SF Ballet School Faculty Spotlight: Tina LeBlanc

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A former SF Ballet principal dancer, Tina LeBlanc began her career dancing with the Joffrey Ballet before joining the Company in 1992. She is often praised for her superb footwork in Balanchine ballets and at one point was called “a portrait of quiet perfectionism” by the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2009—after 27 years of dancing—she retired from SF Ballet and joined the faculty of SF Ballet School.

Tina LeBlanc and students in class during San Francisco Ballet School's Summer Session. (© Erik Tomasson)

Tina LeBlanc and students in class during San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Session. (© Erik Tomasson)

How did you transition from a professional dancer to full-time faculty?
I always had opportunities to teach, starting from the time I was a student at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB). When I became a professional, I continued to teach at home and as a guest at other schools, so I always had in mind that I wanted to teach. When I was pregnant with my second child, Helgi [Tomasson] and I started a dialogue about my future. I made it clear at that point that I would like to teach in the School when the time came to retire. In my last year dancing in the company, we revisited that idea and it was agreed that I would start teaching in the summer course, one month after retiring.

Tina LeBlanc in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (Erik Tomasson)

Tina LeBlanc in Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. (© Erik Tomasson)

What do you look forward to the most in Summer Session?
The excitement of finding new talent.

What qualities do you strive to impart in young dancers?
First and foremost when I teach, I concentrate on the position of the pelvis. Once the position of the pelvis is as vertical as it can be, the turnout is more accessible. Secondly, I like to focus on very classical, proper port de bras, because the most difficult thing to do is be able to move freely and still maintain a classical shape. Physicality, dynamics, and musicality inhabiting space: all of these layers at some point are honed.

My biggest frustrations are when dancers look out of the corner of their eye without extending the line with their full body, thinking it is épaulement, and also a focus on quantity over quality, as in being in the competition mindset rather than the artistry mindset.

MASTER IMAGE 2005 Repertory San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Square Dance. (© Chris Hardy)

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s Square Dance. (© Chris Hardy)

How is your teaching style similar to or different from your own training?
When I was growing up, we had guest teachers all the time. I learned something from everyone. My teachers instilled in me an awareness of musicality, but my professional experience at the Joffrey developed my movement qualities. My teaching style changes depending on the class, the material we are working on, and the response from the students. I’m evolving still, as we all should. At times I have to be very demanding and hard, but another day or another student may require a much gentler approach.

I’ve had four major influences as a dancer: my teacher from CPYB, Marcia Dale Weary; Scott Barnard; Maggie Black; and SF Ballet School’s Irina Jacobson. Among the many, many teachers that I learned from, these four took me to the next level. I hope that I can be that for at least some of my students.

What do you hope that adult beginners gain from taking your ballet classes?
Teaching adult beginners is incredibly challenging. They don’t have the layers of repetition that even young students have. On the other hand, they are there because they’re interested and as a result, are eager and open-minded. Their minds may be more attuned to learning, but their bodies aren’t as malleable. I hope that they leave the class feeling like they’ve learned something, had fun, and got a good workout.

Tina LeBlanc teaches class at SF Ballet School. (© Erik Tomasson)

Tina LeBlanc teaches class at SF Ballet School.
(© Erik Tomasson)

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