Rhythmic pounding in time to the music reverberated off the floors and walls as 20 students performed a couple of jumps and turns Friday afternoon in a dance studio at Brenau Fitness Center.
As they performed the French-sounding maneuvers, a petite teacher with a big voice snapped her finger in time and shouted encouraging and correcting words.
“Lift the elbows!” “Keep that heel up!” “Knees to the sky!” instructor Tara Lee shouted. “Good. Gorgeous! So much better.”
Lee, a 17-year veteran with Atlanta Ballet Company, was teaching the ballet class as part of the Gainesville Ballet Company’s Summer Intensive program. The summertime course is a two-week program designed to whip dancers back into shape for the new season.
“It’s like their own football boot camp,” said Tanya Glosson, the marketing chairwoman for the Gainesville Ballet. “It is getting them primed for the next year.”
The ballet “boot camp” entails three dance classes followed by a rehearsal from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day for two weeks. The day begins with a pilates class at 9:30 a.m. followed by a ballet class at 11 a.m. with a professional instructor. The first week, Lee taught the class. The second week, two new instructors will teach the 17 girls and three boys.
After breaking for lunch, dancers break the rules of their ballet training with a jazz class. It is taught by Brenau University assistant dance professor Cassandra Alvarado.
“With jazz, you get to throw technique out the window,” she said, noting in ballet students must have a proper placement of their bodies in specific positions. “There are no specific rules you have to follow (with jazz)”
But for the students, ranging in age from 14 to 20, learning about proper technique from the professional ballerinas is a key component to the program.
“We also learn our spring repertoire,” said Reagen Limbach, a 16-year-old Lakeview Academy student. “And we will be able to practice it so it’s perfect for the spring.”
But being perfect is not the goal of the summer program, improving their own skill level is.
As one of three boys in the program, 14-year-old Shawn Enright explained he attended the program to improve his technique but was acquiring the added bonus of “stamina.”
“We are here so long every day,” the homeschooled Dahlonega boy said, as three classmates nodded in agreement.
Limbach was learning about her placement in the first week of classes.
“I learned a lot about ... staying on one leg and relaxing the other, so I can work to be more efficient,” she said.
Brenau University student Caitlin Hardegree, 20, learned about stage presence from Lee.
“You’re not dancing for the technique, you’re feeling it,” the Powder Springs native said. “You bring life to it, and it’s not just robotic movements.”
Mary Victoria Raynes, a North Hall High School student, was learning to push herself to achieve her dancing goals.
“I want to learn more about myself and learn how to improve,” the 17-year-old said.
Taking away that lesson was one of the goals Lee had in mind for her students.
“I want them to know that ‘Yes, you can do that and do it 10 times better,” she said.
However, the students surprised their instructors with their dancing desire and ability to learn.
“They absorb the material very quickly,” Lee said after her final class Friday afternoon. “They have a very happy energy, and you feel it right away.
“You can tell if they love what they do or if they are reluctant to be here. And they love what they do.”
Alvarado was impressed by the dancers technique compared to the college students she normally teaches.
“At the university, I get all levels (of dancers),” she said. “Here, they are all classically trained. Everyone has that proper technique. I just have to tweak and pull from them their skills.”
Other students in Friday’s class were: Sarah Bell, Emmanuel Colon, Anna Diaz, Charters Embry, Dory Hatchett, Olivia Jones, Katie Koester, Anna Pethel, Rosalie Quinn, Sydney Sanchez, Ada Spahija, Meagan Wade, Moshiah Stringer, Ellie Peterson, Kelly Rayborn and Jessica Berliner.
The students skills will be on display with the Gainesville Ballet Company’s production of the “Nutcracker.” The ballet will be Dec. 6-8 in Pearce Auditorium at Brenau University.