In Match, the feature film written and directed by Juilliard playwriting alum Steven Belber, actor Patrick Stewart plays a character based on the real-life Juilliard dance faculty member Alphonse Poulin. Audiences may be interested to know in what ways the film character reflects the man.
Yes, Poulin is a devoted teacher and pushes his students to be better dancers, both physically and artistically. Yes, Poulin could make a sailor blush with his colorful language and drink that same sailor under the table. Yes, Poulin knits and knits and knits. No, Poulin was never attacked by a presumed love child, nor does he spend much time in second position “letting go.”
Like the character in the movie, Poulin does live in Washington Heights. There he has an extensive collection of ballet books and recordings and enjoys leisure time pouring over them. His ballet class, however, is not an intellectual venture. His exercises are graceful, musical, and supremely physical. The room has an air of healthy competition. Dancers jump higher and farther and turn like tops. “Just spin,” he says, knowing they have the technique to do just that. He does not suffer fools. Occasionally even his most talented students have been known to get kicked out of his class for making excuses, not taking his correction, or dressing one too many times like a tennis player.
Though he could easily teach for another two decades, Alphonse Poulin has decided to retire from Juilliard at the end of this school year. He plans to spend much of the year at his house in Maine, cooking with his extensive extended family, watching the deer come and go, shoveling snow, and knitting and knitting and knitting.
For the next generation of Juilliard dancers, it will be a loss, but for many Juilliard dancers, it was an extraordinary gain.