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Ballet students work to stay sharp over summer
Gainesville school holds intensive program
Young ballerinas have the opportunity to brush up on their skills during the Gainesville School of Ballet Summer Intensive program. - photo by Tom Reed

If you’ve ever taken time off from exercising, you know how tough things are once you finally make it back into the gym.

Your muscle memory has to recover what it lost, so instead of moving to new levels, you’re stuck recovering ground you’d previously gained.

That’s exactly why some local dancers are happily relinquishing a piece of their summer vacation to participate in the annual Gainesville School of Ballet Summer Intensive program.

“You lose a lot of your technique if you don’t practice every day,” said Ellie Peterson, who will be a Brenau University student next year.

“Then it’s 10 times harder to start dancing again, even if you only skip one week.”

Unlike some students who may have been assigned to summer school remediation, these dancers are at “school” by choice.

“Dancers aren’t like any other kids,” said Kassandra Taylor Newberry, who is teaching the students the jazz routine she choreographed to “Footloose.”

“They have so much discipline and loyalty to their art, so it’s not a chore to come in during the summer.”

Newberry isn’t the only instructor who is noticing the dancers’ dedication.

“They’re like sponges; they just absorb it right up. As a teacher you couldn’t ask for more,” said Brad McCaskill, who is teaching ballet.

“During the season, they’re maintaining. They’re doing choreography and dancing.

“In the ballet world, summers are called ‘intensives’ because they’re able to work on style and technique. Dance always progresses.

“I’ve tried to show them where ballet is going by bringing a lot of 21st century training into their technique.”

For many of the dancers, this two-week intensive program marks their second, sometimes third, dance camp for this summer.

“I went to the American Ballet Theater (camp) in Alabama,” said Ada Spahija, a Lumpkin County High School student.” “My favorite part about it was having all the different teachers from all over the country. They see you in a different way, so they may tell you something that you’ve never heard before.

“It helps you grow as a dancer. You don’t want to take a step back.”

Like the others, Gainesville ballet dancers Reagen Leimbach — who went to the Carolina Ballet summer intensive — and Kasey Arvold, who spent four weeks with the Louisville Ballet in Kentucky, improvement is the name of the game.

“You’re trying to get better,” said Olivia Jones, who went to the Orlando Ballet School Summer Intensive with Peterson.

“Like you choose to get better, you choose to be mediocre.

“I think not dancing over the summer is choosing to be mediocre.”

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