TBT: Master Teacher Suki Schorer On Making Ballet Technique “Uncomplicated”

February 24, 2022

In the February 1987 issue of Dance Magazine, we profiled beloved master teacher Suki Schorer. After beginning her career at San Francisco Ballet, she joined New York City Ballet in 1959, attaining the rank of principal in 1968. While still in the NYCB corps, she began teaching at the School of American Ballet at George Balanchine’s request; he later asked her to head an outreach program that gave lecture-demonstrations at New York City public schools, and to stage his ballets for the annual SAB workshop.

Schorer became a permanent faculty member at SAB upon her retirement from NYCB in 1972 (she was the first faculty member to come out of the company); she continues there today as the Brown Foundation Senior Faculty Chair. In the interim, she’s become one of the most revered teachers of the Balanchine style, penning Suki Schorer on Balanchine Technique, which was published in 1999, a year after she received a Dance Magazine Award.

In a black and white image, a young Suki Schorer is in fourth arabesque en pointe, her torso tipped further forward in an almost French style.
Photo courtesy DM Archives

But her full-bodied teaching, as she explained in our February 1987 issue, is also informed by her training under Lew and Harold Christensen (who were influenced by the Danish ballet tradition) and her study of Pilates. “I try to make it very uncomplicated when I teach,” she told us. “There’s no mystery. But to achieve it takes years, to make that simple thing a part of yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s simple…. Another thing that I try to work on is that the students feel comfortable about being who they are when they dance. Whoever you are, I want to see you inside your own body. I want to see you do something to interest me. Make it yours. Balanchine didn’t want a zombie—he wanted to see the dancer, who you were, without pretending to play-act or be somebody else.”