A Recap of Pointe Live! Classes and Conversations 2023: Dancing and Living Fully

July 25, 2023

We’re still on cloud nine from our first-ever Pointe Live! Classes and Conversations event. On Saturday, July 22, nearly 70 students from around the country joined us at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center in New York City for a session packed with dancing and inspiring conversation. After all the fun we had, we can’t believe it’s already over!

The day kicked off at 9 am with 90-minute master classes from Alonzo King LINES dancer Adji Cissoko and international guest artist and former American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane. Students got to learn from both artists in a unique opportunity to hone their classical and contemporary ballet skills back to back. Dancers who weren’t able to join us in person tuned in over Zoom.

In a black box studio, Sarah Lane demonstrates a degage combination to a class of young dance students. She holds on to the barre gently and shows a fondu degage devant with her foot flexed.
Photo by Rachel Papo.

Lane encouraged students to remember the importance of in-between steps like pas de bourrée and glissade. She also worked with the younger dancers on directing their weight in space. “Picture where your partner is,” she said, taking a piqué attitude derrière. And when it comes to the end of a combination or variation, “Open and get longer!” she said, demonstrating a smooth and confident descent from sous-sus.

Cissoko also pushed the dancers to lengthen in space and prompted them to explore nuance. “What is your story?” she asked during adagio at barre. In lieu of a second ballet class, Cissoko taught contemporary; by the end of the 90 minutes, she’d constructed the scaffold of a new piece by weaving together different phrases. She then challenged the dancers to perform the phrases in groups of two using different timing and dynamics.

In a black box studio, Adji Cissoko stands in front of a large group of students, smiling and gesturing with flexed hands as she speaks to them. She wears a bright multicolored button down shirt over dark athletic clothing.
Photo by Rachel Papo.

After a brief break for lunch, Complexions Contemporary Ballet dancer Candy Tong and Miami City Ballet soloist Cameron Catazaro joined Lane and Cissoko for an hour-long panel discussion moderated by Pointe editor in chief Amy Brandt, followed by a Q&A. We sat, stretched, and listened as the five traded questions and stories on topics like starting a ballet career, pursuing further education, and navigating auditions. With a diverse range of career paths and backgrounds, the perspectives Lane, Cissoko, Tong, and Catazaro brought made for a compelling discussion.

In a large black box studio space, Cameron Catazaro, Adji Cissoko, Amy Brandt, Candy Tong, and Sarah Lane sit in a shallow semi-circle for a panel discussion. Lane holds the microphone and speaks; the other four panelists listen and smile.
From left: Cameron Catazaro, Adji Cissoko, Amy Brandt, Candy Tong, and Sarah Lane. Photo by Rachel Papo.

Tong, who holds a BFA in dance performance from the University of California, Irvine, expressed the importance of keeping an open mind throughout your career. “I was not accepting of college when I first started,” she explained, “but my college experience really set me up for all the success I’ve had in my career.”

Lane and Cissoko agreed, the latter adding that educational experience and taking the time to develop yourself as a well-rounded person will always make you a better dancer—and that hard work and focusing on developing the best version of yourself will, no matter what, ensure your success. But even just within ballet, “the work doesn’t ever stop,” Catazaro later added. “You’re always going to be growing. I wish that’s something I’d known when I was your age.”

A young female ballet students holds a microphone and sits criss-crossed on the floor of a ballet studio. She asks a question to a panel, which is out of the shot. She is surrounded by other young dance students who listen intently.
Photo by Rachel Papo.

After a round of photo ops with our panelists, we closed out the day at 2 pm with an exclusive demo by Gramercy Pilates NYC Certification School, a dancer-friendly studio offering high-quality Pilates classes and certification programs. Owner and studio director Ernie Fossa and instructor Mikayla Petrilla discussed the ways in which a Pilates certification can supplement a dancer’s career, as well as the crucial role that cross-training plays in staying injury-free. “Identify and fix imbalances before they start,” said Fossa. “That’s how you avoid injury.”

Looking back on the day’s events, we are thrilled and grateful to everyone who joined us. We’re already looking forward to the next time we can gather to dance, learn from each other, and celebrate ballet at its best!