The Classical & Contemporary Dance students of California School of the Arts-San Gabriel Valley (CSArts-SGV) had the opportunity to participate in a master class with Sophie Monat on January 16.
A well-known professional, Monat has performed with the Lillie Opera Ballet in France, the National Ballet of Portugal, served as ballet mistress for the New Jersey Ballet, and currently teaches at Cal State Long Beach. In 2009, she also founded her own company, Monat Dance.
For almost two hours, both middle school and high school students pushed their boundaries with Monat in a ballet class and a workshop where select students were cast for the opportunity to work closely with Monat on a piece she had choreographed for their spring concert at Mt. San Antonio College on March 3.
As a professional ballet dancer and instructor, Monat had more than enough experience to offer students of the classical and contemporary dance conservatory. Leading the students through lively and graceful choreography, Monat pushed every student’s limits while imparting life advice within the aspiring dancers to inspire them not only to become better dancers but to develop a character and attitude that will help them succeed no matter where they decide to go in the future.
“I can’t tell you how dance will be in your life, and if you want to make dance your life, your profession, I can’t tell you how that will happen, but I can tell you… this profession requires an incredible sense of courage and resilience when some things don’t go right, and you have to have this. If you believe it you will do it,” Monat told her students.
In between teaching the students new barre exercises and working with them on her choreography, Monat imparted important life lessons with the dancers on how to respond to disappointments as well as how to connect with the music and be present in the dance.
“A really important thing I learned today is that if you make a mistake, it’s okay if you just get right back up and keep going,” Alana Basorada, an eighth-grader said.
“The class today was empowering because the class made me feel stronger and more confident even though I had done some things I never did before,” sophomore Bella Bahamondes said. “I learned to really let go and not hold back.”
As a teacher, Monat also found that students never failed to teach and inspire her as well. After working with the students, Monat reflected on the journey her dance career had taken her.
“I used to teach at OCSA, and it felt really nice coming around in a full circle and being able to teach at CSArts-SGV today,” she said. “I was really surprised with how cohesive a group they were, seeing as the school only opened last August. They really seemed to have this wonderful feeling of being together and they were super focused, disciplined and very musical, receptive, and enthusiastic.”
“If there was only one thing I could say to them, I would tell them that dance is allowing the music to inspire you, because once they connect with the music, they can start developing their own artistry and voice. I would also encourage them to keep persevering and hold on to that enthusiasm. After just teaching them today, I very much felt that they celebrated each other’s talents and each other, and that the atmosphere was very supportive. I hope that enthusiasm is something they never lose.”
Even though Ms. Monat only knew the students for a short period of time, her lessons and words of wisdom are sure to stick with the dancers for years to come. Her class that day reflected the goal of the dance conservatory to help students flourish as both dancers and individuals. She helped to push the student’s limits, and challenged them to keep striving to be the best artists and people they can be.