Ginny Smith, dancing through life

Published 4:55 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2003

By BY LYDIA GRIMES, Feature Writer
School is back in session and students are busy telling each other what they did over the summer. Most of them tell trips to the beach, exciting vacations and the summer jobs that they had.
Ginny Smith was not one of those students. She spent her summer in southwestern New York State at a place called Chautauqua.
Chautauqua is a National Historical Landmark village and Chautauqua Institution is a 750 acre cultural community along the Chautauqua Lake. It was founded in 1874 as an experiment in out-of-school, vacation learning. This may have been the first "summer school" devoted to teaching both basics and fine arts programs. Over the years the school has become known as "the place to go" in the summer for students interested in music, opera and ballet.
Ginny is a ballet dancer and a very good one. She is a senior at T.R. Miller High School and has spent the last six summers in various summer ballet programs around the United States. In 1997, at the age of 11, she worked a two week program with the Montgomery Ballet with a "Performance on the Green" at the Shakespeare Festival. She traveled to New York City in 1998 and performed with the Joffery Ballet followed by five weeks in 1999 at the Nashville Ballet. In 2000 she returned to New York City to perform with America Ballet Theatre and to the Nutmeg Conservatory of the Arts in Forrington, Conn. in 2001. Last year she spent part of her summer at South Carolina Summer Dance Conservatory at the University of South Carolina.
The honor of attending these programs were not just handed to Ginny. She had to audition for each one and only the best dancers are chosen to attend. Not only do the students go to classes and practice, but they are also given the opportunity to perform on the stage in front of an audience.
Ginny is a member of the senior company of the Andalusia Ballet. She, along with several other girls from Brewton, make the trip to Andalusia several times a week to learn ballet from Artistic Director Meryane Martin Murphy.
Murphy organized the Andalusia Ballet Association in 1982. She had been involved with several dance companies and after her move to Andalusia in 1979, she started teaching to young students. This developed into ballet school that it now is.
Ginny Smith was born in Laurel Hill while her family lived in Florala. She was delivered by an African-American midwife who was famous enough to have two books written about her.
Ginny started taking ballet at the age of seven after her mother took her to a performance of "The Nutcracker".
Her parents enrolled her with Murphy in Andalusia and never thought that she would still be taking ballet to the present.
Apparently it was not just a lark for Ginny. She was willing to devote hours a day practicing. She also had to make the trip to Andalusia from Florala several times a week. For a seven year-old it was not easy.
When she was in the fifth grade her family moved to Andalusia when her dad, Paul Smith, went there to coach. This made it a lot easier for her to take ballet, not having to make all those trips. But, the family only stayed in Andalusia for a year before her dad took a job at T.R. Miller High School in 1997.
She began to travel to practice again and soon was making the trip to Andalusia four times a week. She has to practice three to four hours a day.
It's not easy being a dancer. Not only is there a lot of practice involved but there is a lot of discipline and pain. When she performed in The Nutcracker, she was injured. She strained some ligaments in her leg and the doctor didn't want her to dance.
Her feet also take a beating. The joints are swollen and somewhat misshapen with bunions. She thinks she is one of the lucky ones though.
Her involvement with the Andalusia Ballet was the driving force that got other young ladies from Brewton interested in the study of ballet. Today there are several girls who travel to Andalusia and Murphy has seen the need to come to Brewton once a week to the YMCA to help others who are interested in the dance.
Ginny hasn't given up everything. She still enjoys being a senior this year and is a member of several school organizations. She is a member of the Pep Club, Science Club, Kaleidoscope magazine staff and First Baptist Church of Brewton Youth Group. She was a member of the Tennis Team for two years.
She plans on continuing with her dance even after graduation next year. She plans to postpone college so that she can continue with her dance.