Artist Spotlight: Anthony and Alexandra Jerkunica
Husband and wife team Anthony and Alexandra Jerkunica opened Coredination: A Movement Studio in 2004 in Carbondale, where they’ve led yoga and Pilates classes ever since, giving special attention to the core.
In 2011, their dance program, Bonedale Ballet, became an extension of Coredination, but their philosophy and mission have remained the same: to instruct mindfully crafted core movement.
The Jerkunicas have both led lives with a love of and talent for dance, and they’ve been sharing and spreading that talent throughout the valley for the past 15 years. They spoke to the Post Independent about how they became dancers, how they got to the valley and what they hope to teach their students.
Post Independent: When and how did you start dancing?
Anthony Jerkunica: I started taking ballet technique classes at age 5 in Laguna Beach with the Ballet Pacifica dance school and participated in the full-length “Nutcracker” as a child in the party scene with my brother and parents.
Alexandra Jerkunica: I started dancing ballet at the age of 3, and at age 11 I was introduced to jazz, modern and tap dance in Anchorage, Alaska, at the school, Ballet Alaska under the direction of Linda Lorimer.
PI: What drew you to dance initially, and what is it about dance that made you stick with it and make a career out of it?
Anthony: The Director of Ballet Pacifica, Lila Zali, was married to the personal cellist that accompanied Anna Pavlova on her first American tour. He started a chamber music society where my pregnant mother ushered. Lila, noticing she was pregnant, touched her on the arm, “Now Joanne, I insist that your kids take ballet lessons and become dancers!” My first contract as a dancer whilst comfortably nestled in the womb! Lila, my second mother, and the rest of her Grand Dame entourage instantly became mentors, teachers and role models from the moment I did my first tendu and continue to be from the grave. Kola eventually died from an aneurism during a bow following a cello solo. Lila continued teaching until 4 days before she died at 86.
What drew me to ballet, in part, was the surreal cornucopia of sweat that formed into condensation on the mirror during class and rehearsal; so thick we had to use our sleeves as squeegees so we could see our reflections. That intense work environment overlaid by gorgeous classical music from a reel to reel tape recorder while supple dancers strove to emulate the artistry of their predecessors and resonate with their desire to express, excel and expand as a dancer, galvanized my desire to dance. Every dancer’s unitard, tights, socks and point shoes were drenched. That sweat was their passion. I wanted my sweat to rarify and condense on that mirror with the rest of those dancers because I could not find a more pure vehicle to create beauty, explore the bodies highest potential and tap into what every culture from the beginning of time has used to counter the serious, pedestrian and tragic aspects of humanity. Also, I figured it would be a good way to avoid using a humidifier.
I was your typical surfing, skate boarding, beach volleyball playing, fort building, motorcycle riding, kick the can playing, football scrimmaging, blond-haired beach hooligan growing up. The body control that ballet instilled elevated levels of coordination, balance and flexibility as a foundation for sports and helped with stage presence, poise and confidence in musical theatre. I feel fortunate to have had those early seeds of ballet training in my body DNA, without which my physical abilities would have flat lined in comparison. I kept up ballet classes and performed classical roles but did not give ballet the commitment needed to join a company. I was torn and wanted to see the world to become whole.
After two years of college with an around-the-world plane ticket, a backpack, $600 in my pocket and a mission to “find the love I had never known,” I struck out for a six-month ”walkabout” to New Zealand, Australia and beyond. Dance had always been a comfort coming from a broken family. Self-reliance, courage, resourcefulness and determination to follow my dreams seeped up from the fissures in my being as I encountered and experienced the tests traveling engendered. Fun things like climbing volcanoes, surfing uncrowded, perfect waves, snorkeling naked on the barrier reef (not recommended), bathing in a glacial water fall that turned into a rainbow when the sun cast a beam from behind a cloud (recommended), exploring uncharted glow worm caves in Tasmania and, most of all, learning the Maori culture. Their language has multiple definitions of love, perhaps one of them would be the one I was looking for?
Melbourne College of the arts, where a Maori friend was enrolled in the dance department, offered the glimpse I needed into the possibilities of ballet. I now had the confidence to go down that road knowing that we ourselves are the stuff of which dance is made.
Ballet is an art where perfection is unattainable. The physical demands and challenges kept me sticking with it. I knew I could never master ballet and move on out of boredom.
Alexandra: Both my mother and sister studied dance, specifically ballet, so I was naturally drawn to dance at a young age while watching them both “behind the scenes.” I remember at age 12, it was time for me to decide whether or not I wanted to continue on a more serious path, and when asked, I said, “Absolutely, yes!” Ballet was always a positive and healthy outlet for me as a kid, teen and adult. As a child and teenager, ballet was a regular, weekly physical activity that allowed me to work through extreme shyness and was the greatest source for friendships. On a more physical level, dancing ballet opened my mind and body to the concept of musicality, grace, strength and refinement of the art form in which I continuously crave.
As an adult, ballet provides me with a creative and enjoyable means to ward off stress. It connects me with my creative, artistic side of my brain and body. I am able to continue expressing my love for ballet through performance, choreography and teaching, and most of all it is what keeps me centered and balanced mentally, physically and emotionally (along with the practice and instruction of Pilates).
PI: What professional companies have you danced with?
Anthony: I’ve danced with and guest performed with Ballet Pacifica, The Gilbert Reed Chamber Dancers, The Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo, Los Osos Ballet and had guest appearances with many more.
Alexandra: At age 19, while living in Southern California, attending college as a Psychology major at Chapman University and studying the Cechetti method of ballet seriously, I auditioned for Ballet Pacifica and was accepted as a corp member and eventually soloist. That is when I turned to ballet as a career path, and danced professionally for 7 years.
PI: How did you two meet?
Anthony: I met Alexandra as a company member with Ballet Pacifica.
PI: When did you move to Carbondale, and why?
Alexandra: I moved to Carbondale in July 2000 to start a new life with Anthony, whom had moved here one year prior after retiring from Ballet Pacifica.
PI: Tell me about Coredination and Bonedale Ballet.
Alexandra: Coredination, established in 2004 in Carbondale, opened as a comprehensive Pilates studio, providing lessons on the apparatus and matwork. In 2011, our dance program, Bonedale Ballet, was born, when we moved into the Third Street Center, teaching group ballet classes, coaching and presenting dance performances. In December 2013, Coredination and Bonedale Ballet moved into the Bridges High School building with a 2,600-square-foot studio space for Pilates apparatus and mat classes, yoga, ballet, modern/jazz, tap and Total Barre for all ages. Bonedale Ballet presents dance performances twice a year for the Carbondale community with the participation of our incredibly talented teachers and dancers.
Coredination and Bonedale Ballet passionately instruct mindfully crafted core movement with emphasis on moving fluidly from a strong and centered body and mind.
Anthony: Coredination and Bonedale Ballet are our vehicles to deliver our passion, history and movement philosophy to our students. Our valued ballet teachers taught acceptance, humility, joy for movement and departed from the Arian, elitist “genius for Upholstery” that much of the ballet world perpetuates. I flat-out don’t like that side of ballet. Although ballet was created for social aristocrats, who we are not, we think of it as movement for the working classes who are simply cultivating an aristocratic awareness for their bodies. Ours is a ma and pop business fueled by a lifetime of passion for this gorgeous art. Our moving parts are not patron-based, they are our limbs and those of our trusted and respected teachers and students and parents dancing and making it happen. We hope to attract the attention of more students and patrons.
Oh yeah, did I mention that we have Pilates and expanding yoga programs? Tap, children and toddler dance, total barre, modern and jazz, are offered at our studio, where students get highly individualized attention and support. Coming from the backgrounds we do, we pride ourselves on hiring extremely qualified instructors. Rehearsals and auditions start on Sept. 8 for our November performance.
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