When I think of “jazz,” the music of Bourbon Street or from a favorite Broadway show pops into my mind. But Jazz encompasses a wide range of music from hip hop, reggae, contemporary, and other countries, just to name a few. With such an eclectic mix of music, what exactly is jazz dance?
Several classes at the Butler Community School (BCS) fall into the “jazz” category: Broadway Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Jazz Turns & Jumps, Jazz Funk, and just plain ol’ Jazz! Because I get so many questions about jazz as well as the differences between each class, I decided to share some interesting facts about the dance form.
Jazz dance has a rather long and rich history that has evolved over the years. Jazz had its roots in African culture, where people depended on dance to tell stories and express their beliefs. This interpretive dance was brought to America. The style later changed even more with European influence, but it still continued to be a dance of expression.
Since the 1920s, Jazz has continuously evolved – Jazz dance changed as our culture changed. From the Charleston of the 1920s, jazz evolved into swing jazz during the 1930s big band era. People like Jack Cole, Bob Fosse and many others made theatre jazz popular in the middle of the century. In the 80s, FAME, FLASHDANCE, and FOOTLOOSE left their mark. Each decade brought something new and fresh. The evolution of Jazz has lead to jazz funk, lyrical, and the contemporary jazz of today. But even today, despite the range, just mention jazz to one person and it will mean something quite different than it might to another.
In spite of such diverse influence and change, or maybe because of it, jazz classes are some of the most popular dance classes around today. At the BCS, the legacy of Jack Cole can still be found in a Broadway Jazz class. Contemporary Jazz offers a more commercial style with a mix of lyrical, pop, and contemporary often seen on So You Think You Can Dance. Jazz Turns & Jumps is a technique class, designed to work on movement and learn tricks. Jazz Funk falls in line with the hip hop classes, cool and funky to the hottest pop music. And then there is just Jazz, a fun, upbeat, New York style jazz class.
Despite all the changes over the decades, and all the different styles, one thing’s for sure: Jazz is fun. There’s a style for everyone, too, so let go and express yourself. It’s what Jazz is all about!
Click for more information on Jazz classes at the Ballet Austin Butler Community School.
Finding fun activities to do, not to mention working out, can be incredibly challenging now that the temps in our great state have reached triple digits. So we’d like to invite you to stop by Ballet Austin this Sunday to beat the heat and catch a movie with us in our AustinVentures StudioTheater. We are partnering up with Austin Film Festival once again to bring you the second installment of our summer Dance Film series. This Sunday, at 3pm, we are screening The Company. $10 not only gets you in the door for the movie, but ALSO gets you access to one of our incredibly popular Ballet Fit classes (my personal favorite) directly following the show. Interested? Scroll down for more information on The Company, Ballet Fit and Sunday’s instructor and new Ballet Austin Company member, Elise Pekarek.
The Company (2003):
Through a tale composed of true accounts, Director Robert Altman (“M.A.S.H.”, “The Player”) brings us an intimate look at the intense lives of ballet performers at the Chicago Ballet Company. Allowing freedom from tightly scripted dialogue, Altman elicits genuine performances from his cast. This, along with a plot comprised from real-life stories, gives “The Company” such an authenticity as it reveals to us the lives of those who endure the pressures of ballet and performance art.
Ballet Fit incorporates a variety of ballet-inspired movements to improve flexibility and balance, and also strengthen, lengthen and tone muscles. This class is focused on fitness and fun. By integrating classical ballet movements with additional exercises such as crunches and push-ups, Ballet Fit will promote overall toning, help reduce weight, increase muscle strength and flexibility, improve coordination and posture and firm target areas. This is a class for dancers and non-dancers alike. No previous ballet experience is required. Wear workout clothing and ballet shoes or socks. Resistance bands used in some classes are provided during class.
Elise Pekarek, Instructor and 2011/12 Company member:
Originally from the Chicago area, Elise began her ballet training with Judith Svalander in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Elise attended summer programs at Ballet Austin and Pacific Northwest Ballet, and in 2007 was accepted into Ballet Austin’s Trainee Program. Elise spent two seasons as a Trainee, followed by two seasons as an apprentice in Ballet Austin II. She was recently invited to join the Company for the 2011/12 Season. Elise teaches classes for Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School and Pilates studio.
After recently completing a certification course in Youth Fitness, today I took my test. I love being a continuous learner, always thinking about what I can learn next. I want to learn something today that will bring me one step closer to excellence. I hope I will always have the desire to learn new things. It’s what makes life exciting.
I look around at the many instructors who teach classes at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School, and I realize that I am surrounded by people who share my passion for learning, becoming more qualified in their field, and pursuing excellence. So I thought I’d give a shout out to a few BCS instructors who recently completed training, or are currently in the middle of it. I believe it is part of what sets the BCS apart; excellence in the classes offered, incredible instructors of the highest caliber.
Congratulations to BCS Hula instructor Pei-San Brown who just attained the high rank of Kumu Hula (Hula Master). Ballet Austin’s Pilates Program Director, Vlada Sheber never stops learning. This past year she attended training with the Pilates Pink Ribbon Program to become a Pilates Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist.
Pilates and Ballet Fit Instructor, Elise Pekarek recently completed training to become certified with Balanced Body Pilates. Brittany Harpole who is a Certified Pilates Instructor, and teaches many of the BCS fitness classes, is currently enrolled in a course to be certified in Turbo Kick. Boo Ruiz is working towards a master level certification in fitness. Several other instructors hold certifications in yoga, are certified personal trainers, and have a wealth of experience and expertise in their field. I am proud to work alongside such an exceptional slate of instructors in the BCS. Come take a class and learn from the best!
On my run this morning I started thinking that my exercise routine has become pretty…well, “routine”. I run down the same streets, past the same houses without even thinking. Nothing changes. My brain and body both have it memorized; even my pedometer gives the same reading. I get great cardio, burn calories, feel good, but where’s the challenge? Where’s the fun? Do I need something new?
I talked to a woman last week who expressed a frustration in her current fitness regimen. She said, “I’m in an exercise rut. Can you help me?“ Another woman told me she was looking for something new and fun to re-invigorate her workout. “I want to challenge my brain and my body,” she said.
Ruts happen. And unless you’re that rare person who can do the same thing over and over, day in and day out, without losing interest or enthusiasm, staying motivated and engaged in your workout is difficult. The solution is different for everyone, but maybe it’s time to try something new. Take the BCS 4-week Course Challenge! The Butler Community School has 12 different Dance & Fitness courses beginning this week that will get you moving while learning something new and having fun. Mix up your routine. Try something different. Keep it fresh!
From Tap dance for beginners, to Hula, Yoga, Pilates-based courses, and Boot Camps; early morning, lunch time, and evening. Each course offers motivation, accountability, and camaraderie; three ingredients that will help infuse your workout.
There’s also the group aspect. One of the great things about a group is that if you show up half asleep at an early morning boot camp, or exhausted at the end of a long work day, once you join the group, you become re-energized. With a friendly instructor to challenge and motivate you, it can’t get any better. Or maybe it can; the power of the group! Nothing brings people together quite like learning together, pressing through muscle burn, or reaching a goal. Whether learning to tap or being pushed to your cardio limit, taking a BCS course will provide opportunity to develop a common bond while getting into the best shape possible. Give it 4 weeks…
Need to get out of the exercise rut? The solution might be as simple as taking a BCS Course. Sign up today. Maybe you’ll see me there!
This is the last in a three-part profile series on Butler Community School attendees and their favorite classes.
As the Schools Communication Associate, I spend a lot of my day talking with people about everything we have to offer at the Butler Community School. From Broadway Jazz and Yoga to Hula and Zumba, there’s so much going on that I pretty much live and breathe BCS. At the end of the day, you may think the last thing I’d want to do is actually take a class … but that’s exactly what I do!
Talking with some of our regulars and finding out what they love about our classes at BCS made me realize that I’m just as much of a regular as they are… Most weeks you can find me taking Ballet Fit, Arms & Abs, Yoga, Zumba and Pilates Cardio.
All of the classes I take on a regular basis lean more towards fitness than dance, but I still absolutely love them. This really surprised me because in the past, exercise was always something I dreaded doing. In fact, if I could, I would find any excuse not to do it.
I think the thing that makes the difference here is I never feel like I’m exercising. One of my favorite classes is Ballet Fit. The class mixes basic ballet technique with strengthening and toning exercises. After a plié combination at the bar, you’ll hit the floor for a series of abdominal exercises that you’ll definitely feel the next day. Every class is different so you never get bored or feel like you’re always doing the same routine.
Despite it being an incredible workout, the thing I like most is that I always feel like I am indulging my inner child. And trust me, she always gets a kick out of pretending to be a graceful swan. Elise and Emily, the instructors for Ballet Fit, are always encouraging and really strive to make sure that everyone’s having fun during the workout. Thanks to their upbeat personalities and the nature of the workout, I feel energized every time I walk out of a class. Who wouldn’t want to be a beautiful swan with killer abs?
“I am not a rich Aunt from New York City…but I played one on stage!”
That’s just one of the characters BCS Musical Theatre Workshop participant Sabrina Vega has played. She has been Ms. Hannigan from ANNIE in last year’s Broadway in May, Aunt Sophie in Holiday Road, and yes, rich Aunt Betty in Magic in Manhattan.
Every fall and spring the Butler Community School offers a Musical Theatre Performance Workshop that culminates in an onstage production in Ballet Austin’s AustinVentures StudioTheater. Community theatre at its best! This spring there are over 80 participants from age 8 to 58 who will be performing in the upcoming musical Broadway in May//Broadway Today. Sabrina is back again for a 4th time.
Here’s what Sabrina had to say about why she loves this workshop and why she thinks everyone should come see the show!
“I am excited about Broadway in May. What a great opportunity to perform songs, dances, and scenes that are on Broadway stages today! I think everyone who is in the cast has a dream, or a secret desire, to perform on Broadway. This workshop, and the performances in a real theater, gives us the opportunity to fulfill that dream. I love the process of creating pieces from Broadway shows into something of our own through original choreography and interpretation. This spring, Broadway Today takes many shows from the Great White Way and combines them all into one musical theatre review. What fun it has been for cast members to find a show or song that calls to them, and then perform it. This opportunity brings out the best in me; gives me a chance to try something new and fun. It also gives the audience a peek at what shows are on stage today in New York City. There’s something for everyone, even a sing along! Broadway in May//Broadway Today will include serious social issues, hilarious fun, classic characters, and endless entertainment on many levels.
I am not a rich Aunt from New York City…but you will see me in the opening CHICAGO number, ADDAMS FAMILY, BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, JERSEY BOYS, BEATLES, ANYTHING GOES, and more. Don’t miss it!”
This is part two of a three-part profile series on Butler Community School attendees and their favorite classes. Check back in next Thursday for part three!
In the lobby and hallways of Ballet Austin, waiting parents is a very familiar sight. For many of them, Ballet Austin has become like a second home because their children take class in the Academy as many as six days a week! One of those waiting parents, Deb Haas, decided to use that time for herself, and signed up for yoga classes at the Butler Community School. Here’s what she had to say:
“As a working mom, squeezing in time for exercise was always challenging, so the idea that I could use my time waiting for my daughter in a productive way by taking a fitness class really appealed to me. I had back surgery several years prior to starting my yoga classes at the BCS, and had lost a lot of range of motion and flexibility.
My favorite classes are definitely the yoga classes taught by Michelle Thompson and Zakkiyah Kareem. They are both such great teachers, and have so much patience. However my day had gone up until that point, it immediately improves when I sit down on my yoga mat.
Since I started taking yoga regularly at the BCS, all of my back pain has gone away, and my strength and stamina have really improved. Michellle and Zakiyyah are wonderful – and I really miss seeing them if I don’t make it to class, and I can tell both mentally and physically that I just don’t feel as good.
Taking yoga class with members of the Ballet Austin Company and staff is such a fun thing. I’m certainly not in the same kind of physical shape that they are – but there is absolutely no judging or competition in the yoga classes, which makes me feel very comfortable and at home. When I don’t make it to class, one of the regulars will often stop me in the hall and say ‘missed you last class’ – and it just adds to that good feeling that I get from participating.”
This is part one of a three-part profile series on Butler Community School attendees and their favorite classes. Check back in next Thursday for part two!
Since the opening of the Butler Community School in 2007, over 2,500 people have participated EACH year in the wide range of dance and fitness classes, courses and camps that the BCS offers. People of all ages come to the BCS for an ever-changing, wide variety of reasons – many are looking to dance and have fun, while hopefully learning something new along the way. Others often have fitness on the brain and just want to get some exercise in an encouraging group setting.
You’d think it would be simple to tell the difference between these two groups, but it’s actually much harder than you would think. Whether you walk by a Hip Hop class or a Pilates Mat class, you will always see smiling, laughing people. As the Schools Communications Associate, I wanted to find out why people were having so much fun – even while exercising! This week, I decided to ask one of our BCS regulars, Patty Koebele. Patty, who signed up for a Pilates Mat Course on the suggestion of a friend, now takes four courses AND has an unlimited BCS Class-Card. Here’s what Patty had to say about what brought her to the BCS, as well as her experience since then:
“I had just finished a round of physical therapy for severe back issues and I wanted to augment that with additional core strengthening, which Pilates provides. I was thrilled with the amount of pain relief I received from the Pilates exercises. I am very pleased with the strength, control, and flexibility I have gained. As a woman, I also prefer the longer, leaner muscles I am building, which still provide strength without the bulk.”
“Currently, my favorite classes are Ballet Fit and Pilates, but I also take Yoga and Zumba. I take classes or courses most days of the week and there are several reasons I keep coming back. First, I have to say the instructors are absolutely phenomenal! Their knowledge and experience are only surpassed by the fact that they really care about the students. I have now come to consider them friends and truly appreciate everything I have learned from them. Secondly, at BCS I have met some amazing fellow students with whom I laugh and have a ton of fun! Finally, I [am never] bored. The variety is stimulating and each class has music that makes the exercise or workout fun.”
“I initially came to BCS to glean relief from a back problem, but I have gained so much more. Through my experience at BCS, I not only feel better, am healthier, have added to my quality of life, have increased my life expectancy and hopefully even look better, but I am having a great time! I truly appreciate the staff, dancers, and students. There is something for everybody at BCS.”
There’s something about cute little penguins dancing that makes me smile. If you saw the movie Happy Feet you know what I mean. The cuddly, cheerful penguin Mumble can’t sing (are penguins supposed to be able to sing?), but can dance (although not encouraged in the penguin world). Mumble dances with joy and enthusiasm. And we smile.
I don’t tap. I don’t even dance. I lean more towards the athlete (and I use that term loosely) column than the dancer column. But I have great appreciation for the physical abilities of dancers, and I love to watch dance. As Director of Programming for the Butler Community School (BCS) I try to watch the dance classes as often as I can. Recently I watched a few tap classes. There is something exciting about the sound of metal taps on a floor; about dancing and creating music simultaneously; about the joy and enthusiasm I see on faces. Tap is a ‘feel-good’ dance; happy feet! It makes me smile.
Last week I peeked in on the BCS Kid’s Zone tap class, and also watched the teen/adult advanced tap. The other night, while watching the tappers in the BCS Musical Theatre Workshop rehearse a number from Anything Goes for the upcoming performance of Broadway in May, memories of Mitzi Gaynor and Bing Crosby came flooding back. It made me smile. The Broadway in May tappers were having the time of their lives. I had to ask them, “What makes you so happy when you tap?”
Mary Kinney takes BCS Tap classes with Danny Herman and is also enrolled in the BCS Musical Theatre Workshop. She has this to say about tap, “Tap is a fun way to get an amazing workout. I love making music with my feet! Tap is a great stress relief!”
Scout Wilkinson said, “I’ve been tapping on and off for 10 years (Which is 3/4 of my lifetime). Tap class is the highlight of my week. Danny Herman is so fun. He always praises us, even if it’s just for trying to master a step we’re not quite skilled enough to actually do. Even when we’re working hard it’s always okay for us to joke and laugh with each other. I’m sure I’ll never find a tap class that I love more. Tap makes me smile.”
So come tap away your stress, get an amazing workout, have fun, smile, and make music with your happy feet!
We just finished planning for this Saturday’s dance workshop and we are so excited for attendees to get a sneak peek at all of the elements that make our world premiere of The Magic Flute so uniquely special!
During the workshop, which explores the art of making a ballet from an opera, we will show how the giant-scale shadow puppets work in conjunction with the choreography – something that requires quite a bit of challenging coordination among everyone involved! We’ll also be revealing the whimsical costumes for the production’s most colorful characters such as the Queen of the Night and some of the animals. Since several of these costumes are still a work in progress, this costume preview will be even more exciting and exclusive for attendees.
Best of all, attendees will get to work with dancers to create their own ballet productions at the end of the workshop – they’ll choose who choreographs, designs sets and designs costumes, and when they put it all together, they’ll show their new ballet production to the entire audience!
Get a glimpse of Ballet Austin behind the scenes and read more about our upcoming performances, as well as get an inside look into the lives of company dancers and Artistic Director and Choreographer Stephen Mills.