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Faculty Feature: Isobel

Learn more about Teacher Isobel, an integral part of our #TBATeam and today's #FacultyFeature!

Isobel joined TBA in Sept 2019 and has been with us throughout the COVID period on zoom and with the transition from the old Thomson studio to our new Sin Ming home. Find out more about her favorite dance memories below!

How and when did you start dancing?

I started dancing when I was 5 years old at a very small dance studio in my hometown that was inside a church and there was only one teacher that taught all the classes. I danced at this studio for many years and did all different types of dance besides ballet like jazz and tap!

It wasn’t until I was about 8 (?) or so when my mom suggested that I try real ballet school with a professional company – New Jersey Ballet. I liked the newfound rigor of training there, so I decided to change to this ballet school permanently. When I was 10 or 11, I decided I wanted to pursue ballet more seriously, so I auditioned for NJSB’s intensive program – a pre-professional training program. In the intensive program, I had ballet classes and rehearsals for performances almost every day after school! However, I really really loved it and I trained with NJSB until I graduated high school at the age of 18.

Over the summers, from when I was around 11 or 12 onwards, I would audition and enroll into summer dance programs (ballet camps). These summer programs were something I looked forward to every single year. They were highly competitive and a vehicle for pre-professional dancers to enter into professional ballet companies. However, they were so much fun! I really enjoyed being away from home for 4-6 weeks over the summer, dancing ballet all day, and meeting new friends around the world. I really credit these programs to honing my ballet technique and love for dance.

What do you enjoy most about dance?

Ballet will always be my first love. When I am dancing, I only think about the way my body moves. It was always the best vehicle for me to express myself and detach from the rest of the world.

What made you decide to pursue a career in dance?

Part of the reason why I decided to change ballet schools initially and pursue dance in a more serious manner was when I saw a live performance. When I was around 10 years old, my mom took me to see American Ballet Theatre perform Giselle in NYC. It was a transcendent experience~ Before then, I can’t remember attending a professional ballet performance, so this a rite of passage!

What is your favorite ballet step and why?

When I was younger I really loved adagio because I have very flexible hips so it was always super fun to display my nice high extensions. However, now that my body has changed with age, I really enjoy lots of big jumps and traveling turns, like manege and tour jete!

What is your favorite ballet?

To perform, probably Giselle because I feel like I move/look the best with this kind of choreography hahaha. Also I LOVE corps de ballet stuff… like forget the solos – give me 30 swans dancing all in sync! 😂

To watch, probably something more fun and contemporary like I really love William Forsythe’s Playlist (EP) ballet. It’s so athletic and fast and fun with the pop music!

What is your favorite dance memory?

I think my favorite memory would be from my debut performance of the role of Clara in NJB’s production of the Nutcracker. This role is typically given to a pre-professional dancer and includes both a solo and pas de deux on pointe. I remember I was 16 years old and was the first one to perform the new role out of the new cast. I was super nervous because the solo includes around 8 fouette turns…

I was just moving through the show, doing all the choreography, and suddenly I remember finishing the turns and being like “omg that was it!” TBH, I don’t remember much except that after my director told me “good job” in front of everyone! 😛

What is your favorite aspect about teaching ballet?

My favorite part about teaching is getting to share with my students all the things that my teachers shared with me. I think it is important to pass on this knowledge, because otherwise it will just disappear!

What is something you only learned about teaching ballet only after you started teaching?

I used to plan my open classes to make them go according to a flow, but that quickly got scrapped based on the needs of the students in the class haha. Now, I just freestyle it, but I make sure to have clear progression in my classes by doing some of the same exercises week after week so that my students can really practice certain steps.

I also feel like how I describe steps and movement has differed so I include more step-by-step breakdown and imagery.

If you didn’t choose a dance career, what do you think you would be doing?

?!?!?!? (idk lol)

Where can you be found outside of the studio (other hobbies)?

At home in my bed with my cat hahaha 😂. I am super lazy actually and love to just lounge around and sleep. But at the same time I also like exercising like going to gym, yoga class… I also love to cook. I’d say I’m a pretty good chef~ 👩‍🍳

What advice do you have for younger dancers / your students?

Remember that ballet is an art form, it’s not a textbook or a sport. At the end of the day, trust yourself and your technique and live in the moment.


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