Professional Dancer Helps State College Ballet Students Develop Skills
Each summer, Ballet Theatre of State College (BTSC) gives students the opportunity to take classes taught by visiting guest artists.
Last week, Gabriella Yudenich spent four days sharing her expertise with BTSC students.
Yudenich danced professionally for over 10 years with the esteemed Pennsylvania Ballet, first in the corps de ballet and as a soloist soon after. Now she spends time giving young dancers instruction and guidance as they work through the labor-intensive art form of classical ballet.
One evening Yudenich led a class of eight-and-nine-year-olds through the barre work that helps to establish proper muscle work.
“Show me a sickled foot,” she requested. “Now show me a pointed foot.”
The students sickled then pointed their feet over and over until they all felt the difference. In each subsequent exercise, they repeated movement incorrectly then properly. Again and again. And, for kids that age doing such painstaking work, they didn’t fidget, talk, fool around or get distracted in any way. Each student stayed focused on doing things right.
“It can be tedious at times,” Yudenich says, “and young dancers have to do it over and over until they gain a tiny bit of understanding.”
Yudenich herself began dancing at seven. She gained much of her dance education from her mother, Barbara Sandonato, the very first Pennsylvania Ballet dancer. She also studied at the Rock School, which boasts alumni in every major American company, School of American Ballet and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. She then launched a professional career with Pennsylvania Ballet.
A true devotee of the rigors of ballet, Yudenich performed in classic works such as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Nutcracker,” “La Bayadere,” “Giselle” and “Swan Lake.”
And now BTSC students have had the benefit of her experience, which she willingly shares. She seems to understand how to motivate even the youngest dancers to take the art seriously.
“Of course children do have to have the love and passion to try to give 200 percent,” she says.
Finding that love and passion in the BTSC students, Yudenich says, “I appreciate that. It makes this job fun, easy and inspiring.”
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