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Creative Dance Class - Rachael Kosch: Child of Westbeth Returns to Teach Toddlers

by Bonnie Rosenstock
August 17, 2010
Westbeth Center for the Arts
463 West Street
(between Bank and Bethune Streets)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-1500
Creative Dance Class
Community Room at Westbeth Center for the Arts
463 West Street between Bank and Bethune Streets
New York, NY 10014
(212) 566-3097
rachael@metropolitanplayhouse.org

Semester: September 9, 2010 to May 26, 2011
Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
September 2, 2010: Open House, free class and refreshments
Price: $780, full semester; $390 for half semester
For the ten best formative years of her life, ages ten to twenty, dancer/choreographer/actor Rachael Kosch called the Westbeth Center for the Arts her home.

With its labyrinthine hallways, cavernous stairwells and spacious basement, Westbeth, the artists' housing complex in the Far West Village, provided an endless world of imagination for kids. The cement ring in the inner courtyard and the cement raised circles of the outer courtyard served as natural platforms for her staged dance/theater "happenings" and other games. "We wouldn't have had so much fun if I still lived on the Upper West Side and had to go to the park with a babysitter," Kosch said.

Thirty years later, Kosch, who lives in Tribeca with her composer/musician husband Michael Kosch, is having a homecoming as a children's creative dance teacher. Her goal is "to return to the rejuvenated neighborhood to introduce the youngest generation of West Villagers to the art of dance, and Westbeth is the perfect place," she stated.

Her class for three-to-five-year-olds will be held every Thursday from 10 to 10:45 a.m., from September. 9, 2010 to May 26, 2011, in Westbeth's Community Room, 463 West Street between Bank and Bethune Streets. The introductory Open House, with a free class and refreshments, will take place on September 2.

Class will consist of the basics of classical ballet, some jumping and locomotor movements, complemented with scarves, streamers, rudimentary Chinese ribbon technique, which she learned from a six-year-old, animal figurines to emulate animal movements, pine cones to create delicate ballet hands, musicality – and "all kinds of imagery that modern dancers are familiar with," she said. She will also incorporate some Irish jig steps she learned from her six-year-old niece, and Eastern European rhythms from her childhood camp memories. Kosch's husband will provide live accompaniment. On the last day of class there will be a performance with costume elements.

But please, no tutus and frou-frou clothing during class. "Life is easier without that skirt," she declared. "They pull at it and distract themselves. They may be used to it from other places, but I think the style of modern dance is leotards, footless tights and hair pulled back."

She admitted that teaching this age range will "keep me on my toes" because there are developmental differences. "I will be encouraging to the little ones while making sure the older ones aren't bored with too much coddling of the little ones. If the class grows to a certain number, then I can split it up. But even some three-year-olds can try first position," she said.

At Westbeth, where Kosch lived from 1970 to 1980 – her painter mother still resides there – she studied dance with Westbeth residents Gurta Zimmerman and Sally Gross in their apartments/studios, and at the Merce Cunningham Studio on an upper floor. Kosch, in turn, has been teaching dance to children since 1986 when she graduated from Columbia College in Chicago with a degree in Choreography and Teaching. Since returning to New York, she has been training at and teaching dance to six-year-olds at Diana Byer's Ballet School New York, 30 E. 31st Street, and at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, 316 E. 63rd Street.

Kosch rehearses her dance-based children's show, "The Festival of the Vegetables," in the Nancy Meehan Studio in Westbeth. She is the choreographer and costume designer, and her husband wrote the music and poetry. The production, going on its fifth year at the Metropolitan Playhouse, 220 E. 4th Street, is scheduled for three weekends, from February 5 to 21, 2011. It is inspired by "The Carnival of the Animals" by French composer Camille Saint-Saens, for which Ogden Nash wrote the humorous verses, but instead of animal characters, Kosch uses vegetables. Most of the performers are adults, but in a casting twist, she will have a mom and dad played by a six- and nine-year-old, and an adult dancer will perform the little boy role.

For the creative dance class, parents will be able to peek in through a curtain. "With a three-year-old there are separation problems, not only on the part of the child," Kosch acknowledged. "Hopefully, they won't be too noisy on the other side," she added, smiling.
The Festival of the Vegetables

The Festival of the Vegetables

Photo © & courtesy of Michael Kosch


Rachael Kosch teaches a Creative Dance Class at the Martha Graham School

Rachael Kosch teaches a Creative Dance Class at the Martha Graham School

Photo © & courtesy of Paula Scully


Rachael Kosch teaches a Creative Dance Class at the Martha Graham School

Rachael Kosch teaches a Creative Dance Class at the Martha Graham School

Photo © & courtesy of Paula Scully

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