Q & A with Patricia Dokoudovsky, Director of the New York Conservatory of Dance
July 8, 2003
I would venture to say that the New York Conservatory of Dance is one of Manhattan's hidden dance treasures that has not been adequately acknowledged. The school's current dance space resembles a studio from the renowned Vaganova Academy in Russia with its walls, floor and high ceilings made out of wood. Vladimir Dokoudovsky, the late founder of the school, established the school to pass down the Mme. Olga Preobrajenska method of dancing. Preobrajenska was a sensational prima ballerina in the early 1900s. A native of St.Petersberg, she trained in the Imperial Ballet Academy before joining the Marinksy Theatre in 1889. Before settling permanently in Paris in 1923, Preobrajenska taught around the world, including Berlin, Buenos Aires, London and Milan. Dokoudovksy trained with Preobrajenska and she ultimately had a tremendous influence on him. He admired the simplicity in her technique. His wife, Patricia Dokoudovsky is now the director of the school and continues his legacy.
MG: How long has the school been around?
PD: The school was started in 1977 and was located on 56th and Broadway. However, in 1987, the building was going to be torn down and we relocated to the current address (31rst between Park and Madison Ave)
MG: What kind of classes does the school offer primarily?
PD: Strictly ballet. We don't have knowledge of jazz and so we focus on ballet. All our classes are ballet, but they vary by level. We have beginner, intermediate and advanced. We also offer pointe on Saturday.
MG: What is Preobrajenska's method like?
PD: The Preobrajenska training is unlike Vaganova as it is simpler in its technique. The idea is to purify and to clean. The barre is typically the same so that the dancer can work on his/her technique. Preobrajenska studied with Checcetti when he was a young man.
MG: Are there any performance opportunities for students?
PD: Yes. We allow students to rent out our studio for performances.
MG: What was your dance experience? What kind of dancing have you done?
PD: I trained with my husband, Vladimir Dokoudovksy and danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet as soloist and principal. I also danced "Juno", a piece by Agnes de Mille on Broadway.
MG: What are your thoughts in ballet in the 21rst century? Where do you see it in the future?
PD:I miss individuality. Before, body type was not that important, i.e. Plisetskaya and Pavlova. It was the emotion and passion that mattered. But now, there is too much of a focus on the body. Especially for the corps de ballet. Balanchine's work isn't very emotional except maybe Serenade.
I feel that classics should be left as they are. If one changes a classical ballet, he/she might as well make a new one. We have a responsibility to keep the classics but it's ok to focus on different ballets. However, there should be less emphasis on body type. There needs to be a place for those who are imperfect. One must not be rejected because of his/her body type. Agnes de Mille is an example of someone who kept going because she loved to dance. If someone had told her not to dance, we would have lost a great choreographer. You should do it if you love it.
I couldn't agree more with Mrs. Dokoudovsky regarding someone's passion for ballet in spite of any barriers they may face. Dancers who have taken classes at the New York Conservatory of Dance include Oleg Briansky, Agnes De Mille, Alexandra Danilova, Jacques d'Ambroise, Cristine Dakin, Roland Petit and Edward Villela, just to name a few. Although the studio used to provide annual scholarships for young dancers between 14-16 years old, it currently provides only open classes and studio rentals. If you would like to inquire about the conservatory, you can reach Patricia Dokoudovksy at 212-725-2855 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.