Pointe taken: High School students learn how tough ballet really is
by Paige Rentz
Feb 22, 2013 | 8794 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Laura Cornwell dances at Saks High School Thursday morning as students engage in a prep course for a Russian National Ballet demonstration performance. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Laura Cornwell dances at Saks High School Thursday morning as students engage in a prep course for a Russian National Ballet demonstration performance. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
The only thing fluffy about ballet is the tutu.

That’s the message Linze McRae left a group of students at Saks High School Thursday during a presentation to prepare them for tonight’s performance of the Russian National Ballet sponsored by the Knox Concert Series.

After a short lesson on the history of the classical art form and demonstrations by members of her Downtown Dance Conservatory in Gadsden, McRae invited students to give ballet’s five main positions a try.

“Ballet is much more detailed and difficult than it actually looks,” added Nick Ogle, a senior. Ogle, who took a year of yoga to help him train for football, said he was familiar with the way his body had to stretch for some of the positions.

For junior William Medley, ballet basics were a little more challenging.

“Not being physically fit, it was like hurting the muscles, trying to twist and turn,” he said.

McRae told the students that people often have a perception of ballet as a weak, fluffy activity.

“It’s an athletic sport and an art put together,” she said. “It’s blood, sweat and tears; it’s toenails falling off.”

McRae’s presentation gave many of the students a new appreciation for the demanding art form.

“Before you never really thought that much about ballet, but she gave us a new perspective of it, more thought,” Medley said.

“I learned you have to be really, really smart because you have to understand a whole other language for it,” added senior Gabby Turner.

Millie Harris, chairwoman of Knox’s education outreach committee, took the presentation to Wellborn, Oxford and Anniston high schools earlier in the week and said she’s had good reception from the students.

Harris explained to the students that tonight’s performance is not a single ballet, but rather a collection of 11 famous dances from ballets such as Don Quixote and Swan Lake.

Laura Cornwell, an instructor at the conservatory, and Morgan Henegar, a conservatory artist, performed two variations — solo dances — from Don Quixote to give the students an idea of what they might see from members of the Russian National Ballet.

Many of the students had school or work conflicts, but several others said they planned to be at tonight’s performance, which is free to those who participate in Knox’s outreach program.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for our students to get the chance to see the arts like this,” said Lindsay Ford, a 12th-grade English teacher at Saks.

Tickets are still available for tonight’s performance, said Patricia Smith, Knox’s executive director. She said Knox officials will be delighted to welcome anyone interested in the show.

“We’ll be seeing just wonderful dances, fabulous costumes,” she said of the show.

“Knox Concert Series leadership feels very strongly that these things are so valuable,” she said of the classical art form. “It would be sad if it were lost, so we keep bringing them.”

She encouraged the community to give the ballet a try. “You don’t know if you don’t like it,” she said, “until you see it.”

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.
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