Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers to close ×
Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet Schools- "Gems" in "unlikely" places

Recommended Posts

ami1436, you'd be more than welcome to PM me when you get privileges. I've been here for about 14 years now-- :P --and will probably be here at least one more (for INEEL stuff, though in your time it was probably INEL or even INL; it keeps changing names!) My son took a class from Janice several months ago. She and her husband still own the same studio and split the teaching. The town has barely grown at all in the last 10-20 years, so everyone still knows everyone else's business...unfortunately. On the other hand, I could probably fill you in with more than you ever wanted to know if you were curious about anything.


Mel, you're right, though I don't think she was there for long. I figured she must have made a connection with Lew or Bill Christensen to end up at Ballet West, and that's where her reputation seems to lie locally, given Salt Lake City is the nearest big city and is only three hours away.

Link to comment
  • Replies 42
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • werlkj


  • Mel Johnson


  • mylildancer


  • ami1436


As I remember, she was a U of Utah grad, so she already had the Christensen connection. I remember being able to pick her out of the corps, and she had a lovely line, and allover nice technique, especially in clean beats!

Link to comment

Ah-hah! Being a UofU grad explains a lot. I'd heard she inherited the building downtown from a relative, but wondered if it was true. It's so odd to choose to live here; getting stuck here is more typical. :P Your observation about her dancing was quite interesting, Mel. From seeing her students for many years, I believe her personal characteristics as a dancer are also a focus in her teaching: quick feet, nice line, elegant head and shoulders. Her best students are known for those things.

Edited by werlkj
Link to comment
  • 4 weeks later...

Glad to hear Fairbanks mentioned! My current teacher, who danced with Royal Winnipeg and Joffrey, initially trained there.


Also, Ethan Stiefel first trained with an ex-classmate of mine from Wisconsin at her studio in Monroe, Wisconsin (pop. approx. 10,000) -- you'll see him visiting her and her younger crop of dancers in the documentary often shown on PBS.


If any of you remember a wonderful segment done on the Sunday morning show in the 1990s (now with Charles Osgood), it featured a fantastic school in Bozeman, Montana. I was so enchanted, I was tempted to pick up and move there to teach, when the owner coincidentally placed an ad in Dancemagazine for teacher around that time. I ended up not going out there, but I had a great talk with the founder of the school by phone, who was very warm about inviting me out to stay in her home to visit the school and decide if that was a move I was interested in making.


People who teach are equally interested in quality of life, and sometimes places that seem incongruous are actually excellent places to put down roots and introduce dance to the community.

Link to comment

Bossov Ballet Theatre in Pittsfield ME

Pittsfield is 150 miles north on I 95 in Maine, has one traffic light and one caution light, and is in what is know as the Moose Valley Region. There are places more remote in Maine but they have numbers instead of names.

Pittsfield also has Andrei Bossov formerly with the Kirov Ballet, and Natalya Getman formerly with the Moscow Ballet. There's a thread here about BBT and their website is http://www.bossovballet.com/intro.html.

Pittsfield is diffinately an "out of the way" town.

Link to comment

I am also a member of Idaho Falls School of Ballet along with werlkj two sons. The training here must be good because of the places we have gone and the places we have been accepted. This year I was accepted to Boston ballet, Houston, WSB, Nashville and Nutmeg. This was a pretty big deal for me since I have only been dancing for four years and I am now 16. I ended up at Nutmeg and had a great time. It was quite funny how no one could believe you were from Idaho. The most common thing I got was, "Wow you are from Idaho! You must like potatoes!" It also didnt help when the annual shirt you received with all the dancers names and states on the back said you were from Indiana, I guess they dont know the abriviation for Idaho is ID :) Werlkj's son went to Walnut Hill on scholorship and was accepted into other good programs. So we're here as living proof, that little tiny programs can produce good dancers.

Link to comment
  • 1 month later...

I wasn't sure where this would be most appropriate, but decided to put it here, since there were several posts about training in Idaho. I'm sad to report that Marius Zirra passed away on October 5, 2004, in Pocatello, Idaho. He taught Kait for several summers at a small SI in Oregon, and he was one of her favorite teachers. He will be missed.


His obituary is here:


Link to comment

I had heard about Marius' passing from my friend werlkj. I did not know who he was but it is obvious that dd's instructors did. DD's Ensemble group will be doing a tribute performance for him in Pocatello, ID in April.

Link to comment
  • 10 months later...

I thought perhaps Little Miss Dinkle might be awfully tired by now and would appreciate a nap. :thumbsup:


I was hoping perhaps someone, or perhaps a few someones, might have stories to tell of marvelous little studios in unlikely places. Extraordinary teachers encountered unexpectantly. :(


So, I thought I might as well ask - does anyone have such a story to share?? :shrug:

Link to comment

Good idea! I have not one, but two!!!! When DD was 9, the 23 year old ballet teacher from DD's first dance school which taught everything from baton to gymnastics (what did I know?!), went out on her own, mortgaged her home, sold her car, and opened a tiny studio. Almost every cent she had went into state of the art sprung floors and marley. She opened the place and had one student, yes, one, my DD. Well, within three months she had 110 serious ballet students. The kids all had perfect attendance, slicked back buns, even in creative movement, plain leotards and no skirts and no jewelry. All the other dance studios in town laughed. They had never seen anything like this. The teacher didn't flinch, just kept on doing her best. When ballet companies came anywhere within four hours she would load up her old van with kids, and take them to the ballet. When audition season for summer intensives came around, she loaded up the van again, and took them to auditions. All year the girls bagged groceries, sold candy bars and candles, and saved up $4000. They spent it all on great dance teachers from NY and CA for a spring intensive week. Everyone thought that was goofy. Well, fast forward four years, and this teacher, with only her dreams and a high school degree, has sent kids from this rural and impoverished town of 6,000 in Appalachia to several residencies, all the big name SI's, and all the ballet competitions around. Very successfully! She's a sweetheart and an inspiration.


Then, we got lucky again when we made a non-dance move to a larger city. DD's favorite ballet teacher from the professional company/school, who had coached her for years, opened her own studio the year we moved. Again, very intensive (for the area), very serious, tons of fun and community spirit. This teacher spends her extra time and energy doing coaching and encouragement for the kids, and searched everywhere to find super teachers to lure to the area. In addition, she is very high energy and fun-loving, as is her 2 year old daughter, who is a studio rat since birth. It's a very community sprited, close group of dancers. Because she's such a high energy person, and has a male ballet teacher to boot, she has quite a few boys in the studio, which is a joy to see. She too is a sweetheart and an inspiration. Without this special teacher, DD would still be dancing, but she might not have the joy and excitement that make the studio the place she most wants to be, every day and for every class.


These tiny studios in unexpected places enriched all our lives. Even if DD quit dance tomorrow, these teachers and their students would be friends and inspirations.

Link to comment

Almost three years ago, we found a woman running a one-room studio who has turned out to be a real mentor to both DD and her parents. We needed something to help DD make a tough transition from one school to another that we weren't entirely sure about, and something about this teacher appealed deeply to DD, even though she couldn't offer a full-service training program. So we put her in the mix for one day a week (with the bigger school's blessing) and she has remained in the mix.


My husband says the studio she runs is like what he and his sisters knew when they were growing up in the Chicago area -- an expatriated European former ballerina running a proper little studio with proper classes for proper young ladies and gentlemen. In this case, the teacher is a former coryphee for the Royal Dutch Ballet (when it was still called that), and though she is now in her 60s, she still can dance beautifully and on pointe. Her understanding of all the major styles of ballet is considerable, and she's very big on talking to the students about the music she plays for them. My 7-year-old son just started taking classes with her, and already he knows all about Tchaikovsky (or thinks he does :wink: )


But it's the story of this teacher's childhood that always gets me a little verklempt -- she was born in what is now Indonesia to Dutch parents. During WW2, when she was ages 1-5, she and her mother were imprisoned in a Japanese concentration camp. Her father was sent off to a "Bridge on River Kwai" type camp. They all survived. While in the camp, her mother would do little things to beautify their life, like embroidering floral designs onto their prison number tags with scavenged bits of colored thread. When they got out, her parents chose to immerse the family in the arts, in order to recover their good spirits. They clearly succeeded: I've rarely met a happier, more positive person than this teacher. And her mom is still alive, and we're looking forward to meeting her this fall when she visits from the Netherlands!

Link to comment

Heartwarming stories, thank you chauffeur and dance1soccer1 for posting.


I kind of have a similar story. My teacher opened her own studio in MS which is not a state known for ballet, despite our having the USA International Ballet Competition. We do have one professional ballet company in our state, Ballet Magnificat!. My teacher has had students go on to dance professionally and sent students to several ballet boarding programs-Virginia School of the Arts, Nutmeg Conservatory, Universal Ballet Academy, and Harid Conservatory. Some of the students that danced professionally were "finished" at a year round program, and some were "finished" at our school. Seeing what her students before me have accomplished, and her attitude that hard work goes farther than talent alone, have inspired me to work towards my lifelong dream of dancing professionally. My teacher strongly believes in doing full-length story ballets, and she will also do a mixed-bill with several short ballets. She does not have recitals. I will always be amazed that in the un-cultured state of MS, where we have trouble selling enough tickets & program advertisements to break even for expenses, we still have pre-professional dancers being trained.

Link to comment

Bless you, syr, for starting this!


I've struggled mightily as an adult student to find good, serious classes that fit into my work schedule, but once, one actually fell in my lap. :)


Several years ago, the gym I belong to started a "ballet barre" class -- sounds pretty unpromising, no? Well, it was taught by a professional dancer who had some free time in the mornings, and she was just great. It was largely a stretching class, but since she figured I'd danced before, she always gave me extra exercises -- and in a way that didn't disrupt the larger class.


She left after a year or so, and -- can lightning actually strike twice? yes! -- another terrific teacher took her place, a former pro dancer now a mom who was trying to pick up a teaching gig here and there. By then, the time of class changed and different people started showing up, with similar dance backgrounds to my own, and we ended up with a real class.


So even in the unlikely place of a downtown gym, next door to spinning classes and downstairs from the weight room, you can end up in a little bit o' ballet heaven. (The class ultimately faded out -- the gym must have figured a 1:1 teacher: student ratio was a bit extravagant, but I hold out hope it'll reappear Brigadoon-like someday.)

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...