On The Importance of a Mentor

GetAttachmentThumbnail-4On The Importance of a Mentor
By Lisa Cuizon

As destiny should have it, I had the great fortune of my life intersecting with one of America’s greatest ballerinas, Melissa Hayden, Prima Ballerina with the New York City Ballet. She would become my teacher, my mentor, act as a mother to me and later in life, be my friend and advisor. I don’t think I can emphasize the importance and influence she had on my life and the importance of a mentor to all individuals’ lives. Ask any highly successful person and they will always name someone who was their mentor – who inspired them. These experienced individuals are often brutally honest asking for accountability on your part in the relationship, which is created between the two of you. You are taught to ask yourself the hard questions, to delve deeply into learning that which you are in quest of. You are forced to find an internal drive to forge the path which you choose to pursue. I would challenge all students to search for that individual and stay the course, for that person will take you beyond what you yourself may not be capable of doing on your own. They will help you discover parts of yourself, gems hidden within your own unique person, that no one else possesses and perhaps you yourself would not have discovered. It is in Milly’s honor that I pursue excellence every day that I enter my studio and challenge my students to find their own personal excellence.

Lisa Cuizon is the Founder and Director of Cuizon Ballet Centre. Ms. Cuizon is an alumnus of Rozann-Zimmerman Ballet Center and continued her training under Melissa Hayden, former prima ballerina of New York City Ballet. She has danced with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Arizona Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Puerto Rican Dance Theatre of NYC, Cleveland Ballet and Los Angeles Chamber Ballet. A student in the Balanchine tradition, Ms. Cuizon believes it is the preferred style of the 21st Century.

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On Ballet Training

On Ballet Training
By Lisa Cuizon

I have now been a ballet teacher for 34 years which far supersedes my ten year career as a professional ballet dancer.  As a young dancer, I never dreamed that teaching would become so important to me.  Fortunately, I had some very amazing teachers to model who acted as not only teachers but, mentors, some who are still living and others whom have passed on and yet, their legacy lives on in me.  I understand the importance of guidance from one who has been through their own journey down a path that is fraught with its own pitfalls.  Thus, after having been a freelance ballet teacher for many years, I decided to open my own studio as I could see there was a vacancy in this area for this need in the ballet world.

I was once a young dancer, eager with dreams to fulfill, to venture out into the world and become a professional dancer.  Luck should have it that my little house in Chatsworth happened to be located across the street from a school which I would go to simply because it was “right there” but, what I wouldn’t know was it was directly affiliated with New York City Ballet and its official school, The School of American Ballet.

At 17, I would be taken under the wing of a very famous ballerina, Melissa Hayden who carried the title of prima ballerina assoluta of NYCB.  She was a strong role model for a young and impressionable girl but, she would be whom I consider the single most important factor in my ability to enter and successfully have a career as a dancer.  Along my path, I have had others and they have left indelible marks upon me.  Thus, I started my school for young dancers with their dreams in a world that can be rather cloistered with its unspoken rules and unfamiliar territory by the typical layperson.

Along the way as a studio owner, dance teacher and mentor, I realized the importance of the lessons I was passing on through my teaching, my stories, my background and that I was coloring the lives of many who would not necessarily follow through with their original dream of being a dancer.  Many would go on to enter colleges, become professors, lawyers, doctors, scientists alongside some who would go on to be dancers.  Through the years they would write, call or email me telling me how I had been the key to their success through my training, teaching focus, tenacity, belief-in-self, overcoming obstacles, staying the course and seeing a task through.  We strive for perfection but, there is no perfection… it is only something we can attain to.  Effort is the most essential thing and needed to reach for that which we strive for but, through it, there are more lessons than can possibly be conveyed through words!

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