By Joyce Johnson
I visited the Wed. afternoon classes on South “B” Street this week. (B for ballet of course how clever.) I just leaped in—like we hope new students will—to classes in Livingston, because new ones start right after Labor Day. I watched the contemporary dance class first and my photo collage of local students shows the girls, ages 10 to late teens. Jackie, their instructor gathered them together in a picture of free form pose, per my request. I asked the mom sitting near me, Laura, an artist, if her teen daughter had been coming to class long, and she said, ‘Yes! Since she was small.’ And we talked about the importance of artistic expression in children, and us big kids too. This fun and creative contemporary class began with stretching exercises, to beautiful music, that was at the same time a form of graceful emotional expression. What a multi-positive hit, I thought, and wanted to join them. And well, did, later—see photo of tall blue columnist being “trained” by the Director, Kathleen Rakela, at the beginning of the advanced traditional ballet class that followed. See those students on their toes in breathtaking ballet positions held for me to capture and add to the collage.
These classes are, first of all great fun, then add poise, grace, posture and confidence building; with unlimited expression in creative performance and costume; and personal discipline and physical/skeletal strengthening. In most cases parents watch their child carry these gifts of ballet into their adult lives—a body and spirit builder, a career for some, a Mission… All that really? YES.
A little history: Ballet is a formal dance tradition with its origins in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th and 16th centuries. But we visualize our little girls in tutus, in chubby-legged first position at the bar, or later, in the freer movements of contemporary style. And we see a little boy too—perhaps a young Mikhail Baryshnikov, the great exemplar who set a new standard in the 70s and 80’s; the premier Russian dancer, choreographer, actor (and instructor, still). Remember those gravity-defying leaps? There is no ballet without them. Like in real life, the men are the support and balance of the dance world. We do have “Baryshnikovs” seen in performances locally every year, and this summer in the cowboy-influenced, Boots and Ballet. I repeat this interesting fact: ballet is core teaching in most dance mediums, and with many athletes for its physical mastery. It uses both sides of the body therefore strengthens balance, or at the very least, keeps you in really good shape.
The 32th annual performance of The Nutcracker Suite —the Superbowl of Yellowstone Ballet Co. that will take place this December, has a place for all ages of our children in that much loved classic, so rich in characters and story, and universally celebrated music by Russian composer, Tchaikovsky. As the student grows up and becomes more skilled, he or she is dancing new roles, more challenging every year, from beginner to advanced. And for a fun tweak, ticket holders can pick a Nutcracker character and come to the performance in costume—and be invited up on stage at intermission to enjoy a little fame, too. First, Second, and Third prizes are provided by Rocky Mountain Toy Company and every child will receive a small gift.
For a rather exciting, sneak peak into the near future, Rakela shared with me that she is in the visioning/planning stage of the choreography, music composition and costumes for a Ballet of Beauty And The Beast, a sensational choice I think, in which she sees the inner message of human transformation expressed in dance. I am not at liberty to share another word about it...oh just one more please? “wow.”
We must not let Ballet, or any of the classics that reflect the values of the Human Spirit, be eclipsed or moved off our cultural stage, out of the education of our youth,...or the embracing involvement and stirring of the souls of us all. Ballet classes start this month. So for those of you out there who are involved with the care and education of children: Parents, Grandparents, Aunts & Uncles, Big Brothers and Sisters Org. Teachers & Coaches, Youth Leaders and other friends and mentors,….[I did mention last issue that heroes are just all over the place, didn’t I? You are many.]...please ask your kids and young friends if they might like ballet training. Send an email today with any questions and get a prompt response: email@example.com or text 406-219 6915. See the Facebook page and website for more events and pictures. Beginning, intermediate and advanced classes start up again the week of September 5th. And too, if enough of us big kids show interest,...shall we dance?