Before pliés and tendus get underway in Augusta Moore’s Saturday morning ballet class at ODC School in San Francisco, students loosen their spines and pelvises and start a class-long process of experimentation. “Your body is a laboratory,” says Moore, who integrates concepts of Feldenkrais, a methodology based on the teachings of Moshé Feldenkrais, into her ballet classes.
Long-legged and lean with close-cropped curls and the hint of a Midwestern twang, Moore leads the class with her black Chihuahua snuggled in a pouch on her chest. She asks students to consider the choices they make in each exercise. “What would this tendu combination look like if you didn’t have arms and legs?” she asks, and suddenly torsos twist and extend in completely different ways. “All the people looking like wild
alligators—fantastic!” she cries.
Moore, who worked with anatomy teacher Annette Atwood and later became a Feldenkrais practitioner, teaches a Feldenkrais class before her Saturday ballet class. Students work on the floor, doing gentle movements designed to encourage recognition of movement habits and experimentation with new ways of moving. “When you hold on to a habit, it interferes with everything,” she says. “You’ll carry this alignment problem into different things in your life, whether it’s a grand jeté or going on a date.”
Her ballet class is a rigorous and thoughtful progression of classical combinations, infused by the ideas she has just explored in Feldenkrais class. Throughout the class, she considers different aspects of a specific area of the body (in this class the ribs). She wonders during the barre how it would feel to choose to be grounded in one rib and reach through another, and later in the class she challenges students to explore how willing they are to move the ribs in chaîné turns.
Moore is understanding and supportive of students as they try physical and mental adjustments. “It’s a huge risk to do what you don’t usually do,” she says. And yet the rewards can be tremendous. “If you can change your idea of yourself, you can change anything,” she says. “And that’s my job as a teacher, to be able to imagine the student at their best.” —Caitlin Sims