Happy Father’s Day!!

First off, Happy Father’s Day, Dad!!

And Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there and anyone celebrating their father or father figure on this day.

I am honored to be guest-writing this blog entry and giving my Dad more time to work on his pictorial memoir.

Growing up in New York City, I remember being a very happy child living on the Upper West Side while Dad was always working in some capacity, which continues to this very day.

If memory serves right, he has missed only 2 days (or something ridiculous like that) of teaching in the last 40 something years which, occasionally, makes me question whether he is a real-life human being or an early attempt at the perfect ballet-teaching cyborg.

While this was hard to understand growing up, it is his passion for dance, integrity as a human being and discipline as an educator that constantly leaves me in awe.

As I sat down and thought about what to write, I started with “what makes a good father or father figure?”

A father or father figure:

  • Doesn’t have to play catch with you when you’re a kid, or teach you to fish, or drive, or anything specific for that matter
  • Always leads by example and does whatever they can for you and others, throughout their life
  • Doesn’t try to make you what they wish they could have been or want you to be, allowing you to be you
  • Supports decisions you make and explains the outcome by focusing on the process, right or wrong
  • Is in your corner, no matter what
  • Pushes you to be a better person, constantly

Dad, you embody all of the above to me, and I appreciate all of the things you have done for me throughout my life.

For all the times we were stopped in the street on our way to dinner when I was a kid, I realize now how special it was that the people stopping you were former students or people you had crossed paths with in your life, and they wanted to say hello to you out of respect and admiration.

That continues to this day, and I put together a little video from your 80th birthday party put on by your adult babies at Ailey to reflect exactly this.

 

 

I am so grateful to be working alongside of you producing your instructional videos, working on your pictorial memoir and slowly taking over your home business and helping you expand into the digital world we now live in.

 

Dad, today I celebrate you and want everyone out there to know that I couldn’t have asked for a better father, despite my being a constant pain in your rear.

I love you very much and hope all the other fathers and father figures/mentors out there are being appreciated as well.

Your son,

Jason

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

Plié-relevé correctly:

Keep your focus on the sequential action of your foot. Your body should already be placed over the supporting toe when you complete the demi-plié. Keep the supporting thigh and knee placed—do not pull them back towards your heel—press down on the floor so that your foot rolls through the arch to the half-toe. Keep pressing the ball of your foot and toes against the floor until you stand straight on your standing leg. Let your weight drop through your bones all the way down into the floor. Enjoy the security of balancing solidly on one foot on releve!

opposition

You’ll have better control of your movements if you always use opposition through your upper body. When you dance to the right, reach back to the left with your supporting arm and shoulder. Don’t look where you are going – look away – use the textbook body positions when you are working in fourth position front and you will look better and move more quickly.