Is the Colburn Dance Academy Becoming SAB West?
In only two years, the Colburn Dance Academy in Los Angeles has surpassed expectations. Directed by former New York City Ballet stars Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette, the Academy has placed grads, either as trainees or full professionals, into Dance Theatre of Harlem, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Fayette and Ringer have brought in NYCB stars like Wendy Whelan to give master classes. Just last week current NYCB faves Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle visited. Benjamin Millepied, director of L.A. Dance Project and an advisor to Colburn, has also been in to teach, as has Peter Boal, director of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Next year, the students will get the rare opportunity to take class with Helgi Tomasson, visionary director of San Francisco Ballet. Millepied, Boal and Tomasson are also former NYCB principals. It's a way to extend what Fayette calls the “NYCB family.”
Colburn is a boutique school with only 12 students ages 14–19, so they get plenty of attention. As I noted two years ago when the Academy was just a gleam in the eyes of Ringer and Fayette, hopes were high. Fayette now says they have exceeded expectations. This video of Reichlen and Angle teaching class gives an idea of the caliber of the school.
Will the Colburn Dance Academy become the West Coast branch of the School of American Ballet? Established in 1934 by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, SAB is without a doubt the oldest, most storied, continuously running ballet school in the United States. (Disclosure: I’m an alum, having spent two summers there in the 1960s.) It’s such a cornerstone of American ballet training that Jennifer Dunning wrote a book, But First a School, about its centrality in building a ballet culture in this country. And of course, it was SAB that furnished Balanchine with his amazing dancers.
Now the Academy, which is part of the larger Colburn School, offers excellent Balanchine-style training and mentorship to those who live on the West Coast. Half the students are local, and the other half come from as far away as Georgia and Long Island.
Here’s to taking the legendary SAB training westward.
More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:
"Is your daughter the dancer?"
"Actually," I say, "I am."
"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"
"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."
Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.
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