An artistic blending of styles: Sattva Archery, Amherst Ballet collaborate on workshop

  • SerahRose Bissell holds a mirror for Madeleine Bonn so Bonn can check her form during the archery portion of a workshop that combines ballet and archery at Sattva Center for Archery Training in Florence on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • SerahRose Bissell works with Hezekiah Sims during the archery portion of a workshop that combines ballet and archery. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Middle, SerahRose Bissell leads a group in the archery portion of a workshop that combines ballet and archery. Left is Hezekiah Sims, right, Meriel Sims. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Middle, SerahRose Bissell leads a group in the archery portion of a workshop that combines ballet and archery. Left is Hezekiah Sims, right, Meriel Sims. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • SerahRose Bissell works with Madeleine Bonn during the archery portion of a workshop that combines ballet and archery. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • SerahRose Bissell works with Dela VanGiessen, during the archery portion of a workshop that combines ballet and archery. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hezekiah Sims, Meriel Sims, Madeleine Bonn, and other students work on their form during the archery portion of a workshop that combines ballet and archery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • SerahRose Bissell works with Tovah Woldorf during the archery portion of a workshop that combines ballet and archery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2022 6:41:27 PM

FLORENCE — From an outsider’s perspective, this week’s camp at the Sattva Center for Archery Training was an unexpected mix of two very different activities. 

But for instructors Madeleine Bonn and SerahRose Bissell, the combination of archery and ballet were a perfect fit. 

“I come from a performance and movement background myself, and so it was not unusual for me to see that that interest might exist (to combine ballet and archery),” Bissell, a co-owner of Sattva Center, said. “We previously have collaborated with a another dance organization as well… So it wasn't a surprise, it wasn't unusual.” 

The camp was something that Bonn, the artistic director for Amherst Ballet, had wanted to create for a quite some time. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the camp’s creation for a couple of years, but Bonn’s vision finally came to life on Thursday.

“Part of it just stemmed from my own experiences. Archery is something that I found a significant amount of refuge in when I was dancing abroad,” Bonn said.

Bonn told the participants of the camp her story before she began the day’s ballet lesson – earlier in her life, she was hired with her dance partner to join a group in Transylvania. The night before the two of them were set to leave, Bonn found out that her dance partner would not be traveling with her, so she landed in Transylvania alone and had to muddle through living and working abroad. It was there that she first found archery. 

“I found this archery range down the street, and I just got hooked and I found such a sense of calm in it. I didn't really think of it as like weaponry or anything aggressive like that – it was very meditative for me,” Bonn said. “It helped me deal with a lot of the homesickness and struggles I was having at the time.” 

The two-day camp, which began on Thursday morning and will conclude on Friday afternoon, focused on the similarities between ballet and archery, two very technique-driven sports. The campers started with a ballet lesson during the morning session before moving on to their first archery lesson after a lunch break.

In the morning session, Bonn took participants through a more traditional ballet warm-up before introducing some ballet exercises that mimicked some of the movements that the participants would use later in the day during their archery lesson.

“I've been doing ballet for many years and I've always been sort of interested in archery. I've done like a tiny bit of it here and here. I'm also really interested in the way that arts connect to each other,” Hezekiah Sims, who attended the camp, said. “So this seemed like a really interesting opportunity to both explore something new that I hadn't done much before and was interested in, and also to see how ballet connects to other things.”

Connecting ballet with other artistic expressions was the focus of the workshop, and something that Bonn is keying on as part of Amherst Ballet’s curriculum moving forward. Earlier this summer, the ballet studio ran a workshop that featured Taekwondo and Capoeira – both martial art-stylings – along with ballet. In the future, Bonn would also like to host a writing and ballet camp. 

“Amherst Ballet is pivoting to a more multi-arts organization. So we're going to keep ballet as our main language, while sort of incorporating other languages. I think it's important to to keep ballet accessible and relevant,” Bonn said. “I think discovering new ways that it can fit into people's lives, even in very unusual ways, like this one, is important. And it's just really fun.”

Most of the camp participants had a limited experience when it came to archery, and one camper had no prior ballet experience before Thursday’s session. Despite that, there was plenty of laughing and smiles as the group learned new ways to move their bodies.

“As a coach, when we have dancers come to us to learn archery, they have a level of body awareness that some other people do not have,” Bissell said. “So it's actually really fun to work with dancers or people who do yoga – anyone who really does a very mindful movement tends to transfer those skills very readily to archery. It’s actually really fun.”


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