Emerson and Berklee connect via dance

by Xakota Espinoza / Beacon Staff and Ivanha Paz / Beacon Correspondent • March 1, 2012

Photo 17
Berklee College alumna has been teaching classes at the school since 2007.
Berklee College alumna has been teaching classes at the school since 2007.

Students anxiously looked on as Berklee College of Music alumna Katalin Matyus sashayed across the room. 

“Slow, quick, quick, slow,” said Matyus as she demonstrated a dance move during her four-hour lesson. Matyus — who studied performance and professional music — has been instructing free dance classes to Berklee and Emerson students twice a week since 2007. 

Following Matyus’ routine, participants partnered up to practice the intricate moves. The class, which took place on Feb. 25, was split into three types of dance influenced by various cultures; Quickstep, Merengue, and Zumba. Originally from Budapest, Hungary, Matyus said she wished Berklee had offered dance classes when she was a student.  She said she likes to mix up her classes — which are held in The Loft at Berklee — with different styles of dance each week. 

“When I was a student at Berklee, I saw that nobody was doing anything regarding dance,” said Matyus.

Matyus spoke to the president of Berklee Roger Brown who assumed the post in 2004. According to Matyus, Brown loved the idea of starting a dance-related program, and the class was an instant hit. 

“[The lessons] have been a great success ever since [2007] with lots of interested students attending,” said Matyus. 

Matyus said she was thrilled when the coordinator of student activities at Berklee brought up the subject of cooperating with other schools, including Emerson. 

Because there were so many students at Emerson and Berklee interested in performing arts, Matyus said lessons like hers help performers with agility and stage presence. 

“The students really benefit from them [dance lessons], so many of them are working with stage performance, it really helps them out,” said Matyus. 

Alma Pellecer, office manager of the Department of Public Safety at Emerson, said she is a frequent participant. She said she saw the flier posted in the Fitness Center and didn’t think twice.

 “I love to dance; I was excited to find these classes were available to us,” Pellecer said. 

A schedule posted in the Fitness Center in the Little Building lists different types of dances and which days they are taught. But Pellecer said Matyus is flexible in her teachings.

“Whatever is of the interest of the majority [of the class], she will do,” Pellecer said.  

With the lessons following a block schedule, Pellecer said attendees have the option to stay for as many of the classes as they choose.

 Classes are also offered on Emerson’s campus at the Fitness Center. They  offer fitness lessons including Zumba and yoga. 

Rose Chirillo, a junior marketing communication major, said she goes to yoga every week. 

“I’ve been doing yoga for a few years now, and I really depend on it to relax,” said Chirillo. 

Chirillo said she finds that having a yoga class offered at the Emerson gym is convenient both in terms of time and money.

However, Pellecer said the classes at the Fitness Center don’t compare to the ones at Berklee. 

“They don’t get the Latino rhythm, unlike Katalin,” Pellecer said about the Zumba classes at Emerson. “She’s a professional.”

The Fitness Center also offers a variety of classes that focus on exercise, including spinning, “boot camp,” abs, and circuit training. However, the center doesn’t offer any of the dance lessons Matyus’ program does, from the typical Colombian Bachata to Swing, Argentine Tango, and Hip-Hop.  

In addition to teaching at Berklee, Matyus said she is a vocalist and songwriter. She also performs at events, such as the Lowell Folk Festival, and participates in dance competitions and showcases.  

Pellecer said she enjoys the typically small class size — about 10 to 12 students in each. 

“[Matyus] can pay more attention to each individual, it’s great,” Pellecer  said. 

According to Pellecer, the class is accommodating to all skill levels, and usually follows a solid intermediate pace. First-timers are paired up with more skilled students, which allows for some of the teaching to be done by students.

“It’s a great thing that the Emerson community can attend these classes for free,” said Pellecer. “Especially since we don’t have them here.”