Welcome to Part 2 of this bright informative interview!
Jenie Lau is a ballet for figure skaters instructor located in the Seattle, Washington area. Her full bio has been posted below. To schedule private or group lessons with Jenie, check out her business website, Young EduArts LLC!
Elesia Ashkenazy: What personal attributes do you bring to the field of teaching ballet to figure skaters?
Jenie Lau: The most prominent attribute I bring is my understanding and compassion for how grueling training can be. Ballet and figure skating training are similar in that they both require hours of daily dedication, plus countless hours within a week, month, year, etc. I experienced dedicated rigorous training in ballet, dance, and martial arts.
I also bring my personal thoughts on pedagogy of children from my studies in education (I am a student of the University of Washington pursuing a degree in early childhood education and family studies). The majority of my students are aged from preschool to teenaged. While the age range is wide, they are all children, and I am very cognizant of the teaching/learning relationship between student/teacher.
Elesia: How do you organize and run your private lessons and group classes?
Jenie: Private lessons are the ideal format for many figure skating students. They need the most “bang” for their money and schedule. I therefore individualize all private lessons specifically for each student.
I begin with foundational ballet exercises that have been customized to address individual needs--for example, stronger extensions and better alignment and fluidity.
There’s usually always a stretching component in addition to movement in the center/across the floor that stresses musicality and expression. Also, each student has a checklist of flexibility/strength exercises they need to complete between lessons.
Group classes follow a similar format. The lessons address the technique, artistry, and musicality needed for skaters. I address the needs of the group as a whole vs. individual skaters.
Elesia: What are a few of the most common tips, corrections, and advice that you find yourself giving students?
Jenie: Posture, artistry, and musicality. These are big things I find to be very common when I give corrections and that skaters seem to lack consistently. Posture is critical for a skater yet many skaters seem to skate years without having learned the correct alignment (a neutral spine with the back muscles engaged, which in turn pulls down the shoulders and elongates the neck and head).
Artistry is developed over time. Ballet is where a figure skater really learns to tell a story through every minute detail of the body such as the placement of their hands and fingers. Musicality is critical for a figure skater. For some, the ability to stretch the movements to illustrate the silences in the music is innate. For others, musicality must be developed over time with continuous exploration of different tempos and genres of music.
Elesia: How do you involve your students' skate coaches?
Jenie: I always prefer having a student’s skate coach involved, as they know the student’s figure skating needs best. From there, I can determine what elements should be emphasized in their lessons, such as extensions, flexibility and/or basic artistry (hand and finger positions, gaze, etc.).
I generally like to touch base periodically--especially if there have been changes to the skater’s program--so that I may determine if there are new ballet relevant skills to be addressed. A new spin position, or a new arm position with a jump--any of those elements can be enhanced in the skater’s ballet lesson if the coach and instructor are working as a cohesive team to benefit the skater.
Elesia: Is there anything I haven't asked that you would like others to know?
Jenie: I strongly encourage figure skaters to start their ballet training as early as possible. In my experience, ballet is an afterthought, yet it is the ideal form of cross training as it supplements the technical and artistic skills needed for figure skating.
Children--even at the age of 4 four years (such as Learn to Skate students)--should be encouraged to try a creative movement/ballet focused class. The foundational elements of ballet, inclusive of music, movement, and personal expression can be learned and then transferred more easily and earlier on to the ice.
Lastly, figure skaters should look for an instructor who is willing to look at ballet as enrichment for figure skating. There is a huge difference between an instructor that teaches ballet to figure skaters solely for the purpose of continuing the ballet tradition, and an instructor that crafts ballet training for what each individual figure skater needs.
Elesia: Thank you for your time and for this excellent two-part interview! I wish you the best. Your students are lucky to have you!
Jenie: You’re welcome, and thank you!
Jenie Lau began her dance training at the Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet and Music under Artistic Director Debra Rogo in Richland, Washington. She trained in both Cecchetti (Italian) and Vaganova (Russian) styles including jazz and tap. As a pre-professional student, Jenie attended summer intensives as a scholarship recipient, inclusive of Pacific Northwest Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and the International Ballet Competition program. She has studied character, musical theatre, and modern dance with renowned instructors. Jenie was also a competitive dancer and member of the nationally ranked Eastern Washington Elite Dance Team, and was also a member of Mid-Columbia Ballet where she performed soloist roles in classical and contemporary repertoire.
Jenie's ballet for figure skaters background includes work as the guest ballet instructor for Sno-King Ice Arena-Renton's Figure Skaters 2015 Summer Camp. She is also the guest ballet instructor for the Tri-Cities Figure Skating Club 2015 summer class, and the 2015 Ballet for Figure Skaters Workshop. Jenie is the pending fall 2015 ballet instructor for Washington Ice Emeralds, a synchronized skate team. She is also the guest instructor for Skyline High School's Dance Team Summer Camp 2015 where she will be teaching technique class.