Getting to Know SF Ballet School Faculty Member Karen Gabay

SF Ballet School Faculty Member Karen Gabay trained in San Diego and with the School of American Ballet. At the age of 18, she made her debut as a professional dancer and went on to become the youngest principal dancer at Cleveland San Jose Ballet (later Silicon Valley Ballet).

As a guest artist, Karen partnered with some of some of the biggest names in the dance world, including Rudolf Nureyev, Peter Schaufuss, and Angel Corella. She was also a frequent member of the Chautauqua Dance Company, working with illustrious former New York City Ballet dancers such as Patricia McBride, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, and the late Violette Verdy.

In 2012 Karen choreographed The Nutcracker for Silicon Valley Ballet which led to her writing a children’s book, The Nutcracker: A Story in Verse. She went on to become the artistic associate for the company and an American Ballet Theatre certified teacher. Karen is also the artistic director and choreographer of her own small ballet troupe, Pointe of Departure, and a current member of the Screen Actors Guild. The closing of Silicon Valley Ballet brought her to SF Ballet School.

"I think dancing will always remain a passion of mine, and although I am much older, I think that artists of all ages have something to share and express through dance. Staying in the dance world seemed the most natural path for me and I don't think I could live without it."

Karen Gabay, SF Ballet School Faculty Member

Why did you decide to become a ballet teacher? 
I don't think I made a conscious decision; things just fell into place. When I was younger, I organized classes for Cleveland San Jose Ballet dancers during the off-season. I enjoyed teaching, and it was nice to keep myself and my peers in shape. Eventually, while dancing full-time with Cleveland San Jose Ballet, I began to rehearse the company and teach company class. 

Joining the faculty of SF Ballet School was an opportunity that posed itself at a good time for me. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with younger dancers and feel it’s important to give back since I was fortunate to have my dreams of becoming a professional dancer come true.

Did you consider other paths after retiring from a professional career?
Actually, I haven't retired from performance. I still dance and perform when opportunities present themselves. I think dancing will always remain a passion of mine, and although I am much older, I think that artists of all ages have something to share and express through dance. Staying in the dance world seemed the most natural path for me and I don't think I could live without it.

Karen Gabay as Juliet.
Karen Gabay as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.
Photo courtesy of Karen Gabay.

 

Do you have a certain teaching style or method? 
My ballet training was very eclectic, which is quite American in a sense. I started with American and Russian teachers in San Diego before training at the School of American Ballet, and later, with Wilhelm Burman. Throughout my career as a professional dancer, I worked with various teachers from around the world, so I truly feel I got the best from the best. I try and incorporate a little bit of everything. A young dancer who is exposed to diverse styles early on will be well-prepared for a professional career.

What qualities do you look for in students? 
I enjoy working with students who have the determination, drive, and dedication to be a dancer. Each student has an individual way of learning; finding a way to bring out the best in each student is what I strive for as a teacher. I love seeing my students’ personalities come out as they learn and process what I am saying. I'd like my students to enjoy dancing as much as I've enjoyed learning and sharing the joy that dancing has brought me.

As a new faculty member of SF Ballet School, what are you most looking forward to this year?
I am looking forward to seeing the progress that the students make by the end of the year. The enthusiasm and hard work is really wonderful to see.