For advanced ballet students at Santa Rosa Dance Theater, Joshua Trader’s class is a lesson in patience and persistence. “Ballet isn’t going to come overnight. You have to be willing to put in the time,” says Trader, who danced with Eugene Ballet and then Tulsa Ballet for eight years before transitioning into teaching full-time at the California-based school. To help his students build strength and develop muscle memory, he emphasizes repetition—using the same series of exercises for four to six classes before he shifts gears. “I always tell them to tattoo it into their bones so it never leaves,” he says.
A simple tendu to the back is one foundational movement that he constantly refers to. “It’s so hard! If you can do a tendu to the back correctly—without having your hip bones pop up and keeping your rib cage together—then that leads to a correct first arabesque,” he says. “If your first arabesque isn’t correct, you’re lost, so we work on tendu back for six to eight months or two years, if we have to.”
Although he prioritizes technique, Trader does encourage his dancers to be conscious of their artistry. “We work on the same lesson plan for three weeks, so by the time we get to the fourth or fifth repetition, they can really start playing with it,” he says. “I’ll ask them, ‘What are you going to say with this simple four phrases of eight?’ Because that’s the goal. Take a tendu and make a statement with it.”