A Sit Down with Fredrick Davis

Photo Rachel Neville

“Fred is on a journey and he’s going to get there and that’s very beautiful.” Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director, Dance Theatre of Harlem

Having seen the documentary From the Streets to the Stage, the Journey of Fredrick Davis, it is hard to contain the excitement in sitting down with this incredible dancer at the height of his career. One could anticipate that the stardom of having danced as a Principal with the legendary Dance Theatre of Harlem could easily go to one’s head, but this is farthest from the truth with Fred. His hard work and humble beginnings reflect who he is today.

Our conversation began on a Sunday evening, a six hour time difference between New York and Stockholm. Fred, in the middle of a pandemic forced move, was just settling into his new Hamilton Heights apartment in upper Manhattan. He has spent much of his time post Covid lining up teaching gigs and planning future collaborations in Tennessee.

Fredrick, born in Brooklyn, grew up in Chattanooga and returned to his roots as an adult. His early childhood was rife with uncertainty, hunger, and homelessness. He spent much of his childhood on the streets of Chattanooga with his mother. His grandmother took him in and under her wing giving him the home he needed. At the tender age of 11, his life took the change that lead him to where he is today.

How have you been coping during the pandemic?

I have been optimistic by teaching people online ballet classes during the Black Lives Matter protests. Instead of going to protests I have been teaching online classes in Australia, Italy, Chile, Nigeria, Kenya East Africa, London, UK, Greece, Italy, Hawaii and across the United States.

I saw the documentary featuring you. What an inspiring and amazing journey you have been on. It seems that your grandmother was one of the great influences in your life?

She knitted the quilt. She made sure I was making my own choices.

How old were when you knew that you wanted to dance seriously?

8th grade. I had many dreams. I wanted to be a lawyer, businessman, firefighter, wrestler, football player. I coudn’t afford to try out for the football team and the dance auditions were free, so that was where it all started.

Can you see yourself doing something other than dance ever?

I would love to act and model. I am in the process of opening a non-profit dance school and company in Tennessee. My goal is to build a bridge going forward for the African American and underprivileged community in Chattanooga.

What would you say to the dancers that feel like they don’t fit the ballet mold to dance-too tall, too big, too old, not flexible enough?

To quote Stan Lee I would say, “don’t listen to the naysayers.” If you really want to do something, do it. Don’t look for a job or career. Find your purpose in life and goals and go for it. Nothing is ever certain in life. You can can never be ready when the time is right, you can only be ready enough to take the chance. Be the best that you can be.

Thank you Fred for taking the time to share your story and inspire dancers of all walks!! We look forward to following your journey. Join us on September 12th in our first virtual Adult Ballet Master Class with Fredrick. Find out more about Fredrick in the Emmy award winning documentary From the streets to the Stage:the Journey of Fredrick Davis and follow his journey forward via his Instagram.

Until our next plié ❤

What is a Ballet Master Class?

Screenshot_20200515-103137_FacebookWoohoo, Ballet Gothenburg is excited to announce that we are beginning to host Ballet Master Classes JUST for adult dancers!!  Since I started planning and mentioning master classes to my own students, I have had a few questions that I thought would be perfect to answer in a post.

At Ballet Gothenburg, adult ballet students are our passion.  Our mission since inception is to offer inclusive ballet classes for adult beginners and adults coming back to ballet after many years.  From the student trying ballet to stay in shape to the more serious student attending several times a week, we believe ballet is for every age, body, size, gender, and color.  Given the current circumstances and the need to adapt, we will begin hosting our master classes online via Zoom.

What is a ballet master class? 

A ballet master class is a class taught by an individual that has mastered the art of ballet through dancing professionally and/or teaching at the highest levels.  Simply put, it gives students the opportunity to take class with the best of the best in the art of ballet.   Master classes are taught by current professional dancers dancing with top companies worldwide as well as teachers from the best schools.  Taking a master class gives students a taste of the different schools of teaching and flavors of ballet.

Who should take a master class?

Everyone 🙂  Master classes are a way to polish technique, make breakthroughs, learn from different schools of teaching, and above all, have fun!! The best way for students to advance in their journey is to study with various teachers.   Students learn in different ways and different teachers can help along this journey.

Do I need to be an advanced dancer to take a master class?

The simple answer is no.  A master class refers to the teacher who has mastered the craft.  The class is geared toward the level of the students taking the class.  Ballet Gothenburg hosts Beginner/Advanced Beginner master classes for our students.  Students should have a basic understanding of placement, turnout, and port de bras.  In this way, all are welcome and can enjoy the class.

What to Expect in a Master Class?

It depends on the teacher.  The invited master teacher will usually plan a class based on the group of students he or she is teaching.   A master class is similar in structure to other ballet classes. 

How do I prepare?

There is no preparation required.  A master class is meant to be fun-a way to take what you already know and enjoy.  Your only expectation is to show up and have fun!!  Prepare to learn ❤

What Should I Wear?

Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and represents you as a dancer.  Leotards, tights, yoga pants, skirts, tutus, anything goes 🙂

Where do I Sign Up? 

Check out our Adult Ballet Master Classes page for details and to book.  Each class will be hosted on Zoom.  All you need is a small space in your home.

Please take a moment before the beginning of the class to test the Zoom platform out.  Create a free account on Zoom and explore the platform, do a test meeting with a friend.  The teacher should be able to see you clearly from head to toe.  In addition, you should be able to see the teacher clearly.

Join us for our first of our Ballet Master Classes with the amazing Fredrick Davis, former Principal of Dance Theatre of Harlem.  Learn more about him in the Emmy award winning documentary, From the Streets to the Stage.  

Until our next plié ❤

Ballet Terminology

The following are commonly used ballet terms used in ballet class.  All ballet terminology is in French reflecting ballet’s origins.  At first it can be overwhelming to remember, so here is a little guide.  All terms are taken from Gail Grant’s Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet.  The list will be updated as we learn new movements.

Allégro- Brisk, lively.  A term applied to all bright and brisk movements.  The important qualities to aim at in allégro are lightness, smoothness, and ballon.

Allongé- Extended, outstretched.

Arabesque- One of the basic poses in ballet, arabesque takes its name from a form of Moorish ornament.  In ballet it is a position of the body, in profile, supported on one leg, which can be straight or demi-plié, with the other leg extended behind and at right angles to it, and the arms held in various harmonious positions creating the longest possible line from the fingertips to the toes. The forms of arabesque are varied to infinity.

Assemblé– Assembled or joined together.  A step in which the working foot slides along the ground before being swept into the air.  As the foot goes into the air the dancer pushes off the floor with the supporting leg, extending the toes.  Both legs come to the ground simultaneously in fifth position.

Battement Dégagé (same as Battement Glissé,Battement Tendu Jeté)- Disengaged battement.  A term of the Cechetti method.  The battement dégagé is similar to the battement tendu but is done at twice the speed and the working foot rises about 4 inches from the floor with a well pointed toe, then slides back into the first or fifth position.  Battement dégagés strengthen the toes, develop the instep and improve the flexibility of the ankle joint.  Same as battement tendu jeté (Russian school), battement glissé (French school)

Battement développé- Battement developed.  From the fifth position the working food glides up to the retiré position and and forcefully opens in the required direction. On reaching the extreme point, the leg is lowered to the fifth position.

Battement en cloche– Like a bell.

Battement Fondu– Battement, sinking down.

Battement Tendu- Battement stretched.  A battement tendu is the commencing portion and ending portion of a grand battement and is an exercise to force the insteps well outward.  The working foot slides from the first or fifth position to the second or fourth position without lifting the toe from the ground.  Both knees must be straight.  When the foot reaches the position pointe tendue, it then returns to the first or fifth position.  Battement tendus may also be done with a demi-plié in the first or fifth position.  They should be practiced en croix.

Coupé– Cut, cutting.  A small intermediary step done as a preparation or impetus for some other step.  It takes its name from the fact that one foot cuts the other way and takes its place.

Demi-plié– Half bend of the knees.  All steps of elevation begin and end with a demi-plié.

En Croix- In the shape of a cross.  Indicates that an exercise is to be executed to the fourth position front, the second position, and to the fourth position back, or vice versa.  As, for example, in battements tendus en croix.

Glissade– Glide.  A traveling step executed by gliding the working foot from the fifth position in the required direction, other foot closing to it.

Jeté, pas– Throwing step.  A jump from one foot to the other in which the working leg is brushed into the air and appears to have been thrown.

Pas de bourrée– Bourrée step.

Pad de deux– Step for two.

Pas de cheval– Horse’s step.  This step is so called because it resembles the movement of a horse pawing the ground.

Passé– Passed.  This is an auxillary movemen tin which the foot of the working leg passes the knee of the supporting leg from one position to another (as, for example, in développé passé en avant) or one leg passes the other in the air (as in jeté passé en avant) or one foot is picked up and passes in back or in front of the supporting leg (as in chassé passé).

Plié- Bent, bending.  A bending of the knee or knees.  This is an exercise to render the joints and muscles soft and pliable and the tendons flexible and elastic, and to develop a sense of balance.

Port de bras– Carriage of the arms.  The term port de bras has two meanings: (1) A movement or series of movements made by passing the arm or arms through various positions.  (2) A term for a group of exercises designed to make the arms move gracefully and harmoniously.

Relevé- Raised.  A raising of the body on the points or demi-pointes, point or demi-pointe.  Relevé may be done in the first, second, fourth, or fifth position, en attitude, en arabesque, devant, derrière en tournant, passé en avant, passé arrière and so on.

Sous-sus- Under-over.  A term of the Cechetti method.  Sous-susis a relevé in the fifth position performed sur place or traveled forward, backward, or to the side.  The dancer springs onto the points or demi-pointes, drawing the feet and legs tightly together.

Rond de Jambe- Round of the leg, that is, a circular movement of the leg.  Ronds de jambe are used as an exercise at the barre, in the center, and in the adage, and are done à terre or en l’air.  When used as a step, ronds de jambes are done en l’air and may be sauté or relevé.  All are done clockwise (en dehors) and counterclockwise (en dedans).

Sauté- Jumped, jumping.

Soutenu–  Sustained.

Until our next plié ❤

What to Expect in Your First Ballet Class

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Ballet class is where the dancer, whether absolute beginner or principal dancer, moves through a series of carefully choreographed movements to warm up the body, find one’s center of balance, and build strength and flexibility.  There is an order in each movement, one leads to the next.  All terminology is in French.

Barre Work & Stretching

We begin class always at the ballet barre where we warm up the muscles and ligaments, work on the coveted turn out of the legs from the hip joint, and build strength.  The ballet barre is your support as your learn proper positioning of the body and legs.  This is where you will take your very first plié or millionth plié.

Center

After stretching at the barre or on the floor together, we move to the center of the room.  It is here we test how well we have found our balance at the barre.  We move through a series of movements including tendus, adagio, and petit allegro depending on the level of the class.

We then (eventually) move across the floor together on a diagonal waltzing, turning, and jumping (grand allegro).  The class ends in reverence, where the dancers bow to the audience as a way of saying thank you.  Clapping is a must.  We clap for our teachers, we clap for each other, we clap if there is an accompaniment playing.  It is the equivalent of every yoga class ending in Namaste.  Welcome to a beautiful art form steeped in history and tradition.

Stay tuned for ballet terminology in my next post.

Until our next plié ❤