A different kind of athlete
Saturday morning held a rare opportunity. The Smuin Ballet invited long time subscribers to attend the morning ballet class before their 2 pm performance.
The company assembled onstage at the Lesher, which looks industrial and functional with just the work lights on. The dancers were dressed in warm-ups of every style and color, and portable barres had been brought out.
The first fifteen minutes they worked individually warming up with stretching and calisthenics, then the group formed up at the barre and Ballet Master Amy London took over.
Amy, a former member of the corps de ballet, leads the company through a series of dance combinations designed to use and strengthen every part of the body.
By tradition, the dancers begin with their left hands on the barre, working the right side of the body. The whole group shifts hands later in the process.
The class goes on for quite a while, Amy introducing new, difficult combinations that both work the body and improve specific dance technique. Eventually, the barres are removed so they can practice their pirouettes. Just as some of us are right handed and some left handed, each dancer spins better in one direction and they need to practice more in their weaker direction.
Two of the pieces in this seasons program were created by left-handed choreographers (Amy Siewert and Ma Cong), which leads to more off-direction spins. Just another amazing fact I learned.
Ballet dancers are athletes, no less so than the 49’rs, and have to look good doing it, too. The work they did in this class would put most of us in bed for a week–and they do it before they do their performance for the day. These are no twinkly toed sissies, these are hardcore athletes, men and women in perfect physical shape at the top of their form.
One dancer in particular caught my eye–mostly for his choice in clothes. There aren’t many men who could wear these:
Wes is the son of Mike Krukow, the Giants color man (and former starting pitcher). Being an athlete just runs in his family.
My camera was running out of battery and we had people coming over for dinner so I had to leave–the dancers had been working for over an hour and weren’t yet finished, then had a performance to give at 2 pm.
Watching this ballet class was a great pleasure and strong learning experience. Hope I get to do it again next year.