“And then the world stops…”- this is how Fanni Benyovszki, the founder of Sauté Ballet School in Kecskemét talks about dancing. She teaches ballet to little ones as well as to adults. Now she is done with The Nutcracker that took place in December and this year she is planning to direct Swan Lake. Fanni kindly let me accompany her to Friday’s ballet classes and I could take pictures as well that had been a wonderful experience I’m so grateful for. I’m also very thankful for letting me have great memories of ballet when I myself was a student of her.
Lady Fraise (LF): When did you start taking an interest in ballet?
Fanni Benyovszki (FB): I was in kindergarten when my grandmother told me that the sister of my father used to do ballet. That was the moment I started to wish I could do it myself too. In that time there was no chance to do it in the countryside and my mother was not supporting the idea either, so I only got to do it later, when I became 16 years old.
LF: For how long have you been taking ballet classes and how did you become a teacher yourself?
FB: As a matter of fact I’ve been learning how to dance for 17 years. I started with majorette that has been a huge part of my life for 8 years, then side by side I started doing ballroom dancing. And now, after a 7-year pause I will compete as a ballroom dancer again in March. I’m very very looking forward to that! Besides ballroom dancing it was obligatory to go through classical ballet training. Back than I hated is, because it was painful, and for a Latin dancer it was completely unenjoyable, and notably it was something obligatory. In my opinion, a dancer is training him- or herself all through his of her life. I’m attending the voluntary classes of the Hungarian Dance Academy, every week I’m taking private lessons and group lessons of various studios, so basically attend everything I have time for. In the summer I’m taking at least 6 weeks of intense curses abroad and in Hungary too. Wherever I travel with my family, I visit classes and we go to theatres to watch ballet with them. How did I become a ballet teacher? Well, I’ve been always teaching from the moment one of my classmates asked me to help her train after she saw my results at competitions. I was attending the Technological College and learned to become an engineer and persistent with that I acquired a qualification of a dance teacher, but I started working in my other profession, clothes industry in a wedding dress salon. After the birth of my daughter it became impossible to do this physically laden and time consuming job, so the part-time job of teaching dance became my main profession. The idea of a ballet school came to me on an average day at the play ground in the morning. Wherever I’ve been in my life everybody told me I must be a ballerina because of the way I moved, my posture and my figure – which I felt like a burden when I was a child. The mother’s of the playground’s kids suggested me to teach their daughters so I had to update my knowledge. I found an excellent ballet governess. She gave me all of her knowledge and she stands beside me today as a best friend and supports me in my every action. I’m very happy, because my school has the support and appreciation of great names and my students pull through at summer curses, performances and competitions as well.
LF: Now let’s talk about your dance school! When did you found it and what kind of groups you teach?
FB: I founded my dance school in 2013, and at first I was only teaching kindergarten children, then the work I did touched more and more people’s soul. Right now my youngest students is 2 years old. I have a kindergarten group, the greatest emphasis is on nurturing with learning the basics promptly. It may seem like we don’t learn a lot of things but we learn those with perfect exactitude. The next class is called Pre Ballet, they already know the basics from 2 years of training and they are able to perform all of the spar exercises. Besides that we are working on center, but it’s all about the basics here as well. There are separate group for teenagers. It is a bit harder because they missed the early ballet upbringing, so it’s more difficult for them to remember all the combinations of the steps and the moves became accomplished harder. They need a lot of concentration to be successful. For me the thing next to my heart is to spend time with teenagers. We laugh a lot, we have conversations outside ballet classes and I can’t imagine my days without their chatter. They have three levels of training and I try to motivate them as well. Getting to the next level is not attached to obligatory things, but if someone’s hard-working I’m supporting that person and giving her a chance to progress. For example I call guest teachers for her. Only those can get to the next level who truly deserve it and work for it by coming to the training, workshops, private lessons and the camps regularly, so all together want to develop and not just spend some time with a little ballet. I also teach adults, that is a completely different thing. It’s typical for some people to hide behind objections of being overweight or unskillful. They ask about their options than tell me ‘I”ll come back when I lost weight’. But those who actually come love the lessons very much. The mood makes people come in hours earlier to watch other group’s classes and relax with a couple of hot tea and enjoy being away from their everyday problems. The spirit of the room is unbelievable, a small world of wonder where everybody can find peace.
LF: How was it to bring The Nutcracker in 2016 and in 2017 to the stage?
FB: The chance came in 2016 for my team to dance a whole ballet. In advance I did 1 year of research and then the team learned the choreography in 6 months. We learned our own variations, not the original version by Marius Petipa, because the dancers are not qualified enough, and there are many young students and I want them to perform more and more on stage. The reviews of the first performance’s direction made me extremely proud. In 2017 53 people appeared on the stage. I was just watching the recording of that these days and it is unbelievable how much progress my students made. Of course in 2017 we learned more complicated variations and put more thought in the story as well compared to 2016 and the costume bay grew to double. On the whole I’m very satisfied because we were dancing before a full house and we were asked to do 2 performances in 2018 because of the huge interest in the tickets. We will fulfill this request, but currently we are preparing for the exam performance of the spring semester, where we will dance parts of Swan Lake. Everyone is very excited about this, they can’t wait for the cast. In advance they can apply for each role and then they participate on a casting, where we learn short parts and those have to be performed later solo to get the part. This system seems too strict for a dance school but I consider determination very important.
LF: What are your plans for the future?
FB: Besides progress of course, I would like to improve my class room. Each time someone comes in, the huge space and the beautiful frame impresses them. What I would like to have the most is the greatest quality of ballet floor. For this more students are needed. Fortunately this goal seems to come closer every year because more and more students are applying, currently I have almost 100 students, but it’s necessary to maintain such a huge room.
LF: What does dancing mean to you?
FB: Dancing always meant freedom and ease for me. You may be in a bad mood or have a headache, or you are agitated and tense, or have financial problems, but in a moment music starts, and then for a couple of seconds the world stops.
I was a very tatty teenager, there were troubles all the time at home, because I often skipped school and I was forbidden to go to dance classes ‘because of the importance of studying’. Then my mother was waiting for me at the door with a big slap and asked me: ’was it worth it?’. Of course it was!
Every time I had troubles in my life dancing helped me get through them. I remember that after my spine surgery I put the photos and medals of last weekend’s competition to give me strength to recover sooner. It also helped me in postpartum depression. I’m very grateful for the father of my daughter and his mother, because they locked me out of the house with my dancing equipment and forbade me to come back till I had a dancing lesson. It’s funny now to think about what the neighbours might have thought.
As a dancer every day is a new challenge. You are not competing with others but yourself. You try to acquire more and more knowledge and try to get to know your body perfectly and the possibilities it holds.