By: Diane Feen Contributing Writer
If you met John Prinz you would never guess he was once a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet. He danced in Alvin Ailey and Jerome Robbins productions and shared the stage with Baryshnikov.
Prinz is loath to brag, but if you Google him you will see that the New York Times wrote about him when he left the New York City Ballet company. They also called him one of the best dancers in the world at one time.
But that was yesterday. Today he is quiet, unassuming and goes with the flow in most matters, until you see him teaching a ballet class. Then the maestro and ballet master comes alive and is instantly transformed as the messenger of a ballet world that is almost extinct.
“Balanchine handed down so much of the great Russian tradition of ballet to me. He made sure we did every movement properly – like hollowing out the palms of our hands by holding a small ball,” said Prinz.
This lost ballet art is alive and well today thanks to Prinz who is teaching in Boca Raton (at Organic Movements Studio) and in West Palm at Ballet Florida. It is there you can catch a glimpse of his majestically pure ballet classes that are mesmerizing.
Prinz shows students how to glide into angelic poses that once characterized the masters. “Ballet is up there, he says, not down there.” All eyes are on him as he goes from lifting his leg on the ballet barre to asking students to stretch their arms in the air.
Karen, the music maestro, plays music for the class that matches each pose and movement. There are moments when you feel transported to an earlier era of ballet. Some movements are sharp, yet everyone watches Prinz to see exactly how to move their bodies in unison with the perfection of the classic ballet world.
All ages are represented in his classes. A young woman moves with such grace she looks like a modern-day messenger for Balanchine. Her head is held high and she moves with the grace of a principal dancer. Yet she dances alongside a much older gentleman named Harold who is not as nimble on his feet yet has a passion for ballet.
“I was a dairy farmer and financial professional and I love ballet. It’s not easy but John is passing down what he knows to us, and this knowledge you can’t find anywhere else.”
Aleena is from Russia but was unable to study ballet as a child because of the stringent requirements in her country. Her love of ballet is what motivated Aleena to study with Prinz. “This is a wonderful body challenge; I am much stronger now and have arches in my feet. John is an incredible person – he lights up the room when he enters. You can feel his passion for ballet.”
If you ask Prinz how his ballet roots sprouted, he will tell you. “I used to pick up my sister from ballet class in Chicago and watch the class. Eventually I took classes and fell in love with the ballets my mom took me to as a child.”
His other influence was his uncle Tony who studied art in Paris and showed Prinz a glimpse of European culture, music and art. “When I went to ballet and opera houses as a child the orchestra and dancers captivated me.”
So did the ballet life. Prinz used to go to after-parties in New York and meet luminaries like Natalie Wood, Andy Warhol, Patty Duke, Anthony Quinn and others. “One minute I would see these people in the movies and the next they were asking for my autograph.”
Though Prinz knows the golden days of ballet from center stage, he is now letting others grab the limelight in his ballet classes. They study with him so he can show them the correct movements and tempo to assimilate the present with the golden era of ballet of the past.
Pilates instructor and studio owner Mary Jo Sade is one of them. “My dancing has been taken to another level with John. We have a gem here; John breaks down the dances into small pieces and It affects the whole body. I feel so good when I leave. My heart comes through my chest and I feel like I can conquer the world.”
If you want to take ballet classes with John Prinz, call 561-395-6111 or firstname.lastname@example.org