Alonzo King on training the next generation of artists

Posted on Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 1:18PM

Every year LINES Ballet offers a Summer Intensive. Around 250 students attend the program, divided into two separate four and five week sessions.

They are housed in the dorms of San Francisco State University, where they also take their meals. Along with chaperons, the students learn the ins and outs of San Francisco MUNI, which transports them to and from our studios. The students bring with them an exuberance that permeates the building, infecting the administrative staff, artistic team, faculty, elevator operators, and other visitors to the building.

The participants are aged between 11 and 24 and bring waves of enthusiasm, and firm resolution, to be tested in their charged up goal to improve themselves. When you want more you have to give more, and the faculty steadily remind the young artists that there’s always more in the bank than they thought.

The hallways are a macramé of young bodies stretching, eating, and talking in between classes. The seasoned faculty, heavy with information, is eager to unload knowledge to all the open mouths of hungry young minds. Each teacher feels a responsibility to create an environment where students experience transformation, epiphany, acquire tools, gain confidence, and feel growth.

It’s fascinating to witness a room full of brilliant young minds struggling to realize who and what they are, and aren’t. The teacher sees a room full of bright suns and young lions. Most of the students don’t see themselves that way, yet.

It’s an amazing dichotomy to stand in front of a lion that doesn’t know it’s a lion and is reluctant to roar. These young artists have many un-accessed gifts hidden like treasures inside of them. They grapple with how they look, and how they feel as opposite realities. Society has told them that their value lies in their physical appearance, and many believe that their bodies are their selves. The slow and arduous mental separation to establish that your body is different from your self is a step towards freedom. What you identify with as yourself makes a huge difference in how you sculpt your life; and therein lies the job of the teacher: to help the students experience who they really are by being a more accurate mirror. We call it the awakening of the sleeping artist inside them.

A friend of mine who is a teacher told me that he once got a fortune cookie that said, “Your ability to love will help a child in need.” That is the entire point. Any failed work can be blamed on some defect in the capacity to love. For things to work love has to be greater than your fear.

The summation of all classes is that these young artists dig into themselves for the true originals that they are, that they be happy now, and not wait for some future circumstance, and that they never give up. When the teacher sees the transformation in the student, the teacher is reminded that there is hope for them too!

Click here to view studio photos of the first day of classes.


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