mark and her dog, Rhodesian Ridgeback Rey, in Raleigh, NC.

If you love ballet and if for you, like me, traveling to NY is not really an option, give yourself a gift of this class — you body and soul will thank you!

I am not new to Finis’s teaching DVDs. Having started as an absolute beginner in ballet at the age of 40, I have been returning to his DVDs and books for inspiration, guidance, and clear explanations that work. Finis’s method of teaching ballet is unique, both his ability to explain the hidden “why” and “how” behind the movement, and his unswerving belief that ballet is not merely for the art of the chosen few but for the joy and health benefit of all.

Having worked with several of his DVDs: the absolute beginner series, barre and centerwork for beginners and intermediate students, the specific issues focusing on turns and jumps, as well as the holy grail of Extension and Turnout and Meditative Stretching, I have always felt–and regretted–that one thing was missing: I got Finis’s excellent instruction, but have never had an opportunity to participate in his class.

Not anymore. With this DVD, adult ballet students of all ages, shapes, and walks of life are given an unprecedented opportunity and gift — of being able to peek and step into Finis’s class, as he teaches it. It is a beginner level class, but I dare say, its benefits extend far beyond that level. Ballet is an integrative art, and practicing the basics correctly is fundamental to doing ballet safely and progressively better.

Content: the DVD starts with important stretching exercises to loosen and warm up the body for the movement. Next come instructions on proper posture, with Finis’s signature metaphors and expressions on how to hold ourselves properly in space. It might be tempting to skip these two sections, but that would be a mistake: those sections lay down the foundation of the bodily awareness, which will protect your body from injury in the long run. The rest of the DVD is pedagogically astute and balanced, as it moves progressively from the feet and legs to arms and core of the body, finishing up at the center. There, we get to see, how the exercises that were given before, incrementally, without our fully realizing it, prepared us to move through space with balance, strength, and grace.

The bonus content of the DVD includes short video-clips with Finis’s students: real people with real lives outside of the studio, who will never audition for ABT or NYCB, but who have truly become ballet dancers. I found this part deeply humbling and inspiring.

In conclusion: The real contribution of this DVD lies in the opportunity it gives us, not only to receive Finis’s instruction (always top-notch), but to see how other non-professional ballet dancers work at the barre and in the center. In the last 4 years of practicing ballet, I have noticed that even though we all are different in so many ways, the mistakes we make in ballet class are surprisingly similar: we forget to transfer weight to the balls of our feet, we stick our butts out in plie, we sickle our feet, we fail to keep the turnout muscles engaged as we begin the movement…Being able to see other people making those mistakes and receiving Finis’s correction in real time is priceless, because it allows us to learn better.

If you love ballet and if for you, like me, traveling to NY is not really an option, give yourself a gift of this class — you body and soul will thank you!

Maria Schreiber’s Journey with Finis Jhung

By Maria Schreiber, Juno Beach, FL

From dancing at home to working One-on-One with Finis, Maria tells how her technique improved over the course of a year.

November 2018

After watching several videos of professional ballet dancers, the thought occurred to me that “I want to be doing this not just watching it. Heck, I’m only 72.” I found Finis Jhung’s Ballet Barre for the Absolute Beginner on Amazon and purchased it. I did the exercises 5 days a week and improved a little bit each day. I was so impressed with the quality of Finis’ teaching that I e-mailed him. I thanked him for the progress I was making due to his innovative teaching. Two hours later, he e-mailed me back.

July 2019

The ballet barre exercises have gone from being something I do to being something I experience with awareness and pleasure.

On the 25th of this month, I took a One on One—a 90-minute class with Finis Jhung at Pearl Studios in New York City. What a rich experience! When I did the exercises with Finis in the studio, I realized I could go even deeper into the movements than I had been going. His corrections were made with a firm but gentle hand. I could feel and see the changes in my body on the spot. When I returned to work at home, I was on another level. I went from wanting to do the barre “perfectly” to wanting to feel each movement fully. The ballet barre exercises have gone from being something I do to being something I experience with awareness and pleasure. Because Finis did not judge me, I do not judge myself. He taught me to understand the movements and the mechanics that create them.

December 2019

On the 5th of this month, I had my second One on One 90-minute class with Finis Jhung at Pearl Studios. Finis arranged for his son Jason to videotape the session. I’d spent the past five months practicing the skills I learned in July and tackling new movements (pas de bourrée en avant, pas de bourrée de côte, glissade, glissade précipitée, and pas de valse). I arrived at the studio and was immediately at ease. The taping was unobtrusive, and Finis immediately zeroed in on how to make what I was doing better. Once again, he corrected me with a firm-but-gentle hand. When he gave me a compliment, I knew I deserved it. Seeing me on video, and hearing the corrections on tape truly enhanced the experience. I can go over the session on my phone any time I want, play the audio back, and zoom in on a particular aspect in the frame. I don’t have to wonder, now, what did he say about that? It’s all right there.

I returned home motivated, encouraged, satisfied, grateful, and happy. I am ready to move ONWARD.

Try the Ten-Minute Ballet Break Free!

Enjoy the first four exercises for FREE!

Awaken your body and refresh your mind with these short bouts of ballet dancing that don’t require any warm-up. You’ll get warmed-up naturally as you dance your way through these short, choreographed exercises. Finis Jhung breaks down each exercise and then it is demonstrated by Antonio Carmena, former New York City Ballet soloist. To dance is to live!

Why FINIS FRIDAYS?

Most adult ballet beginners are exactly that: professional adults—lawyers, doctors, teachers, bankers—who live extremely busy lives and do not have the time to take regular ballet class. In fact, many of them either took ballet “lessons” when they were young children or are starting from scratch as adults. What they lack in aptitude and suitability is more than compensated for by their open minds and willingness to try their best.

Even so, they sometimes feel discouraged (or lost) in the most basic Absolute Beginner class. Initially, I thought the solution was to offer monthly intensives, but that did not seem like enough.

So, I have created “Finis Fridays.”

Starting this fall, adult beginners can improve their ballet technique in a new series called FINIS FRIDAYS: three different 2-hour classes to be held at the Pearl Studios in Midtown Manhattan.

The first class is titled LET’S DANCE! and will be exactly that. It begins with a short barre followed by exercises in center floor which teach correct body and arm positions; connecting footwork that travels in different directions; the waltz and balancé, and choreographed dances. If time permits, basic jumps will be included.

The second class is titled TURNOUT, EXTENSION, and begins with a warm-up jog, followed by seated and reclined stretches taken from my video Stretch, Turnout & Extension. After this, the students will come to the barre and work on selected barre exercises which will help stabilize turnout and extension. This class will end with relaxing floor stretches.

The third class is PIROUETTES, TURNS. After a short barre, students will practice preparing for and executing pirouettes en dehors and en dedans, châinés, and piqué turns. As always, the emphasis will be on teaching students the “untaught” preparations all good dancers use onstage, but which go unseen by the uneducated eye. We are going to enjoy unraveling the mysteries of turns!

These slowly paced, extremely detailed, step-by-step classes have proven to be remarkably effective. Not only do the students learn the material needed, they also develop self-esteem as they discover that they are capable of doing more challenging ballet work. Some of the more avid students further their knowledge by studying my instructional videos at home, and that too has proven effective.

The Return to Class.

Now, these “Adult Babies” are ready to move confidently with the rest of the class!

Ultimately, it’s the classroom experience where we are all together that makes the biggest difference in helping my “ballet babies” advance. It requires extreme patience and constant instruction on my part, and devoted concentration and muscular involvement on theirs. But time has proven that this is the best way to teach adult beginner ballet students what they need to know. FINIS FRIDAYS will help ballet newcomers learn how to move with graceful dignity and strength, both in the studio, and in the world.

Photo: Finis Jhung and demonstrator Mayumi Omagari show how it’s done. (photo by Stephen von der Launitz)

Adult Babies Down Under

Pictured above: Russell with two lovely partners, Claire and Christina.

I call my adult students my “ballet babies” because, like young children, they are so eager to learn, are “pure” in that they have no pre-conceived notions, and dance as if there is no tomorrow. Some of my babies are teachers and students who live in Australia. Some have attended my workshops; all use my videos and music; and most have my memoir Ballet for Life.  Russell Merriman lives in Bicton, Western Australia, and began studying with my streaming videos this year.

In his own words…

Streaming from Perth Western Australia is phenomenal. It is simple to log on and there are no delays in finding my videos. I am a ‘mature’ student. I turn 75 years of age on July 19. My ballet has improved dramatically since I started using your streaming videos. I have started pas de deux and my partner who was a professional ballet dancer thinks that I am a ‘natural.’ I purchased your Partnering Techniques DVD.

My first dance technique was contemporary dance. While a student at Flinders University of South Australia I attended a week-long workshop at Australian Dance Theatre in Adelaide. I was aged 30 years and very stiff and inflexible. I was excited when, at the end, we performed a dance to the song of Buffy Sainte-Marie: God is alive, Magic is afoot. How prescient for my life!

I then joined a small group of dancers at Flinders University and after we performed, I was ‘hooked.’ I moved to Perth in 1974 and commenced contemporary dance classes with Ruth Osborne, wo taught the Graham Technique. After I turned 40, I found an introduction to ballet of eight free classes. After discovering pirouettes I never stopped.

Around the same time, I joined the Keszkeno Hungarian Dance group. I was mesmerized by the athleticism of the male dancers and remained with the group until 2016. We performed at concerts in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Hungary. I had to stop Hungarian dance as an old ankle injury couldn’t cope with the stamping.

I continued ballet classes, and my first brief ballet performance in October 2017 included a ‘mini’ pas de deux which introduced me to the delights of partnering.

I am indebted to Heather Callander who has been my teacher for over 30 years. She told me about the videos of Finis Jhung which allowed my enthusiasm for ballet to expand. She uses his concepts in her teaching. Justin McNamara has been instrumental in his beginner classes in teaching me the fundamentals of posture and balance. Justin says he ‘Really found it so helpful the way Finis explains the way to approach teaching the use of arms for beginners in classical ballet and the example for pirouettes of the kids toy where to make it spin you push down to make it turn.’

I have found that the secret of ballet is that it is anti-gravity as the movement is all UP. This lengthens the spine and frees up space in the joints. Obviously this counteracts the normal effect of aging where people ‘shrink’ and their body contracts. The change in one’s posture from ballet can be dramatic (mine has) and it results in new breathing patterns. So, like Finis, I will never give up.

PS: My favorite video right now is The Art of Teaching Jumps. I’ve had double hip-surgery, but will persist with patience and determination for my share of air-time.

—Russell Merriman

NOTE FROM FINIS JHUNG: And I just recommended Ballet Barre Foot Strength Exercises to help Russell strengthen his feet and ankles so he can jump higher.

7 Keys to the Finis Jhung Ballet Technique

  1. The demi-plié is almost isometric. In both the downward and upward movements, the feet—rather than the knees—should initiate the movements. The feet grip the floor and pull the legs into the plié and then relax and push down to return the legs to the standing position. This also applies to pliés on one foot.
  2. Most dance movements are on one leg. What must be developed at the barre is the ability to balance on and move from one foot. Try to work at portable barre placed parallel to the mirror. Stand behind the barre, on the diagonal. This will allow you to keep an eye on your supporting side and encourage you to work correctly. Test your balance by frequently taking your hand off the barre during exercises. In addition, check your readiness to move. You should always be able to rise off your heel whenever you press down on the floor.
  3. The supporting leg controls the free leg, and initiates each movement. The timing of every movement is made by the supporting leg. The free leg (the foot that brushes or slides) never pulls or moves the body. Only the supporting foot that pushes the floor should move the body.
  4. In the center floor, every step you take must be balanced by an arm, or both arms, reaching in the opposite direction. At the barre, develop this sense of the “back arm” by reaching for the barre and pressing down it. Never pull on the barre.
  5. When you pirouette from the fourth position, be sure that you go to “the end of theplié.”
  6. A jump is a relevé in the air. Push the floor, stand in the air.
  7. Overcross the glissade précipitée, which leads into battement fondu developpé relevé, and jumping steps where the free leg is brushed into the air.

Happy Labor Day!

Hello everyone and Happy Labor Day!

Check out what’s happening with me below.

Finis

 

FJ Next: Project #fjrecovery

As many of you know I will be having hip replacement surgery performed this Wednesday, September 6th at the NYU Langone Medical Center under the direction of the inventor of a new procedure, Dr. Roy Davidovitch.

My son, Jason, will be documenting my recovery on Instagram and you can follow @fjballet or search the hashtag: #fjrecovery

Here I am at the Pre Admission Testing Center last week:

Hopefully I will be able to pirouette again, and sometime soon!

 

FJ Now: Memoir Update

I am 80% finished with the memoir having just completed Chapter 10 – Chamber Ballet U.S.A.

Many of you may not know that I owned my own company from 1981 – 1986, and​ writing this chapter reminded me of hair-losing dramas like being forced to choreograph a ballet for opening night in New York in less than two weeks.

​Here is an excerpt from Chapter 10 – Chamber Ballet U.S.A.:

Juan and Ellen were to perform Vicente Nebrada’s brilliantly choreographed A Dance for You, a bravura pas de deux to the piano music of Teresa Carreno. Both Ellen and Juan are exceptionally talented virtuoso dancers with extraordinary technical facilities, musicality, and artistry. This would have been the highlight of the evening—or, for that matter—any evening anywhere. A truly staggering dance event.

And then, two weeks before the show, Juan’s knee begins to give out. Before coming to New York, he had had trouble with his knee. The demands of Vicente’s choreography have reawakened an old injury. Juan breaks down in tears, saying his knee hurts so badly he’s afraid it’s going to give out on him. Oy vey. What are we to do?

So, out goes A Dance for You, and in comes Libido.

With our limited budget, and without Juan, it fell to me to choreograph a replacement ballet. Bill Soleau is such a graceful manly dancer. He is not a ballet virtuoso, but he moves beautifully. And Ellen can do anything you ask. So, I desperately create a duet for them that I intend to be fun and sexy. I begin listening to music, and discover the scherzo movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 7. Libido is born.

Bill and Ellen are good sports about working late at night. We do the best we can, under the forced circumstances, and this is why it promises more than it delivers. In 1984, I’ll rework it and critics and audiences will get what they paid for.

1982. Finis Jhung choreographs Libido in his studio with Ellen Troy and William Soleau (Photo: Barbara Forbes)

Memoir Update

People have been asking me to write my biography for years.

But, I don’t like looking backward – I’m always trying to think of new ways to teach ballet, so my mind is always focused on the present and future moments.

This past winter, my son Jason started producing my new FJ Single Streaming Exercise videos and he sat me down for an interview for what was supposed to be a short video for the About section on my website.

He asked me a question about when I first found my love for ballet, and I ended up talking for 40 minutes and more or less told the story of my life since I first began dancing at age 9 in WWII Honolulu.

After finally watching the whole interview, I began looking through my photo collection, and realized I have a lot of very interesting pictures from my past 71 years of loving ballet.

So, I thought, why not a pictorial memoir? Not a biography with zillions of words, but more like a scrapbook of interesting photos and little stories about them.

Lucky to have such a vast collection of ballet history to pour through

I spent most of January and February collecting all the photos I could find: from growing up in Honolulu, studying with “Mr. C” (William F. Christensen) at the U. of U., dancing on broadway in Flower Drum Song, joining the San Francisco Ballet, going to Hollywood to dance in the film version of Flower Drum, joining the Joffrey Ballet, the Harkness Ballet, leaving the ballet world for 3 years to devote myself to world peace through Buddhism, opening the Finis Jhung Ballet Studio, getting married, losing our first child to meningitis, but then having another son, Jason, who is today my office manager and emerging video producer, founding and directing my own Chamber Ballet USA, going through a divorce and single-parenting Jason, teaching in all the major studios in NY, and at workshops in the USA and Europe, and producing more than 50 instructional ballet videos and 18 music CDs for the ballet class, and today teaching my adult babies at The Ailey Extension.

What has been extremely time-consuming, frustrating and rewarding was locating the photographers who took the photos so that I could have their permission to publish. Michael Avedon photographed the Harkness Ballet, and after weeks of searching I was told that, sadly, he had passed away. I was greatly saddened to learn this as we had been good friends. And even more saddened to know that I would not be able to use his photos.

And then, through Christine Redpath, I was referred to Mimi Paul (yes, that gorgeous NYCB ballerina of the 60’s) who told me Michael is very much alive! And now I have secured his permission, and you will be able to enjoy his photographic artistry.

I did not keep diaries, and, in fact, I threw out some incredible media when I left the ballet world, so it is challenging to try to remember specific events.

But at the same time, I am being energized as I realize through the photos all the wonderful events that have happened so far have fulfilled all my childhood dreams I had growing up in a poor family in Honolulu.

I am blessed, and hope to share that with you in BALLET FOR LIFE: A Pictorial Memoir by Finis Jhung.

Speaking of which, if any of my customers or friends are in publishing I am actively seeking a publisher. Please contact me via email: finis@finisjhung.com or via phone: 1-800-357-3525

Finally, do any of you have a favorite memoir? If so, what do you love about it?

To Dance is to Live!

Finis

Turning 80, Last Monday Night Class & Final Workshops

Hi all,

Last Sunday, my adult babies & the Ailey Extension hosted a celebration for my forthcoming 80th birthday. I was overwhelmed! It was so wonderful to see so many lovely people—some of whom I couldn’t recognize because I’ve never seen them with their (street) clothes on and their hair down!


Special thanks to the those who put the event together: Caleena Chiang, Graham Daw​, Noreen Figueroa, Mariko Fukuyama, Donna Ghelerter, Hilde Gore, Jin Kang, Donna Knipp, Adele Macintosh, Ari Miyagawa, MP Nunan, Mayumi Omagari, Sooji Pak, Ileana Luminita Ray, Amy Thomas, and Julie Wong. (If I’ve missed anyone, please accept my apologies.)

Making the occasion especially joyous was the presence of dear people from my dance journey who are still very much with me today:

  • Judy Weiss, Master Pointe Shoe Fitter at Grishko NY (she was in my very first ballet class 45 years ago)
  • Larry Rhodes, Director of Dance at Juilliard (we shared the stage in the Joffrey & Harkness Ballet companies 48 years ago)
  • Christine Redpath, ballet master at NYCB (my first New York City Ballet dancer 44 years ago)
  • Barbara Forbes, Feldenkrais practitioner and teacher of ballet at Sarah Lawrence College (the ballet mistress for my Chamber Ballet USA 1982-1985)

Recording the event for posterity was my video director/producer and business manager son Jason, and his expert cameraman, Gregory Washington. And let’s not forget the ever-present Stephen von der Launitz, who began studying with me in 1984 and has photographed most all my DVD & CD covers, designed earlier catalogs and has shot all the photos you love to see on Facebook. Adding family joy was my niece, Catherine Jhung Hickey, and her handsome son, Shannon.

Thank you all for your beautiful cards and gifts, and a special thank-you to Dana Evans for showing the spirit of aloha with her heart-felt hulas. In Hawaii, we have a special word for “thank you”—it’s MAHALO.

I gave my final Monday evening class for Absolute Beginners at the Ailey Extension this week.

After 45 years of teaching, I’ve decided I need another full day off so that I can focus on writing my memoir (and other books) and to create more short videos for those of you who can’t attend my NY classes.

Thank you to all my dedicated Monday students over the years. If you can’t make any of my other classes during the week, you should try my streaming single videos so you can continue your ballet education at home, at work, or on vacation.

I hope you will all attend the weekend workshops for Adult Students and Teachers this summer, as they will be the last. Much as I love doing them, they don’t come out of thin air—I spend hours scripting the workshops and then teach for almost 10 hours each weekend. It is true, I am turning 80 and my muscles are demanding rest and care.

Working on my memoir (working title: Ballet for Life)—is a challenging experience. You know I only like to live in the present and look forward to the future, which is why I’ve never tried to write my own biography—all those words! But, many of you have commented so often on the pictures I’ve posted on Facebook, so I thought “Ah ha!”—I’ll make a pictorial memoir. It’s all based on photos of events in my life that go all the way back to 1938.

But that also has not been easy: sifting through photos I haven’t bothered to look at in years; trying to find the photographers who recorded my professional career to ask their permission to publish—and sometimes going into blind alleys—and sometimes finding pots of gold such as unpublished photos of me in the Joffrey and Harkness Ballets by master photographers like Jack Mitchell.

The upshot is that I realize I’ve led a blessed life—which you will see when you read the book—I was born under lucky stars—or as we say in Buddhism, I’ve had very good karma. One thing has always led to another, each better than the one before, and at age 80 I have so many wonderful people like you, who make my life worth living—and serving.

Mahalo and a Happy Memorial Day Weekend to everyone!
Finis