Austin lost a world-class ballet teacher with the recent death of Eugene Slavin. He danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and he was thoroughly trained in Russian ballet. His own teaching was technically sound and deep, and I always recommended his classes to anyone who wanted to improve as a dancer.
What I learned from him has been a mainstay to me as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. I valued his humanity and high expectations. I thought of him immediately when the Austin City Council asked me to put together a program for children who would otherwise have no opportunity for dance training, and who might be in danger of dropping out of school.
Eugene plunged into Dare to Dance with his characteristic perfectionism. When he lined 120 wild children in rows, I thought “this will never work!” But the students loved it. They thrived on his discipline. I believe they somehow knew they were receiving teaching of rare quality, and they improved by leaps and bounds.
Eugene was demanding. He always knew exactly what he wanted from his students and his dancers. But he was also able to see their potential and connect to it. Two brothers 10 and 12 years old were in our first group. They liked dancing so much they started attending Eugene’s ballet classes. After several months, Eugene pointed one of them out to me with pride. He was doing double tours en l’air!
This boy now has children of his own, and when he tells them he danced on stage in the Nutcracker, they don’t believe him.
Another boy, full of restless energy, was dropped off with his two sisters, but showed no interest in what they were doing. Eugene was staging Peter and the Wolf as a 1940s gangster drama with the wolf in a zoot suit. He said, “I’m going to ask that boy to be the wolf.” The boy said “No” at first, but changed his mind when he saw the costume. He threw himself into the part, practicing his timing and walks, admiring his hat in the mirror, and a star was born. He later combined his love of athletics and dance by forming one of the first touring breakdancing troupes.
Eugene had an uncanny sense of exactly what a dancer needed. His corrections were so precise that you felt them in your body. Corrections that you feel this way make a lasting impression on the brain and you never forget them. His training and corrections gave a dancer power and balance, the ability to execute. I still use his combinations when I teach at the barre.
He never gave less than his best. His example is a standard I carry with me.
-Rodolfo Mendez, Artistic Director Ballet East Dance Company
For additional information call
512-385-2838,or email firstname.lastname@example.org