This Sunday, master ballet teacher Finis Jhung turns 80. After a career as a soloist for both San Francisco Ballet and the Joffrey and a principal for Harkness Ballet, Jhung carved out a unique place for himself as a ballet teacher in New York City. He’s coached the boys of Billy Elliot: The Musical, developed a popular video and DVD how-to series and STILL teaches seven classes a week at the Ailey Extension. He’s graced the pages of this magazine to offer his time-honored wisdom again and again, and he’s currently working on a memoir. (We can’t wait to read it.) Happy birthday, Finis!
Jhung correcting a knee not properly aligned over the toes. “The foot rolls in, the knee collapses and there’s no support or muscular control,” says Jhung. Photo by Kyle Froman.
As you near the end of your studio year, it’s easy to feel burned out and eager to just get it all over with. Take some inspiration from Jhung to refuel your final weeks. When asked what he hopes teachers take away from his class, Jhung responded:
“I want them to know they can help every single student to improve. As teachers, they can learn to solve dancers’ technical problems and make each dancer better than he is right now, but they need to develop X-ray vision. Anyone can see that something is wrong, but you have to be able to look inside the body and figure out why it’s wrong. The truth is, there are certain things dancers do that make them look clumsy or graceful, or make them stay up or fall over during turns. It’s like learning how to cook—if you get a good recipe and you do exactly what the recipe says, you’re going to be a great cook. It’s the same way in dance. You just have to be taught the right things.”