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Dancers staying on pointe
Gainesville Ballet holds auditions, training program
Instructor Kerri Lambert, center, shows dancers choreographed moves Wednesday during the Gainesville Ballet summer intensive camp at Brenau University. Lambert is a former Gainesville Ballet dancer. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

‘Nutcracker' auditions

Gainesville Ballet Company production

Who: Dancers between the ages of 7 to 9 with at least two years of ballet training

When: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Brenau University Fitness, 800 Brenau Lane NE, Gainesville.

More info: 770-534-6282

Since last week, a group of local athletes have been heading to the Brenau University Fitness Center for an intensive summer camp.

Instead of cleats and helmets, they arrived to training camp wearing dance shoes and leotards.

"It's important for them to not quit dancing all summer because dance is an athletic thing," said Diane Callahan, Gainesville Ballet Company founding artistic director.

"You have to keep that training going all of the time."

The ballet company's Summer Intensive has become an annual tradition.

"I think I've been doing this for maybe 20 years. I always bring in outside teachers that can make the kids take another step forward as dancers," Callahan said.

Last week they had lessons from Jonah Hooper, a former Gainesville Ballet dancer. Hooper is currently in his 12th season as a performer with the Atlanta Ballet Company.

"He's come two or three times," Callahan said.

Casey Noblet, an Atlanta-based choreographer, also came last week to teach the dancers a jazz routine.

"It's nice to have at least one piece under their belts that they can pull out throughout the year when they need it," Callahan said.

In an interesting turn of events, this week's instructor is a former Gainesville Ballet student turned teacher.

Kerri Lambert, who currently lives in Oklahoma, began dancing with the Gainesville company in 2002 as a Brenau student working towards obtaining her fine arts degree. After graduation, she stayed on with the company for another two years before heading to the University of Oklahoma for graduate school in 2008.

"I've known some of the dancers since they were very little. They've grown up and really blossomed as dancers," Lambert said.

"It's very exciting to be able to work with them as a choreographer now because I taught some of them a long time ago, and some of them I danced with because they were just starting with the company as I was leaving."

In addition to learning repertory pieces to be used throughout the year, the summer camp is also where some of the dancers learn the choreography for the company's winter and spring productions.

"The Summer Intensive is very important because they dance more daily during these weeks than any other time. They'll start as early as 9 a.m. and do two or three classes and rehearse until 6 p.m.," Lambert said.

"You can make huge leaps in progress during that time because you're able to focus so intensely on what you're doing.

"During the year they're going to school and have other responsibilities, so they can't give as much time to class. They dance everyday and do a lot of work during the rest of the year, but it's more intense in the summer."