Classical ballet

Classical ballet, at your fingertips

Adults are invited to immersion classes at Ballet Tennessee

Imagine gliding across the stage in a series of bourrées – steps so small that you appear to be moving while remaining still. Looks like you’re not quite touching the surface. Of course, you say to yourself, if I were ten (or fifty) years younger, ten (or fifty) pounds lighter, less stiff, less sore, less filled with doubts.

Well, that feeling of flight, combined with the deep study and mental focus that makes it possible, can be yours this summer.

Anna Baker-VanCura, Executive Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Ballet Tennessee, offers an immersive summer experience for adults looking for a real dance experience. If you can take an afternoon to yourself every day for just three weeks, that might be the most rewarding way to invest your time.

Your body type, your age, or your ability to place your feet in a perfect 180 degree first position has nothing to do with whether you should immerse yourself in the dance. In fact, they are irrelevant. It’s about surrounding yourself with teachers who will meet you where you are now, and then treat you with insight, rigor, and kindness while helping you grow.

The summer intensive session for adults will include daily ballet lessons, advanced lessons for those who are ready, modern dance and improvisational movements. Guest performers, the same nationally established dancers who form the pre-professional cadre of Ballet Tennessee, will work with adults of all skill levels and ages.

“This program is for older teens and adults — there’s no maximum age,” Baker-VanCura tells me. And while the adult program may involve the same movements as the youth program, the benefits may be quite different.

For children and young people, the study of dance can lead to concentration and self-confidence. For adults, dance can translate into other areas of life, such as their career.

“The discipline of learning technique refines how adult students approach life,” observes Baker-VanCura. “They can be more disciplined in areas where they want to see results.”

And then there is also the joy of trying something difficult and succeeding.

Baker-VanCura says attendees may say something like, “I thought I was crazy when I decided to enroll in a ballet class, but now I’m so proud of myself.” I like how I move. I understand how music and dance go together.

Additionally, research studies have shown that dancing is great for mental health, sharpens memory, increases sociability, and reduces anxiety and depression. In fact, doctors across the UK are beginning to prescribe dance classes for conditions ranging from dementia to mental health issues.

If your schedule doesn’t allow for a full immersion program, consider taking a masterclass in ballet, modern dance, musical theater and jazz, also available at Ballet Tennessee this summer.

Young dancers ages 8-12 can consider auditioning for Dance Alive, now in its second generation as a free outreach program in conjunction with Chattanooga Youth and Family Development.

Guest teachers for the summer programs include Jere Hunt of Rioult Dance in Astoria, New York, and local artists Crystal Newson and Nia Sanders. Ballet Tennessee faculty instructors for the Summer Intensive Program include Anna Baker-VanCura, Monica Coulter, Catherine Gaudreau, Jenison Owens and Lauren White.

They are all insightful and demanding teachers. And if you haven’t recently, or never, put yourself in the hands of a great teacher, it’s a feeling like no other.

Baker-VanCura, who served as director of Ruth Page’s International Ballet Company and toured with American Ballet Theatre, combines good teaching with receptivity.

“I was great clay,” she says of herself as a young dancer. “When a choreographer came in, I was so excited, so present. This malleability, this plasticity make me a very good teacher. Having trained myself under excellent teachers and attended teacher training courses here and abroad, I have developed a good eye for helping dancers identify and apply information. It’s important to know what to say, when to let a dancer work alone, and when to encourage a dancer to push a little harder.

How do I register?

The Adult Summer Intensive Program will be tailored to the needs of adults who sign up, so get in touch soon and start a conversation with Ballet Tennessee by calling (423) 821-2055.

Classes will be held Monday, July 1 through Friday, July 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Ballet Tennessee Studios, 3202 Kelly’s Ferry Rd., Chattanooga, TN.