Nineteen dancers lay sprawled out on the floor, a highly unusual sight in a typical dance class. The adroit teacher circled the group with perfect posture, walking as gracefully and carefully as a lion. The dancers sat up and watched carefully as the master demonstrated his literally groundbreaking poses and stretches on the ground.
Alexandre Munz, an internationally acclaimed ballet artist, is at BYU until April 11 to provide master class instruction about utilizing muscles to their full potential without overworking them.
S.A.F.E., which stands for Spine Advanced Functional Empowerment, is an innovative way of movement that connects the body and the mind. The method has been, or will be, applied at 20 conservatories internationally.
“We have a tendency to freeze the natural movement of the spine,” Munz said. “When you reactivate it, it produces endorphin and adrenaline, better postural balance and overall better well-being.”
Due to intense daily training from the highly eminent Paris Ballet Opera School, Munz sustained serious dance injuries at 25, rendering him unable to dance until he developed the S.A.F.E. approach with the help of his orthopedic surgeon father and brother.
Many of the students who have already attended his master classes have experienced a difference in the way they dance.
“It was a different feeling of being lengthened within your body instead of just being warmed and ready to go,” said dance student Kristin Warren.
“The exercises … created more space between your rib cage and your pelvis,” said dancer Lexy Ludwig. “Every time we stood up, we felt taller.”
Having such a prolific dancer and teacher grace the halls of the Richards Building shows the prominence of the Department of Dance at BYU.
“(Alexandre) is among one of the most influential and high-profile guests we have brought in, though there are others with a similar status that have come,” said Shayla Bott, assistant professor of dance. “We were just lucky and are so grateful to have gotten the MEG (a faculty ORCA) grant to bring him in because without that, we would not have been able to continue forward with this project.”
As Munz finished up the class he was teaching, his passion for ballet was clear as he described the stretches and movements in great detail, invoking in everyone watching a sense of wonder at the capabilities of the human body.