Originally created 08/11/05

Guest teacher offers new perspective

As members of the Augusta Dance Theatre worked on the choreography of Cinderella, Helen Starr gave the dancers added instruction.

"Don't think of it as a pirouette. Think of it as a suspended movement. Float it and stretch it," said Ms. Starr, the associate artistic director for the Louisville (Ky.) Ballet.

Ms. Starr was a guest teacher at the Ron Jones Academy of Ballet, the ballet school for the Augusta Dance Theatre, on July 18-22.

A native of Kent, England, she has performed and taught dance in 36 countries during her career.

She danced with the Royal Ballet in England and the London Festival Ballet, now known as the English National Ballet.

Her dance partners have included Mikhail Baryshnikov, John Gilpin and Andre Prokovsky. Ms Starr also has performed with other greats, including Rudolf Nureyev.

She spent about six hours each day with the Augusta Dance Theatre's performers.

"It's been a lot of fun to have someone new come in. You learn different things," said Amy Sherman, a rising senior at John S. Davidson Fine Arts School.

Ron Jones, the artistic director of the Augusta Dance Theatre, is the primary teacher of the girls and boys in his company, so having a female's perspective also is a nice change, Amy said.

"It helps a lot with partnering," Amy said. "She knows what the girl is supposed to do."

Another hat that Ms. Starr wears - that of the artistic director - allows her to enjoy the role of teacher.

She said she feels it is her responsibility to pass the art of ballet on to other generations.

"Ballet is very involved. It's not just physical; it's mental and spiritual," she said.

"I'm backed by a huge tradition that is only passed on by word of mouth.

"You can look at videos, but they don't give the heart and soul that comes from people like myself," she said.

When working with younger dancers, Ms. Starr finds she has to slow them down.

"Young people want to run before they can walk," she said.

As they try to become more athletic dancers, she pulls them back to the art and grace of ballet.

"The carriage of the arms and upper body gets dropped a little," Ms. Starr said.

"Seventy-five percent of the audience watch (dancers) from the waist up.

Most people want to see the whole person."

Ms. Starr said she knows that her presence with the Augusta Dance Theatre members was only a reinforcement of what they've already learned.

She said that sometimes dancers might hear what they're missing when it's in a different voice.

"I've had a great time here," she said.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at czbrackett@hotmail.com.


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