This summer, Amherst Ballet has had fruitful collaborations with other physical art groups in the area on two occasions.
The first was a week-long workshop called “STRETCH!!!,” in which participants were introduced to Taekwondo, dance, yoga, Capoeira, and East Asian cultures. The day started with a 10-minute mindfulness meditation led by Reiko Sono of UMass Amherst.
After thus anchoring their mindset, the students took Taekwondo classes with Annie Schwarz of Amherst Martial Arts in the morning. Annie varied the content from day to day, starting out with kicks, moving onto weapons and hand forms, and ending with board breaking. Thanks to years of dance training, the students were quick to pick up any movements, although they looked more beautiful than fierce for most of the time.
After Taekwondo, Reiko, who teaches Japanese culture and language at UMass, gave classes on East Asian Cultures with the help of Professor Stephen Forrest, also of UMass Amherst. The classes touched upon religion, social customs, languages, food, and martial arts of China, Korea, and Japan. Although the time constraint prohibited them from delving deep into the topics, the students were excited to learn about the cultures from the other side of the globe. On the fourth day, they enjoyed a lunch consisting of rice balls, miso soup, seaweed salad, and a tofu dish.
The first half of the afternoon was devoted to dance and Capoeira. Madeleine Bonn of Amherst Ballet taught ballet for the first two days while Bruno Trindade of Capoeira Gunga do Vale taught Capoeira for the rest of the week. Capoeira is a Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, dance, and music. Although it turned out to be more difficult than Taekwondo for some students because it involves handstands, its musical side was enchanting. On the last day, Bruno brought three of his students along with many musical instruments and showed us how Capoeira matches are done with music.
The final class of the day was soothing Qigong infused Yoga led by Lynne Nicole Smith. After a day full of physical activities, Lynne’s gentle yoga was perfect for stretching and relaxing the muscles.
Aimed at students of ages twelve and over, this workshop allowed them to go beyond their comfort zone both physically and intellectually, and the students appreciated it very much. The instructors also enjoyed teaching those who were different from their usual clients. Hopefully, this will mark the beginning of a tradition of collaborative workshops.
Another collaboration that excited many was the one between Amherst Ballet and Sattva Center for Archery Training. This two-day workshop was a result of Madeleine’s longtime wish. “I’ve always felt that archery and classical ballet share many common principles, and I wanted to create a program exploring that possibility,” said Madeleine.
Each day began with an “archery-themed ballet class,” incorporating many of archery’s mental and physical techniques into the movements. Then, in the afternoon, SerahRose Bisell led students on a highly detailed practice of archery training.
“The students and I discovered many similarities, some of which are: that both ballet and archery serve as mediums for self-discovery, self-empowerment, and ultimately, self-expression. They are both goal-oriented, requiring self-discipline, attention to detail, mental and physical balance, and training the body as a fine-tuned instrument,” said Madeleine.
This collaboration was so unusual and creative that it was featured by Hampshire Gazette. Read their article about the workshop here.
Madeleine hopes that this workshop can continue into the future.