April 28, 2013

A small part of my journey

Last fall I had the great opportunity to study for a short period of time at CPYB. I wrote this article not to long after attending the school. It reflects how I saw and experienced CPYB in the limited time I was there.

An Insight into CPYB

Have you ever heard of the professional ballet school Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB)? If you live in Europe, probably not. But if you live in the US, you most likely will know them. Since I had the opportunity to study there for a short while, I wanted to give you an insight into one of the most successful ballet schools in North America.

It all began in 1955, when Founding Artistic Director Marcia Dale Weary opened up the Barn Studios in Carlisle Pennsylvania. It quickly grew from a small local dance school to one of the top ballet schools in the US. They even have their own company which performs throughout the year. A highlight is George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker", which the school shows in December. The nice thing about CPYB is that they will teach any student who really wants to dance. You don't have to have the perfect feet or body. Just the desire to learn and work very hard. And they have great success with that approach; today over 100 of their alumni are dancing with professional companies around the world.  The training is very intense. You have class Monday through Saturday. Most days one has at least three classes in a row without a break. Saturday is the most challenging day; it starts at 9 am and ends at 6:30 pm. Some students have as much as seven classes with two half-hour breaks. They structure the schedule very well so that you can get through the day. But by Saturday evening, the only thing you want to do is go to bed and sleep. During the classes they focus on every detail of technique, but also on artistry and presence. One repeats the same exercises many times to achieve the perfection that is needed in this challenging career. The lower levels have tap (to practice rhythm), pointe and of course ballet. Upper levels have additional repertoire and pas de deux, but no tap. Once in a while they will have useful seminars on nutrition, pointe shoes and other dance related topics. These are held by CPYB faculty or professional guest instructors.
Every student is seen as an individual and is respected as a person. They are willing to guide and help the young dancers where ever they can. When you have a question or concern, one can go and speak with the faculty. They always have an open ear for their dancers.
Students are mostly on their own to find a place to live. CPYB provides a housing list, with different host families and apartments near the school. But the rest is up to the student.
Every summer they have a large 5-week summer ballet program which attracts students from around the world. In August they also have a short 2-week program which most kids attend to get back "in shape" before the school year starts in September. Both programs are created for a wide range of dancers, from beginner to professional. The classes are held at the Barn Studios, the Warehouse Studios and, if more space is needed, in Dickinson College Studios.
I would definitely recommend CPYB for pre-professional ballet training. One just has to know that the days are long with many classes and, in the beginning, all students are placed in a low level. They want to ensure that everyone has the same strong basis on which to build. That could mean that you are in class with kids that are much younger than yourself. Level is based on ability not age. Sometimes it is hard to see the six-year-old dancing next to you, doing the exercise perfectly correct, while you are struggling. One has to try to keep one's focus on one's goal. It's not always easy, but with desire, endurance and the right attitude, many aspiring dancers can strive at CPYB. And that could very well lead you to a contract with a professional company, anywhere in the world!

The Barn Studios

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