Dance lessons teach more than ballet

Published 10:17 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2007

By Staff
Anyone with a little knowledge of ballet can look at me and tell that I was not born to arabesque and pirouette. But my parents were determined that it would be good for me, so a dance student I became.
They were correct. Under the tutelage of the amazing Dorothy Rainer Sellars in Opp, I learned discipline, a commitment to doing things the right way, and to feel comfortable on stage.
Like most young dancers, I was fascinated by pointe or toe shoes and couldn't wait until I was old enough to get a pair of my own.
It was partially because I have owned pointe shoes that I was in total awe during the Andalusia Ballet's presentation of "The Nutcracker" this past weekend. From the lively opening party scene to the stunning Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, the ballet was breathtaking.
"These are children," artistic director Meryane Martin-Murphy reminded me last week during rehearsal. "The Clara's are 12 years old."
The Clara's were Morgan Dove and Meredith Grace Kerr, who shared responsibilities for the lead role. How easy it was to forget that they are 12.
If Morgan, Meredith Grace and other members of the Andalusia Ballet's company dancers were amazing on their toes, Ginny Smith and Ian Morris were something else to behold in "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." If the thought of standing on the tip of your toes makes your feet hurt, imagine the physical strength it must take to lift and carry even a very small woman, and to make that look effortless.
Ginny, of course, grew up dancing with the Andalusia Ballet. Now a member of the Montgomery Ballet, she returned this year as a guest dancer. Ian also is a member of the Montgomery Ballet and a frequent guest dancer in Andalusia.
Seated behind me, Denise Brooks was taking her own trip down memory lane.
"I remember when mine were mice and marzipan," she said. "It's hard to believe it's been so long ago."
Bob Brooks, who began playing the grandfather in the opening scene long before he was old enough for the part, reminded her of a year when all of the family was in the production. I suspect it was a conversation being repeated throughout the auditorium as the ballet marked its 25th anniversary.
"That Meryane always comes up with something new to make it different," Mayor Jerry Andrews commented as he left the theatre Friday night. "She is amazing."
As I reflected on the production and my own experience as a dance student, I was reminded how much young people learn from studying the arts.
I'm so glad that Mrs. Sellars taught me to be "on my toes," whether or not I was in pointe shoes, and I'm delighted to watch our community's young dancers and know that they are learning those lessons, too.
Kudos to Meryane and the teachers, dancers and volunteers who brought The Nutcracker so beautifully to life.
Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Andalusia Star-News.

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