World Ballet Day

It’s time! World Ballet Day will begin here on the East Coast of the United States tonight at 9pm (still October 1st over here) with streaming from The Australian Ballet in Melbourne. Classes will continue to stream throughout the day on October 2nd.

This is a collaboration that live-streams morning and afternoon classes and rehearsals from 5 incredible ballet companies across the globe! We will get to see glimpses from The Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, and San Francisco Ballet. 

You can watch the footage on the World Ballet Day website or through any of the 5 companies' official Youtube pages!

http://worldballetday.com

Happy watching!

Melissa Hayden

Every fall, we like to put out two photographs, which, for the rest of the year, are tucked in an inconspicuous corner of Miss Grace’s desk. The pictures come out in the fall in part because they match the décor at this time of year. One, mounted with an aubergine mat and the other, with the genuine faded orange effect that comes with 1970s photographs. But the reason we love these two pictures is not because of their coloring. We love them because they are photographs of Melissa Hayden, without whom, there would be no Still Pointe. 

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Melissa Hayden was a Canadian ballerina who danced with Radio City Music Hall and Ballet Theater (later to become ABT) before joining New York City Ballet in its earliest days. From 1955 until 1973, she was a leading ballerina under the direction of George Balanchine, appearing in more than 60 ballets. She was often partnered by Jacques D’Amboise and was known for her strength and tenacity. Upon her retirement, she devoted the rest of her life to teaching, which is how she came to impact a great many students, including a young college girl named Eleanor.

 Melissa taught Eleanor at Skidmore College, becoming the single most impactful teacher Eleanor would ever have. Millie had a determination and very personal teaching style that pushed Eleanor in the critical years of early college.  The small number of students at Skidmore worked to Eleanor’s advantage, receiving the attention needed to compensate for the obstacles of her early training and starting “late” as a 12 year old. Millie had been known as a fierce and determined dancer. She maintained those attributes as she transitioned into the new phase of her career as a teacher. 

Though not often known for being warm and fuzzy in the studio, Melissa nurtured her students’ technique and their spirits. She and her husband invited poor college dancers to their house for steak dinners and some much needed R&R. She mentored her students and looked out for them. Eleanor had not come from a wealthy family and tuition at Skidmore was already a stretch for her. But Melissa looked out for the young dancer who had little to recommend her besides her determination. Millie herself hadn’t had the “perfect body”, so advantageous to ballet dancers; but because of this seeming shortcoming, she knew how to mold imperfection into beauty. And for all the stories about her, Melissa and her husband bought pointe shoes for that poor student from Philly without a perfect body. 

 Melissa moved to Seattle for a short time, prompting Eleanor to transfer to North Carolina School of the Arts to complete her degree. Millie later returned to New York and opened her own studio, which served many professional dancers seeking her vast knowledge. Upon leaving the Canadian company Entre-Six, Eleanor went to New York where she spent her third year of training under Melissa. It was from there that Millie made the connections that moved Eleanor (and now her husband Rob as well) to Atlanta and the Atlanta Ballet. Eventually, Melissa found her forever home in Winston-Salem at NCSA. 

So in the end, though Melissa had an incredible career as a professional dancer, it’s her legacy as a teacher and a mentor that we strive to honor today. Melissa was a force, but that force made Eleanor’s dream of dancing professionally possible and eventually led to Still Pointe. We hope that Millie would be proud, peeking out from her photographs at a studio full of imperfect, but tenacious students.  

Becoming Snow

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Still Pointe's auditions for our winter concert are coming up. We thought you'd enjoy this beautiful essay written by one of the cast members of our 2015 production of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs.

Becoming Snow by Maggie Boggs

Friday night at seven, I stand behind a pair of rust-red curtains. The opening music drifts from the speakers, and a hush falls over the audience as the warm notes slowly permeate the room, signaling the start of the ballet. Adrenaline rushes through my body, seeping my every limb with excitement and terror. I clench my teeth as I wait for my cue. I probably look half-mad: I am jumping a bit, even shaking my arms up and down. Anything but think of the audience, sitting in silent anticipation. I turn to my friend and fellow dancer.

“You’re going to do amazing, Margaret!” she insists.

I’m not so sure. We briefly hug, and I whisper to her a word of encouragement as well. I turn back to face the empty stage, waiting to be filled with movement. The music is still playing, shifting into a slightly less heavy, more carefree-sounding section. My stomach is butterfly-filled, my legs Jell-O. My mouth is so dry I’m not certain I can smile. It’s almost time to start. A few more notes, and then it begins. I begin.

I see the blur of white ovals in the dark of the wings-- the faces of my fellow dancers, the faces of my close friends. These friends are expecting me to walk on stage and begin the production we’ve all worked so long and so hard on. I take a deep breath. Please, God, I pray silently, stay with me here. I can’t do this without you.

I hear my note, the note that signals me to the stage, and to my either glorious, or not-so- glorious introduction to the ballet Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I rise up to demi-pointe, put on my most radiant grin, and hesitantly step out from the back wing, onto the stage. Blinding golden light hits my face, and I can feel my pupils dilating as my eyes adjust.  The pale yellow skirt of my dress begins to billow softly around me, almost comfortingly, as I begin to dance--dancing the part of Snow White herself.

Oh, so she’s that girl, you might be thinking. And I know what you mean. That girl who started ballet when she was three, that girl who’s so flexible she could easily be a contortionist, who has always been at the top of her class, and always will be. That girl who walks into an audition with confidence, undaunted. The sort of girl who writes an essay about being the lead in a production just because she can. But no. Actually, I’m not that girl, and I don’t think I ever will be.

In fact, I’m pretty much the opposite.

When I was nine, a late starting age for a dancer, I began ballet at a small studio called Still Pointe. At first, I attended classes once a week, and my mom would make up all sorts of fun games to make the hated task of pulling on my tights more enjoyable. Sometimes the tights would get a minute or so in the dryer in order to warm them up, and other times my mother would hold them out and I would jump into them, a game that was abruptly ended as soon as we ripped a pair of brand-new $18 tights.

I hated tights.

But I loved ballet. I fell especially hard for it roughly three years ago. However, my twin sister, who had always danced alongside me, decided to quit. I was astonished. Quit? How can anyone put the words “ballet” and “quit” into the same sentence? I wondered. As my sister said goodbye to ballet forever, my passion for dance increased and continues to grow.

I love it all—the comforting rond de jambes that create semi-circles on the gray marley that lines the studio floors. I adore adagios, during which your body is always moving, growing, reaching. I love the buzz of a recital, with its makeup, costumes and live audiences. I like the feeling of a good clean arabesque, when suddenly I find myself balancing on the edge of a wispy cloud overlooking a sky splashed with the pastels of a sunrise. I hold deep respect for the piano music that dance cannot exist without. All of these things, and many more, play a part in my passion for ballet.

This love overshadows the fact that I’m an introvert, I’m not very flexible by dance standards, I’m unusually tall for a dancer, and I started late. If I’d ever tried to enter a fancy dance school in Russia, they would’ve taken a split-second glance at me and my non-ballet-built body and wave me away. Nyet! My showing up probably would’ve made for a great laugh over their lunch break, as a matter of fact.

However, I’m very blessed. I’m blessed to be acquainted with Jesus Christ, who teaches me that what he has given me is enough for his plan for my life. I’m blessed to live in America, where dance is slightly less rigorous and demanding of perfect genes than it is in Europe. I’m blessed to live a mere 20 minutes away from Still Pointe, a place where anyone who wishes to dance is accepted and loved, a place where I see my closest friends five days a week, a place where we often start class in prayer, and a place that, in less than two years, I’ll be completely heartbroken to leave behind when I depart for college.

I was also blessed to be cast with the part of Snow White. After I auditioned for the ballet, my family went on a trip to Kentucky to attend my uncle’s wedding. The day the cast list was supposed to come out was the date of the rehearsal dinner. We were all seated around beautiful white tables adorned with a motley of flowers, and served with excellent food, food I could barely manage to swallow because I was so tense for that cast list to arrive in my email inbox. I kept checking my phone under the table (quite rudely) until I finally saw the loading bar of a new email. I excused myself from the table, and frantically stumbled down a hall until I found an appropriate venue to receive the news, where no one could see my reaction: the bathroom. I clicked on the email with trembling fingers, and when I read my name next to the part of Snow White, a few tears of joy slipped down my cheeks. Somehow I ended up sitting crisscross-apple-sauce on the tiled floor, rocking side to side in disbelief, chin tilted upward as I thanked the Giver of all gifts for the part. I went back to the table, a big teary, snotty mess, and quietly told my parents the news.

So, after months of rehearsals, preparations and prayers, I finally slipped into a beautiful costume and donned a bright red bow. Somehow, despite my nervousness backstage, I was able to dance fully and joyfully once I stepped onstage. With God’s hand guiding me, the worries seemed to melt away.

Time slowed down, and I became Snow.

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it's off to auditions we go!!!! 

Still Pointe is ready to get going on preparations for our winter concert, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Our winter concert is an optional performance opportunity in which our dancers of all ages come together to perform a story ballet. 

Auditions will be held Saturday, September 15th. Any student who auditions will be cast in the production. 

Families new to participating in our winter concert should attend an informational meeting on Saturday, September 8th from 12pm-1pm. 

We can't wait to see all of your best happy, grumpy, sleepy, sneezy, and shy personalities shine through at auditions! 

Breaking Pointe

From the time they are itty bitty, dancers dream of going on pointe. Those magical shoes that lift the dancer above the floor and give them the ethereal quality of floating. 

When will it be my turn? My friend already has pointe shoes! It's all I've been dreaming of. It's all my daughter ever talks about! (It's even hard for the moms to wait!) I'm at the breaking point! I don't want to wait any longer! 

The longing is a time-honored rite of passage for most dancers. But we don't make you wait just for the sake of waiting. At Still Pointe, we are very careful not to begin dancers on pointe before they are ready. Students don't magically earn the right by turning 12. Pointe shoes aren't like tap shoes. Pointe class isn't new or separate from technique; it is an extension of a student's technique. It is integrated into a student's regular classes when they become ready.

So what does it take to be ready? Responsible ballet schools are looking at a variety of factors. Number of years of proper training and the mastery of fundamental technical elements, strength, age and bone development, foot/ankle anatomy, and future plans all play a role in determining pointe readiness. Improperly rushing any of these elements can negatively affect not only a student's technique going forward, but can also impact self-confidence and enjoyment of dance as well as risk short term injuries and long term anatomical consequences for the future adult's feet, knees, and lower back. 

So we urge you to wait, sweet student. Trust your teachers' assessment and believe that she has your best interest at heart. Ballet is a practice of building. Building technique, building muscles, building patience. Because once you are ready? That's when you will float above the ground. 

 

 Cinderella moment. 

Cinderella moment. 

 Mrs. Rogers takes each Still Pointe student for their very first pointe shoe fitting. 

Mrs. Rogers takes each Still Pointe student for their very first pointe shoe fitting. 

New Teacher: Carly Hammond

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We are over the moon to be welcoming a new teacher to our staff this year! 

Carly Hammond began her formal training at the Geiger Ballet under the guidance of artistic director Mary C. Geiger, and attended summer programs at Ballet Chicago, San Francisco Ballet, and Juilliard. She is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington with a Bachelor of Science in Ballet Performance and an Outside Field in Education.

Ms. Hammond is a recipient of Jacobs School of Music Dean’s Scholarship and is a four-time cash scholarship winner at Regional Dance America. While attending Indiana University, she performed principal roles in Appalachian Spring, The Four Temperaments, and Donizetti Variations, and was featured as a soloist in Violette Verdy’s Variations for Eight and as Sugar Plum Fairy in Michael Vernon’s The Nutcracker.

She was a member of the corps at Ballet San Antonio for the past 3 years. There she performed featured roles in Gabriel Zertuche’s Dracula and The Nutcracker, as well as a Harlot in Ben Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet and the Pas de Trois in Ben Stevenson’s Swan Lake. Ms. Hammond performed the principal couple in Gerald Arpino’s Confetti, and as a demi-soloist in Frederick Franklin’s Tribute. Most recently, Ms. Hammond danced the role of Kitri’s Friend in Willy Shives’ Don Quixote and Gerald Arpino’s Snow Queen in The Nutcracker. 

WELCOME CARLY!!! 

Curriculum Spotlight: Boys!

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Boys oh Boy oh Boy!
This season we are dedicating an hour each week to give boys the time, teachers, and space they need to build strength, improve agility, and explore athleticism in a dance centered environment created specifically for them. Exciting music, big moves, and a lot of encouragement! No experience is required. Beginning on Monday, August 20th, this class meets from 4:30-5:30.

Curriculum Spotlight: ASPIRE

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We’ve loved being the coaches and cheerleaders for a number of dancers who dream to pursue dance beyond high school. Characterized by individualized class schedules, we strive to give dancers the instruction and guidance they need to reach their goals. We’ve had students accepted to prestigious summer and year round residential programs and as college level dance majors. It’s been pure joy to see our dancers dreaming, working, and reaching. If this sounds like the heart-song of your dancer and she is at least 10 years old, give us a call.
Photograph of Allison Bell, currently studying at Philadelphia's Rock School for Dance Education in their year-round program.

Contemporary Workshop Series

We are nearly giddy with excitement to announce that Allison Gupton will be back in our studios this season to teach a workshop series of 6 contemporary classes for our level 4 and 5 dancers. These classes will take place on Saturdays in September, October, November, February, March, and April. Allison is a highly sought after teacher because of her inspiring teaching style and knowledge of the genre. We can't wait!

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Here’s a short bio of Allison’s background and current work:
Allison Gupton is the Owner/Director of DanceFest Productions, Inc., a journalist for Dance Informa Magazine, and has been teaching and choreographing in the metro-Atlanta area for 10 years. Allison graduated from Pebblebrook High School (CCCEPA), and The University of Alabama where she earned a degree in Dance and Public Relations. Allison is a proud mommy and loves being in the studio to train young minds.

Curriculum Spotlight: Storybook Ballet

Curriculum Spotlight: Storybook Ballet

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Without a doubt, this class remains our pride and joy. Born out of the desire to offer a class of substance to the youngest of dancers, we carefully developed this curriculum to introduce “the littles” to the classic ballet stories and the joy of becoming a dancer. This offering engages the imagination and teaches the elements of telling stories through dance; costumes, sets, music, and movement. These 45 minute classes for 3 and 4 year olds are always the first on our schedule to fill. This year Storybook Ballet is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3:30. The cost per term (11 weeks) is $148.

*** To create more spaces in our popular Storybook Ballet we have just added a class on Tuesdays at 1:30.