Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall
850 Wolcott Avenue (Route 9D)
Beacon, NY 12508
Phone: [+1] 845-838-5454
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Below are excerpts from the MFAB Student Handbook. To purchase a copy of the complete handbook, which includes photographs and much more information, please send an email to the webmail contact on the top of this webpage.
The Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet teaches classical theatrical dancing to the highest standards worldwide. Fonteynís art, by the end of her life, based on her experience as the most celebrated ballerina of all time, and her long experience dancing on stages around the world, was regarded as the ultimate in dance performance. The Academy upholds her standard of excellence and instills this in its students through rigorous training in classical ballet technique, but ballet technique is not sufficient to produce artists. Therefore, the Academy also teaches music, design, history, personal grooming for the ballet stage (hair, costume, shoe maintenance and makeup) and knowledge of other art forms.
Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias envisioned an international fine arts institution in which all of the arts would be studied under one roof. Her belief was that young artists of divergent fields of expression would enter into conversations about the core issues of art (expression, interpretation, focus, et cetera), and would consequently develop a deeper understanding of the artistic purpose of their endeavors. She and Ken Ludden worked together to develop this concept for the last twelve years of her life, but died before the institution could be built.
Academy students must learn basic acting skills to advance to each next level in their studies. Acting, along with music, is essential for ballet dancers, particularly in the modern era when they must perform a wide variety of choreographic styles. Their acting training prepares them for a life on stage, and is also preparation for work on film and television.
The Fonteyn Academy offers a full curriculum of classical dance technique. In addition, other movement techniques a professional dancer is required to know (modern dance, character, ethnic, improvisational, etc.) are taught as well. The students have a full regimen of technique classes they must learn.
Dancers are also taught the fundamental principles of movement through a series of workshops in Body Mechanics. These workshops illustrate the ways in which various muscle sets and joints are designed, the variety of ways they can be used, and the methods to maximize the efficiency of energy use while minimizing the stress on any one set of muscles.
"The Choreographer is never wrong." This statement, upon which the Academy's approach to technique is based, requires that students be prepared to dance any choreography, in any style, by any method of learning required. In professional dance companies, the lines of stylistic demarcation have been blurred by the wide variety of stylistic offerings in repertoire presented in public performances. Academy graduates are required to demonstrate the skill to learn and perform any type of work at all. But this includes the classical ballets in their pure form, as well. Using classical theatrical dancing as the base, students will be taught how to approach any sort of movement vocabulary and become fluent enough in it to interpret every role they are asked to learn.
At the end of the 20th century, the effect of the Ballet Boom years shifted the emphasis to technique alone in many cases. At the Academy, the highest standard of technique is demanded from each student, but it is never to be at the expense of artistic expression. Students will learn how to give a brilliant technical performance that also meets the highest artistic standards of performance.
Academy vs. Dance School
MFAB graduates will not only be trained with the highest standards of classical theatrical dance, but also will be schooled in other aspects of the arts. A professional ballet dancer must know how to maintain their body as a tool, have proper hygiene, adhere to a healthy diet, know how to sew shoes, know proper conduct in both the studio and the theater, be able to work in union and non-union companies, coordinate well with others in a company, be able to adeptly deal with members of the press, etc. A successful career is much more than simply doing the technique.
At a typical dance school, students are taught technique and are often given choreography to perform and rehearse. This is good, and can often become the basis of professional careers. But among the ranks of dancers in professional companies, focus on the artistic delivery of choreography often is side tracked by the process of learning how to do all of these other skills. Academy graduates will be prepared in advance for these aspects of dance and will therefore have more energy to focus on the ballet as they progress through the ranks of a company.
To learn classical technique piece-meal is possible, but often produces dancers who do not have an in depth understanding of their art form, or even their technique. Academy dancers are educated in a tradition, brought up along the way to understand and perform with wisdom in their bodies, which is far different from just being able to do the steps. Having been so schooled, Academy student will be ahead of others in the field, and empowered to achieve their goals. Ambition without clear vision of the future is reckless. But when a student is properly and thoroughly trained, ambition becomes another tool with which to build a career.
The career span of a classical dancer is very short, particularly if they have bad habits in their technical or hygienic routines. The field is very competitive, and every sort of choreographic style is performed even in large classical ballet companies. Dancers must be able to deliver whatever the choreographers, directors and teachers require, but also must have a healthy and balanced outlook on life.
Preparation for a career on the stage is important, but in the view of the Academy, that preparation must also give an eye to what happens when dancing stops. Will you teach? Will you direct? Will you do public relations? Will you do something else all together? Academy students will be prepared, as much as possible, for these inevitabilities.
History of Ballet Academies
Below is a summary of the greatest academies in the history of classical ballet. These histories were well known to Fonteyn as she plotted the blueprint for her own vision of this type of institution. She understood that she would be starting something new, and felt strongly that it had to start after the new century began. The Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet is a humble beginning that perhaps will some day grow into an institution like these historic ones, while also pushing the bar higher and raising standards for breadth of education for the ballet dancer.
Royal Ballet School - London
The founding of the school came in 1926, when Dame Ninette de Valois opened her Academy of Choreographic Art. Inspired to create a repertory ballet company and school, she collaborated with Lilian Baylis, lessee and Manager of the Old Vic Theatre. When Lilian Baylis acquired the Sadlerís Wells Theatre, de Valois moved the School there in 1931 and it became The Vic-Wells Ballet School feeding dancers into The Vic-Wells Ballet Company. In 1939 the school was re-named The Sadlerís Wells Ballet School and the Company became The Sadlerís Wells Ballet.
In 1946 The Sadlerís Wells ballet moved to a permanent home at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. A second company was formed, The Sadlerís Wells Theatre Ballet. In 1947 the School moved from Sadlerís Wells Theatre to Barons Court and general education was, at last, combined with vocational ballet training.
The Lower School moved to White Lodge, Richmond Park in 1955/56 and became residential, combining general education and vocational ballet training. The Upper School remained at Barons Court.
The Royal Charter was granted in October 1956 and the School and companies were renamed The Royal Ballet School, The Royal Ballet and the Sadlerís Wells Royal Ballet (later renamed Birmingham Royal Ballet following its move there in 1990).
From that time the School has become both the leading classical ballet school in the United Kingdom earning government support and an international institution which attracts the very best ballet students worldwide. The calibre of students graduating from the school is self-evident. Previous Royal Ballet School students include: Dame Margot Fonteyn, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Sir Peter Wright, Dame Antoinette Sibley, Sir Anthony Dowell, Dame Merle Park, Monica Mason OBE, Lynn Seymour, Marcia Haydee, Jiri Kylian, David Wall, Lesley Collier CBE, Wayne Eagling, Stephen Jefferies, Marion Tait CBE, David Bintley CBE, Leanne Benjamin, Darcey Bussell OBE, Alina Cojocaru, Miyako Yoshida, Adam Cooper, Jonathan Cope CBE, Christopher Hampson, Kevin OíHare, Ivan Putrov and Christopher Wheeldon.
In January 2003 the Upper School moved to new premises in Floral Street, alongside Londonís Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The state of the art studios are linked to The Royal Ballet by the award winning Bridge of Aspiration thus fulfilling Madamís dream to have Company and School side by side in the centre of London.
The Academy provides a world class education for serious and talented young ballet dancers just like the other major ballet academies of the world, but is located in Beacon, not in a foreign country.
Parents in the local area will have their children at home. The advantages of this are not to be underestimated. Other major institutions of ballet training (Royal Ballet School in London, Paris Opera School in France, and Kirov Academy in Saint Petersburg, Russia) offer training to Americans, but only the Kirov Academy has a campus in the United States (located in Washington, DC), so that American students must travel internationally and live in dormitories far from home. But even this is, as all of the others, located in an extremely large metropolitan area, inside of the city.
The Margot Fonteyn Academy does not currently have a dormitory, but inevitably will have one in the future to accommodate students not lucky enough to live in the area. But even at that time, the students will live in the beauty and safety of the Hudson River Valley, again freeing them to focus on their work. Today's Academy students, who are able to live at home, have all the benefits of world class education while also having the support of their families and the serenity of the geographic area.
Placing the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet in Beacon, New York allows for easy access to the cultural center in New York City, and subsequent access to some of the most important artists and institutions in dance in the world, while offering a location free of stress and lush with natural beauty. Since ballet is an art form that requires very young children to begin their study, it is important that the atmosphere around the studio is one of relative safety so that students, and parents, can feel secure to work without distraction or concern. Beacon is unique due to its dedication to artists. Arts flourish in Europe where being an artist is an esteemed profession, and likewise in Beacon, the young students will have the unspoken support of that esteemed view of their enterprise. Dance is perhaps the most demanding and arduous of art forms to master, and is done when a person is extremely young and has millions of other things competing for their attention. To be held in high esteem during this training will give them confidence in general, and will help to propel them through the more difficult times of their training.