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RTC Second Act

Dancing to his own drummer again

New York Teacher
Dancing to his own drummer
Jonathan Fickies

Retiree Roy Fialkow leads Toby Levine and other seniors through warmup stretches during dance class.

As a Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo member approaching his late 20s in the early 1980s, Roy Fialkow started to realize that the “shelf life” for his dancer body would expire sooner than he had hoped.

His mother, Gloria Fialkow, suggested he teach in New York City public schools, where she was a resource room educator. After a stint in corporate fitness, he joined a New York University program that trained adaptive physical education teachers. As a teacher, he created exercises and activities for children who were medically frail, used wheelchairs, were autistic or had other disabilities.

When he retired in 2019 after a 29-year career, his life came full circle: He returned to the Trocks as the nonprofit’s education manager, creating curriculum and leading free ballet workshops to reach older and LGBTQ+ audiences.

The Trocks, founded in 1974, grew out of the East Village avant-garde theater scene after the Stonewall riots. The dancers’ mission is to spread joy as they parody classical ballet. Men and nonbinary dancers perform all the roles — en pointe and in female costumes for the women’s roles. Pratfalls, staged accidental kicks and even a fall into the orchestra pit are routine.

Fialkow, who majored in acting before switching to dance in college, seized the opportunity to combine comedy with dancing. “I think it’s the combination of the comedy, the unusual, the parody,” he said. “The comedy really resonates with me.”

Fialkow reestablished ties with the company a few years before retiring when the artistic director asked him to lead occasional workshops. He has expanded the workshops as education manager, creating curriculum for about 20 lessons. He currently teaches each week at Greenwich House and SAGE, which supports LGBTQ+ senior citizens. He has taught at the Ali Fourney Center for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

As he began a class for older adults at Greenwich House’s Center on the Square on Nov. 3, the 66-year-old showed a photo of himself dancing “Swan Lake” as a young Trock and explained that they would create their own dance for the swans’ entrance in Act 2.

“Because it’s the Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, everyone is encouraged to be themselves, to dance as themselves, to be unique to their own selves,” he said.

The company, which turns 50 in 2024, also offers free workshops wherever the dancers perform on tour. Depending on the location and schedule, Fialkow may teach on Zoom or the ballet master may run them.

In the parlor room at Greenwich House, Fialkow ran through stretches and ballet positions, with participants using chair backs as barres. “The sky’s the limit,” he said as they plotted their scenes.

“It’s your take. Everyone flies differently. Everyone walks differently,” he said.

When he first started leading workshops, Fialkow prepared what the ballet master taught. But he soon fell back on adaptive physical education to make lessons accessible to nondancers.

“I just thought, ‘I don’t want to get anyone hurt and so I just need to adapt this to who’s in the room, like you do as a teacher,’” he said.

Working with older adults is rewarding, said Fialkow, who hunts for music with a slower tempo than is typical and is attentive to issues of agility, balance and strength.

When he teaches “The Dying Swan” dance, he tells students they can die on the floor, like the swan in “Carnival of the Animals,” or leaning against a wall or another way, as long as they can get back up.

“The best dying swan I’ve seen so far is the woman who decided to die on her walker,” he said.

Related Topics: Retired Teachers