Cheryl Ann Ale & Revolutionary Principles of Movement
January/February 2015 Spotlight feature
The term “six degrees of separation” doesn’t stand more corrected than when you enter the world of dance. The dance community has an intricate web of teachers, mentors, students, choreographers, friends and families that connect the one to the other in some very interesting ways. Almost thirty years ago as a dancer in a show at the Aladdin Theatre, Alhambra Casino in the little island of Aruba, an American dancer from a different Musical revue, the Concorde Hotel, came in to assist with the final touches to the choreography. She was a force of energy and inspiration.
Once our show ended, she came up with a concept for a new musical production for the Aladdin Theatre that the owner of the Divi Divi Resort couldn’t resist and thus created “Genie”, a show about a ditsy disoriented Genie [think Madonna in the 8o’s], who couldn’t get her incantations correct. This new production imported a choreographer, directors, producers, dancers, singers, and actors from the US. It was the biggest production the island of Aruba had ever seen. I was hailed as one of the first local dancers to be in such a major production. The island was proud and I received lots of news coverage over the years. After the show was over, the cast and crew went their separate ways and pursued their individual destinies.
Fast forward 30-something years later, at a dance event in West Palm Beach, FL last spring, I ran into that same promising, talented dancer, Ms. Sherri Ale, for the first time since Aruba. It was a moment of surprise and recognition, a story we don’t get tired of retelling. Thanks to serendipity, and six degrees of separation, Sherri and I once more forged a bond and shared our life story.
Our six degrees of separation gets even better when our connection at that event was none other than Ruth C. Petrinovic.
[See follow-up story on Ruth C. Petrinovic].
While I’d been considering doing a story on Petrinovic for this magazine, Ale, RPM’s guiding force, was already deep in the process of documenting Petrinovic and her involvement with RPM. This is when I learned about RPM. When the concept of Revolutionary Principles of Movement was introduced to me I was instantly enthralled with this studied approach and its history. The story begins with Jo Anna Kneeland, born in South Africa where she started her training by earning her Cecchetti certification. When Kneeland moved to the U.S., she became a Master of the National Academy and later started her own dance studio in Palm Beach, Florida.
Kneeland was curious and interested in the why and how of the so-called “talented dancers,” the naturally exceptional ones – the dancers that just got it and did it. She wanted to be able to bring this concept to the everyday dancers, even dancers that may not have what the industry claimed was the perfect body type or background required for dance. As its well known, in foreign countries dancers are auditioned and selectively chosen to join a ballet school. It’s not their right or choice. Thankfully, that system is not practiced here in the U.S.A. where everyone has the opportunity to dance.
Trying to recreate the motion and kinetic movements of the “perfect” dancer, Kneeland began studying dance in films by slowing down the video frame and really analyzing the movement of these professional dancers. Kneeland’s interest in kinetics, the study of motion, as it applied to dance got the attention of Mr. Frank J Hale, then owner of Royal Poinciana Playhouse, who funded her research in this field. The research was broken down into three parts: Anatomy, Film, and Observation. [See bottom for Research by Jo Anna Kneeland]
Throughout her career, she remained focused on making the elite and erudite concepts she’d studied from revered, “talented dancers” accessible to all. Kneeland trained such dancers as sisters Claudia and Clara Cravey as well as other notable dancers. She passed on her researched knowledge of dance, kinetics and the motion and movement of the body to offer any and all dancers no matter the body type a fighting chance to be brilliant dancers.
Sherri Ale grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was always an energetic and spontaneous little girl. Because of that overabundance of energy and spontaneity, Sherri could hardly sit still as a child and ended up in many tiny accidents. One such accident led to a broken leg that healed improperly and caused her a lot of trouble throughout her childhood. One day while reading the local newspaper, Sherri’s mother came across an ad for a local dance studio directed by Petrinovic promoting therapeutic ballet classes. Her mother, hoping to help correct Sherri’s leg and get rid of some of that excess energy, figured she can kill two birds with one stone and enrolled Ale in dance classes. Initially, Ale did not take too well to the class. Ms. Petrinovic remembers, “I stepped out of the studio one day to see Sherri hanging onto the car screaming while her mother was trying to pry her off the door.”
It didn’t take Ale long before the routine and exercises of the class captured her attention and focus, and she went on to dance for twelve years under the direction of Petrinovic. Ale left Florida and continued a long and healthy dance career. From Pittsburgh Ballet’s demanding repertoires to Broadway Musicals in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean, Ale always pulled on her background in the Revolutionary Principles of Movement taught to her by Petrinovic, and Ale wholeheartedly believes that because of RPM she has remained injury-free throughout her thirty-five year career, a truly incredible feat.
Revolutionary Principles of Movement
After a long career as a dancer, Ale decided to become a teacher. What surprised her most was the ease of teaching and how effortlessly years of knowledge bubbled back up to the surface. Her students accepted her teaching style immediately and she saw how much faster their technique was improving in such a short period of time.
That is when the light bulb went off. She knew then that the teaching that had helped her remain injury-free throughout her dancing career and increased the progression of her students, was RPM and that it should be introduced and shared with the masses. Ale met Albert Williams, an investor, during this time and he was intrigued with her concept and drive and offered to partner with her to bring this teaching method to the forefront of the dance community. Together they formed Ann Henry Inc.
Shortly after, Ale looked up Petrinovic, pitched her idea, and the partnership began. Wes Chapman, former principal dancer, ABT, Artistic Director of Alabama Ballet, and Artistic Director ABT II, a long-time student, and teacher of this program was also invited to be part Ale’s creation. He has now become the spokesperson for RPM traveling all over the US and South America teaching and giving RPM workshops.
In August of 2014, RPM held its first training course in Palm Beach Gardens, FL and the turnout was fantastic! Many of Petrinovic’s alumnae attended the refresher course and were able to get their own copies of the RPM manuscript and training videos.
This program will continue to tour throughout the USA, making Revolutionary Principle of Movement more accessible to all interested parties. If you are new to teaching, have been teaching for some time already, would like to get your teacher certification or as a studio owner would like to bring a cohesive teaching syllabi to your studio, this step-by-step progression teaching curriculum will give you the advantage.
Go to website for detailed information. http://www.ballet4everybody.com
Background of Research by Jo Anna Kneeland
This research was conducted in the 1950’s. Her work was divided into three projects:
Project 1: Dance Anatomy
The study of anatomy to help students with difficult bodies, resulting in the adaptation of ballet positions to suit individual bodies. Experimental scholarship groups were selected to carry out these experiments. They were chosen for having extreme physical conditions unsuited for ballet.
Project 2: Film
To preserve the classics on film, performed by leading artists, and used for educational purposes. These films were called “Great Moments of the Dance”, which was advertised in Dance Magazine several years ago. Parts of that same project are circumstances probably never before duplicated. Jo Anna with knowledge of ballet and the classics edited the films and worked with equipment to study these films.
Project 3: Observation
Results recorded from observing dancers in stop-motion. She observed that the use of the body by professional dancers was different from classroom preparations. The differences were not in styling. This became the Movement Motivation Project.
Results of Research
Conclusions from a 3rd project:
Motivating actions were imperceptible to the naked eye
Great dancers stumbled upon correct use of body by chance and instinct.
Consistency of execution can only come with awareness of correct body usage
Traditional training procedures on what the eye sees, the effects adding hidden kinetic motivations, causes to patterns of steps, put the training program in line with the finished dancer.
Motivation is in addition to, not instead of, existing ballet training.
Laws of physics applied to the body, help the dancer realize their fullest potential and increase consistency.
To sum up these ideas:
To train the student scientifically the way the finished artist (dancer) moves instinctively.
ABOUT Cheryl Ann Ale
Cheryl Ann Ale has a diverse and lively career that continues to expand as a professional dancer, choreographer, actress, singer, teacher and now Founder of RPM for 38 years. She performed professionally in classical and contemporary ballets & musical theatre around the world.
Ale danced with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater and there worked with many of the most famous choreographers of our time; Frederic Franklin, Ruth Page, Patrick Frantz, and Donald Sadler. Some of the repertoires she performed were: Frankie and Johnny, Prodigal Son, Etudes, Coppelia, Swan Lake, Giselle, Le Sylphides, and Firebird.
After leaving the company Ale went on to diversify her career in Equity musical theater as co-choreographer with the late Brian MacDonald “The Merry Widow” with John Dankworth and Cleo Laine for Broadway, and performed roles in Equity productions of Chicago, Grease, Can Can, On Your Toes, Anything Goes, Fiddler on the Roof, and Hello Dolly.
Cheryl otherwise known as “Sherri “started dancing in Ft Lauderdale FL with Ruth Petrinovic at Imperial Studios, which later became The Atlantic Foundation for the Performing Arts. It was designed to carefully develop dancers using the principles of movement developed by Jo Anna Kneeland and expanded upon by Ruth. As a requirement to become a professional dancer ready to meet all the rigors of the dance world, they were given an intensive 10 years course in classical ballet, Modern, Jazz, Flamenco, Tap, and acrobatics.
RPM Revolutionary Principles of Movement was founded when Cheryl established a steady Teaching career and realized these principles of movement are the essential basis fundamentally to create a mainstay for any diversified dancers life.