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Yalies hoping to perfect their pirouettes have a new on-campus option for ballet classes.

The Yale Dance Lab and Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company have been co-hosting open ballet classes at the Broadway Rehearsal Loft for the last semester. The classes, held on Saturdays by local dance instructors Marc Spielberger and Jeremy Cox, are open to students enrolled in Yale College and intended for intermediate to intermediate-advanced dancers. 

“We’re just here to teach ballet,” said Marc Spielberger, who instructs students in the program alongside Jeremy Cox. 

Co-sponsored by the Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company and the Yale Dance Lab, the collaboration emerged from a five-year relationship between the two on-campus dance programs. The instructors described their collaboration with the Yale students as extremely rewarding. Every Saturday, in the Broadway Rehearsal Loft, varying numbers of Yale undergraduates gather for 90 minutes of ballet. 

After a long week of teaching, dancing and choreographing at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet company, a Saturday class can seem like yet another task. But according to Cox, students and instructors alike are enthusiastic participants in the program. The classes are voluntary, not mandatory. Thus, everyone is there by their own volition.

Cox added that it is inspiring to see so many “motivated bodies,” especially taking into account the busy schedule of the average Yalie. This appreciation is mutual — both students and instructors provide an escape for the other from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

“[The instructors’] energy bounces off the walls of the Broadway Rehearsal Lofts, inspiring us to put our energy into these movements before returning to the world of psets and papers,” said student coordinator for Yale Dance Lab Lexi Dalrymple.

Dalrymple also expressed appreciation for how “dedicated to their craft” and “supportive” Cox and Spielberger are.

Spielberger touched on the degree to which the students appreciate ballet. He described ballet as an “academic practice,” and articulated that the Yale students in attendance understand that dance — especially classical ballet — relies heavily on “learning” and “dedication,” much like more traditional academia. Not only do the students attending the classes understand the degree of dedication practicing ballet requires, but they are willing to commit to that discipline for an hour and a half on a Saturday afternoon. 

As Dalrymple put it: ballet “is a struggle for unattainable perfection,” but that is what is attractive about it. She further mentioned that having a class open to anyone and purely for the sake of the art rather than contributing to a larger project has created a “closer-knit community… even if you never perform together.” 

The Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company is the “sole dance group devoted to the art of ballet” at Yale, according to their website. The company was founded in 2011 and has put on many productions over the years including the Nutcracker in 2018 and Sleeping Beauty in 2017. Just as the Saturday classes are devoted solely to ballet, so too is the Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company, and the classes offer an opportunity to further explore their technique and artistry outside of rehearsal.

The Yale Dance Lab is an on-campus collective that aims to promote an interdisciplinary approach to research and activism through multiple means.

“[The Yale Dance Lab is] an umbrella for immersive, intensive pre-professional training coupled with exposure to influential artists, aesthetics, and creative research,” faculty director Emily Coates told the News.  

Coates is also the director of dance studies at Yale, associate professor in theater and performance studies, as well as secondary appointment in the directing department at the Yale School of Drama. Combining the arts with activism and research, the Dance Lab approaches important topics from a multitude of disciplines.

The Dance Lab has a history of larger scale projects dating back to 2011. Coates defined these projects as “a specific movement vocabular[y] and artists of diverse backgrounds and perspectives.” Over the summer of 2021 the group started the New Haven Dance History Project, which is a research into the historical roots of dance in New Haven going back to the 1980s. 

Taking into account the many forms of dance and communities that participate in it, this is an ongoing project at Dance Lab. Currently, their main project is the Rite of Spring, a large-scale production of the ballet choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky and composed by Igor Stravinsky which debuted in 1913 in Paris. The Yale Dance Lab production of the show will be a co-production with the Yale Symphony Orchestra and the Schwarzman Center later this spring. 

These classes are not affiliated with the larger scale productions of the Yale Dance Lab or the Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company, but rather a stand-alone series that aims to increase involvement with dance on campus. 

Although it does not contribute to these organizations’ longer term goals directly, Coates described it as “one small part” of continuing Dance Lab’s mission and giving open access to ballet on campus.