Since 1970, countless generations of youngsters have donned tights and slippers for a weekly ballet class with San Francisco institution Miss Tilly. Teaching preschoolers about dance, however, is much more than pliés and tendus for Tilly Abbe, whose 350 students range from 3 to 7 years old — it’s about giving them skills that will last a lifetime.
Spark visits this veteran teacher at her California Street studios, where she and her daughter Iliza Abbe offer a range of classes in dance, theater, hip hop and yoga, all designed to infuse a love of movement and the arts in their preschool-aged students. Early childhood is a critical time for physical and emotional development, Abbe argues, and she specializes in working with kids at an age when they are not only forming their reflexes and fine motor control skills, but also honing social skills that they’ll need throughout their lives. Indeed, given recent studies that have shown physical fitness is closely tied to a child’s academic abilities and so many parents recognizing the importance of early exposure to the arts, Abbe’s classes are always enormously popular.
A former San Francisco Ballet dancer, who began studying ballet at the age of 11, Abbe discovered early on that she was a born pedagogue with a special love for young children. The daughter of famed war photographer James Abbe, Miss Tilly credits her mother with instilling a passion for teaching. It’s a talent that she has, in turn, passed on to Iliza, who developed a curriculum in theater arts for children when the school moved into its current studios.
Some of their students may go on to dance or perform professionally, but that’s not the point for this mother-daughter team. They hope that all of their students will take with them not only the self-confidence that dance and performance can offer, but also a healthy respect for art and for the abilities of their own bodies. Abbe Studio offers ballet, theater arts (drama and singing) and hip hop classes for young boys and girls.
Where: 5499 California St., San Francisco
Phone: (415) 923-9965