Shannon Urizar is dedicated to providing professional training to students of all ages (6+) and backgrounds. Based in the classical technique of the RAD system and the methods of Vaganova, she utilizes the benefits of modern sciences and discoveries pertaining to ballet to enrich students' learning and understanding of the art and sport. Students learn how to perform at their best in a way that is healthy for their bodies and most effective and efficient for achieving their desired goals, whether it be a career in ballet, dance, or theatre.
Every person has a different body and a different way of using it and thinking about it. That makes for a lot of variance in every step of training and every aspect. The fun is in figuring out what the key is to bring those three things into harmony with themselves and with ballet. The excitement comes when after the student and I work so hard together to figure it out, a connection is made and the work proves fruitful.
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Frequently asked questions
What is your typical process for working with a new student?
Depending on the student's goals, I start with a formal ballet barre or just ballet-based techniques. There are certain shapes and lines and movement/muscle patters for which I am looking, and I immediately begin the process of moulding the student's body to match those shapes/lines/patterns. As we work together, I become more familiar with the way the student's unique body works and with what works for that student's body. I am very communicative and am interested more in the student's understanding of the movement than in the student's efforts to blindly figure it out. Therefore, I encourage talking in the form of asking questions and making comments as they relate to training. I am not interested in forcing a particular aesthetic or shape, so while I will push a student to exceed his/her limits, I do not require things of students that are potentially harmful to their bodies.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
I have been training in ballet for 16 years. I began in Palmdale, California, at the Palmdale Playhouse. In my later training, I had the privilege of attending several summer camps around the country with national companies including Ballet West, Texas Ballet Theater, and Atlanta Ballet. I spent a year as a Trainee with BalletMet Columbus in Ohio before joining the Pasadena Dance Theatre in California as a member of their company. I danced with them for a year before retiring due to injury. Since retiring, I have had the opportunity to explore other fields of dance such as musical theatre, modern, and salsa, in addition to my continued study of ballet. I have also had the chance to learn much about the human body and how it moves and should move. I take regular Pilates lessons to feed my knowledge and understanding of the body's movements in relation to ballet.
Do you have a standard pricing system for your lessons? If so, please share the details here.
How did you get started teaching?
I began teaching three years ago when I realized that I had something I could offer to others. I started by teaching a student privately who had heard about me somehow, even though I had not yet started teaching. Working with her showed me my abilities as a teacher. Eventually, I began teaching full classes. I immediately fell in love with being able to share the knowledge and experience I have acquired over the years.
What types of students have you worked with?
I have taught ballet to children ages 4-17. There is such a growth in comprehension during those years that teaching is different almost year to year. I also worked with children of those ages as a choreographer. I taught them not ballet, but basic movement and coordination.
I have worked with adults (ballet and musical theatre) who were beginner dancers as well as those who were more advanced.
I have worked privately with people ages 9+ including ballerinas, musical theatre actors, and people needing coaching on a particular routine and/or audition material.
I have worked with people who need advice and/or potential appraisal.
Describe a recent event you are fond of.
As with most teachers, the most exciting moment for me is when something inside the student's head clicks and it completely changes everything about the way he/she dances. It may not be very noticeable to an outsider, but I see it. And the student sees it and knows that I saw it. And the student lights up with pride. That is the best moment.
What advice would you give a student looking to hire a teacher in your area of expertise?
Dance is a very competitive field and requires much discipline and determination. You want a teacher who will push the student to his/her limits and beyond. However, it is common to find a dance teacher who produces grand results but produces them at the cost of causing hurt to the student either physically or mentally/emotionally. You want a teacher who can encourage the student to be the best dancer possible in the healthiest way possible (physically and mentally/emotionally).
It is also a good idea to do your research and watch lots of professional ballet (or whatever dance style you are seeking) to train your eyes to recognize good dancing. This way, to the best of your abilities, you will be able to see if the teacher you have chosen is teaching good technique and form.
Your teacher should demonstrate knowledge of things going on in the dance world. If the teacher does not know something about something, he/she should be able to recommend references to you who will be able to answer your questions.
While a good relationship with your teacher is a good and desirable thing to have, it should not get in the way of the student's potential professional career. The teacher should not exude pressure over you to remain with him/her for any reason. If the student can get better training elsewhere, the teacher should encourage the student to leave to pursue that training. If the student just does not like learning from the teacher anymore, the teacher should recognize that he is no longer meeting the needs of the student and should encourage the student to go elsewhere. If the teacher ever pressures the student to remain with him, he is probably not helping.
What questions should students think through before talking to teachers about their needs?
How honest will you be with each other?
I will be nice, but I like to be honest with my students and I like them to be honest with me. To achieve a certain goal efficiently, there has to be good communication between the student (and parent) and teacher. Perhaps you are only interested in doing it for fun (which is completely fine), but you need to make the teacher aware so that you are on the same page with the same goals for the student.
Why am I doing this?
If this is for recreational purpose, it is already simpler. All that matters is "having fun" and enjoying the teacher.
If you are unsure whether your student will pursue a professional career or not, it would be in the best interest of the student to pursue it professionally. The student may decide later on in life that ballet (dance) is not for him/her, at which point you can leave. However, if the student decides that ballet (dance) is for him/her, and the student has only been training recreationally, the student is now behind in his/her training and may have to relearn much of what he/she already knows due to bad technique or form.