Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ballet Class En Masse

It's my great, great fortune that the kind and clever Zvi Gotheiner happens to be teaching our University course this fall. Over break, I've finally ventured into his lauded, crowded midtown NYC ballet classes. I'd like to serve up a demi-tasse of a review, because over the past week I've found this quite a special experience.

He starts with a gentle pliƩ and tendu combination that stays consistent every day, letting your brain warm into the class. His combinations always have something to challenge the brain: maybe an unusual port-des-bras, or a rhythm that counts two against three. My body best appreciates how Zvi has us repeat each combination twice. I find his floor tendu combination an enormous mental challenge. The adagio is three-dimensional, turning corners and using all facings of the room. Likewise with his long floor phrase. He makes you move; the steps connect with the fluidity of contemporary choreography and send you back and forth rapidly in the space. Turns come mixed throughout and lumped together at the end of this phrase. He does a very brief jump warmup, and then combines petite and grande allegro into one complex mid-length combination. Actually, there isn't any real grande allegro, which I do miss. Throughout Zvi never stops to correct, but he will sometimes adjust a dancer with his hands mid-combination.

This is a healthy, challenging, beautiful class. The atmosphere is relaxed: people laugh. It's been crowded with upwards of thirty dancers every day that I've been there, ranging from true ballerinas to ex-dancers just looking to feel the ritual of morning warmup. The barres get so crowded that people stand with one hand on the wall. It reminds me of the profi classes in Berlin more than anything else, and it gets my limbs flowing, to be surrounded by so many other moving bodies.

Downsides? The City Center studio has no windows, and with the masses of people, much of the second half of class is spent waiting for the rare chance to go across the floor. Other than that?...

The photos are of Zvi's company, performing his choreography. Enjoy some video clips and more information on his company, ZviDance...

City Center, back entrance. $15 a class, cash.
Monday - Friday, 10 AM - 12 PM, but it seems to start around 10:15 every day.
Saturday, 11 AM - 1 PM.

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