Misa Oga Hansen, award-winning choreographer and teacher, is the artistic director of MOGA Conservatory of Dance in North Salt Lake. Since opening her school in June 2014, Ms. Hansen emphasizes the joy in training the students at her school and producing focused and diligent dancers. “I have several years of experience in teaching many levels of dancers with different disciplines,” explains Ms. Hansen. “I believe that what is most important is the quality of the training. It should not be about practicing the same piece over and over every day to win at local competitions. My goal is to produce versatile and technically clean dancers, who are able to do anything! It is important for dancers to walk into any audition or class and feel confident and strong with the quality of their technique, artistry, and training. This comes from consistent and meaningful classes from an early age.”
Ms. Hansen has an exceptional dance and educational background. She graduated from the University of Utah with a BFA in Ballet Pedagogy, a BFA in Ballet Performance and a minor in Child Development with full scholarship. As a performer, Ms. Hansen has received numerous awards and scholarships, including a 1st place finish at the YAGP 2008 NYC finals. She has appeared in major galas including the “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” gala at the New York City Center. Misa has danced principal roles in many classical and contemporary ballets. She has performed with various companies in Utah, Colorado, California and Japan.
Discussing the role of competitions in her dance experience and at MOGA Conservatory of Dance, Ms. Hansen says, “Participating in international ballet competitions has allowed me to become a better dancer as I work toward a goal. I believe that when dancers set goals, with passion and determination, there is great progress. International ballet competitions are so wonderful as you train to perform difficult ballet variations which you would not have the opportunity to perform if not for these competitions. It is very important to have as many performance opportunities as possible and international ballet competitions allow you to do so. The competitions provide an excellent opportunity to build a network with many master teachers and company directors. I have received the most valuable feedback from these judges and master teachers, which I continue to cherish, and pass on this valuable knowledge to my students. I find that every time I attend an event, the level of the other dancers, their passion and dedication, inspires me. It is amazing to see the level of dancers from all around the world, as the caliber of ballet is always rising.
I believe that competitions should certainly not be the focus of training. It is not about the competition itself, but about the process leading up to the competition. It is an incredible opportunity to work with a coach privately that understands a dancer’s strengths and weaknesses and helps him or her improve technically and artistically. I am a firm believer of the importance of consistency, and training for something such as an international ballet competition requires consistency, which is an incredible force of improvement.
I determine which dancers are ready for competition training at MOGA Conservatory of Dance by their passion and commitment. Obviously, it is important for dancers to have a solid base of technique and for dancers to attend their technique classes consistently. Ballet is something that requires consistent training every day of the week, and not just every other day or a couple days a week. In addition, dancers must have passion, musicality and the willingness to work hard. The dancers must have the heart for danc, and constantly aspire to become a better dancer.”
For dancers who are dreaming to participate in prestigious ballet competitions someday, Ms. Hansen recommends, “Work hard in your everyday ballet classes. Additionally, make every effort to fix and work on all the corrections you receive in class. Learn to be smart dancers, and learn combinations and choreography quickly. Most of all, be confident and love every minute that you are able to dance.”
“Classical ballet is the foundation of all dance and requires the most strength, coordination and detailed training,” explains Misa on why she chose to focus on classical ballet at MOGA Conservatory of Dance. “Classical ballet requires many years of consistent training and is not something that can be mastered easily. I have studied all the various methods and approaches in classical ballet training and I have come to believe that the Vaganova method is a very thorough and successful method. It is important for young dancers to build a solid foundation. I love the Vaganova method as it is the purest and most difficult form of classical ballet. The methodology is so precise and consistent as it builds on concepts of previous years. In the Vaganova method, the whole body must be properly placed (head, upper body, legs, and feet.) It increases consciousness of the whole body, as well as the athleticism and musicality required for dance.
Of course there are many strengths in other schools of training that are great for more developed, advanced students to learn. Therefore, I introduce other methods when I find it effective in teaching. Not only is it effective, but it is very important for students to be versatile and to be able to quickly adapt to different forms of training. When dancers are young and developing, consistency in technique is crucial.”
The dance program at University of Utah also played a major role in shaping Misa’s dance talents and philosophies. “I chose to attend the University of Utah because of the specialized ballet program that the university offers. I wanted to pursue a higher education and I did not want a general degree, such as dance or education. I was able to graduate with a BFA in Ballet with emphasis on Ballet Performance and Teaching. From a young age, I had a strong passion for ballet and trained diligently everyday under my Russian teachers. They provided amazing training for big productions as well as International Ballet Competitions. At the university, I grew to be close with my professors, who taught me about ballet immensely. I learned ballet pedagogy, anatomy and other necessary knowledge to become a dancer and teacher. On top of the wonderful lecture classes, I was privileged to train everyday for eight hours of dance classes and rehearsals. I was fortunate to perform many principal roles in classical ballets and other works. I grew stronger as a teacher, performer and individual. Attending the University of Utah was the greatest four years of my life.”
Misa’s teachers played an important role in her dance career. “My teachers were my biggest role models whom I admired and respected very much. From a young age, I dreamed of becoming as great as them.”
She is now dedicated to passing such excellent training to her students. “I selected the very best instructors for MOGA Conservatory of Dance. It is important for me that our teachers are highly educated and experienced. All of our teachers have graduated with specialized degrees in ballet from universities,” says Ms. Hansen. “It makes a huge difference when teachers are knowledgeable in correct ballet technique and anatomy, as well as in the methodology of ballet. I met them through the University of Utah’s ballet program and have grown special relationships with them throughout the years.”
While ballet training demands serious commitment, Ms. Hansen makes sure her students receive positive feedback and have opportunities to enjoy the learning process. “I like to make it fun for my students as they learn dance by challenging them more and more every day. I like to build on concepts from the day before. I like to ask them questions so they are constantly thinking and interacting. For example, I like to ask them what every French ballet word means or ask them the correct way of doing a certain step. Students love to answer correctly and also love to demonstrate something they are doing very well in. They feel rewarded when they are challenged. Our students develop a love for dance as they strive for improvement and perfection. It is necessary for dancers to feel a sense of accomplishment as they work hard and train intelligently. I make sure that our dancers find joy in receiving corrections as well as positive feedback from teachers.”
In addition to producing major ballet productions, master classes, audition preparation, personal coaching at MOGA Conservatory of Dance, they also participate in local community performances. “Alongside the daily technique training, we practice ballet repertoire and other choreography to perform. It is important for students to be able to apply their technical training and artistry as they perform choreography.” As a choreographer, Ms. Hansen focuses on highlighting each dancer’s strengths. “My training in classical piano has also influenced my choreography process. I start out by listening to the music numerous times. I write down every count and record all special accents and changes in the music. If the sheet music is available, I make sure to examine the different bass and treble parts. I make sure to choreograph movement and steps that highlight the melody, as well as the different rhythms in the counterpoint. As I teach the steps to the dancers, I pay attention to how they deliver the choreography. I make sure to alter any choreography so that they look strong and precise throughout the whole piece.”
We asked Misa about this impressive video on the MOGAConservatory.org. Misa tells us, “Chisako Oga, my sister, is currently a trainee with the San Francisco Ballet. The pirouette video of Chisako, featured on our website, was taken when she was 15 years old. I was working with her in the studio and created a pirouette combination for her. I was coaching her as we were creating an audition video. She is truly a beautiful dancer and I am her biggest fan!
Ms. Hansen is also proud to talk about the role of Harlequin floors at MOGA Conservatory of Dance. “Our mission is to provide the best for our students. We are so pleased with the quality of Harlequin floors. It is truly the best dance floor! I have experienced dancing on many different kinds of flooring and Harlequin floor has never disappointed. It creates a non-slippery surface and it is perfect for pointe work, turning and jumping. Many times, different dance flooring is either too slippery or too sticky. Slippery can be very dangerous for dancers, and sticky floors are uncomfortable for turning, pointe work, and partnering. Harlequin creates a flawless balance.”