Jacqueline Cronsberg's Ballet Workshop.
Ballet Workshop is housed in the carriage house behind Cronsberg's sprawling Victorian, gingerbread-style home. Founded in 1966, the Hopkinton school now enrolls eighty to ninety students, with the same number attending her rented satellite studio in nearby Sudbury. A parent must be devoted to the idea of bringing a child to Ballet Workshop because neither town has public transportation.
Cronsberg teaches six days a week, dividing her time between the two schools. Her faculty includes Ellen Everett Kimiatek, a former member of American Ballet Theatre, Larisa Luvishchuk from the Odessa Opera Ballet, Jessica Wilson, a former student of Cronsberg, Colleen Quinn, an Isadora Duncan-style dancer, and Kelly Harrington, who has a master's degree in dance from Temple University. Cronsberg's husband Sidney, a computer consultant, is the school administrator.
The Hopkinton studio is a one-room, sparkling space fitted with barres around the walls and windows, letting in light-and-shadow tracings of the tree branches that edge the building. Harlequin flooring covers a wooden subfloor in Hopkinton; the Sudbury studio has an old wooden floor. Because of the cost and travel distance, Cronsberg seldom uses live accompaniment, relying mostly on ballet class tapes by Lynn Stanford. Her recent acquisition of a piano will allow her to Schedule master classes with accompaniment in the future.
"I think that the reason people come to the school and stay," says Cronberg, "is that the children feel I respect them. Sometimes in the profession you see examples of teaching by intimidation or teaching by humiliation. I feel that it is important to create a safe place to dance where children feel happy and beautiful. Corrections are a positive thing. The attitude carries over into academic areas as well.
"We do a lot of focusing on musicality, on changing rhythms. I don't have a set barre. I change it constantly. You cannot rush the development of coordination. That comes in its own time. At barre we concentrate on feet and legs. I've been profoundly influenced by the manner of teaching at the School of American Ballet," Cronberg says. A valued part of her own training was watching classes taught by George Balanchine and Stanley Williams.
A Boston native, Cronsberg began her own ballet studies at a neighborhood school in Roxbury. She recalls that classes included "everything" - pointe, fifteen minutes of tap, and a recital at the end of the year. By the time she reached junior high school, the Polish dancer Mieczyslaw Pianowski - who had studied at the Warsaw Grand Opera School, danced with the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, and then spent thirteen years with Pavlova's company - had opened a studio in Boston. "His studio was upstairs over a bar across from the old Metropolitan Theater [now the Wang Center]," she remembers.
"My mother told him I was an intermediate dancer. I walked in dressed in shorts, a blouse, and red toe shoes. Everyone else was in correct ballet attire," she says. "Maestro," as he was called in Boston, recognized Cronsberg's natural turnout and good, high arches and kept her in the intermediate class. She then attended the Boston Conservatory where her teachers were Jan Veen and Ruth Ambrose. Later she studied with E. Virginia Williams in her classes for teachers.
"Ruth (Ambrose) taught me the fun of performance," Cronsberg adds, "but I was never as happy onstage as I am in the classroom."
A visitor to one of Cronsberg's classes can't help being impressed by her concentration and history with each student. During one afternoon class of nine students she watched each of them as if memorizing their responses, then gave corrections in a quiet, yet authoritative, manner. Her chief attention is to "legs and feet," she says, while in class she urges the students to "show everything beautifully: pretty feet and legs. " She stands in pulled-up carriage, freeing her body to demonstrate the steps.
What Cronsberg clearly offers is a riveting, personal eye on each of her students. Levels run from one to five, plus A, B, and C, for advanced pupils. She misses nothing they do, so intent is she on bringing them along to the next level. For students whom she considers her own, in no uncertain terms, it's a privileged education in ballet. Cronsberg is also in demand as a private coach for students preparing for auditions.
The school curriculum is chiefly ballet technique with the addition of classes in historical and character dance, taught by Luvishchuk. The children in the schools are graded by levels. Beginners attend class twice a week. By the time a student reaches the top level, he or she is taking ballet and variations classes three times weekly, and, for girls, three or four pointe classes. Tuition ranges from $230 for one class weekly, $440 for two classes, to $1,895 for seven classes a week, September to June. There are no exams, nor does she allow her students to participate in competitions. In the summer she steers them into one or another summer program. In 1993 two of her students attended SAB and three went to Pennsylvania
The school year ends in a recital held at Hopkinton High School. She also feeds children into Ballet Theater of Boston's annual production of The Nutcracker. Last year's leading roles of Clara and Fritz were danced by her students. The recital is an additional learning experience for the students, demanding rehearsals outside the class schedule. The 1993 program ended in an ambitious series of excerpts from Petipa's Don Quixote, with costumes rented from Boston Ballet.
Cronsberg's daughter, Sandra Jennings, a former member of New York City Ballet and now ballet mistress for Pennsylvania Ballet, began her studies with her mother before moving on to Harriet Hoctor's school and Boston Ballet School with Williams. Among the many students who have gone on to professional careers from the Cronsberg studio are Todd Hall (Ballet Theater of Boston), Heidi Wolfe (Boston Ballet), Nicole Eldridge (Miami City Ballet II), Sarah Folland (Miami City Ballet), Susan Lewis and Amy Pratt (State Ballet of Missouri), Michelle Heyl (Tulsa Ballet), Julie Kirsten Johnson (New York City Ballet), Melissa Carpenter (San Francisco Ballet), and Matt Neenan (Pennsylvania Ballet II). Wolfe and Carpenter were recipients of Princess Grace Foundation Awards.
"I will admit," Cronsberg confesses, "that it's been fun having my school all these years. Meeting so many different people throughout this time has enriched my life immeasurably. I have found, and still find, the process of training a dancer intriguing and joyful. The making of dancers has been a humbling experience and I never expected or realized that I could bring my students so far."
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|Title Annotation:||dance school in Hopkinton, Massachusetts|
|Author:||Fanger, Iris M.|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1994|
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