Ballerinas seek fame, or just fun Studio's classes cover all levels

November 15, 1992|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Staff Writer

Her blond pigtail bobbing along with every step and her eyebrows furrowed in concentration, Kristie Price skips to the left, barely avoiding a collision with a classmate moving in the wrong direction.

"I think first we need to learn where left is," says Pam Villeneuve with a smile. She instructs her students to return to their starting positions and stretch out their left arms. "That's it, now we can continue our circle to the left," she says.

The music starts again, and four aspiring ballerinas dance in a circle to the polka beat. They have reached their favorite part of the Tuesday afternoon class -- the hoedown.

The young dancers, ages 6 to 8, attend a Ballet I class at the newly opened Harford Dance Center at the Bel Air Athletic Club. And before they can incorporate newly learned steps into the hoedown, they have a serious workout. They practice classical ballet techniques at the barre and work out center floor, all with the encouragement of their teacher.

"At this age, they are ready for a more structured workout," says Mrs. Villeneuve. "And if they are nurtured in a positive way, they just might be able to fulfill their dream of one day becoming a professional ballerina."

But the classes at the new studio aren't necessarily geared to those hoping for a career in dancing.

The Harford Dance Center strives to provide an atmosphere where all students -- from the serious career-minded to the recreational novice -- can be motivated in a positive and professional manner. Ballet courses cost from $85 to $250 for athletic club members and $110 to $325 for non-members, depending how often classes meet during a 17-week session.

The 2,200-square-foot studio, which opened last month, is part of a recent $3 million expansion of the Bel Air Athletic Club. The studio is equipped with hardwood floors, a state-of-the-art music system, ballet barres and wall-to-wall mirrors.

Julie Fisher, a Fallston 12-year-old, has been taking lessons at the new studio since it opened and says she's learned more in that time than in a year at other studios. A serious dancer who hopes to be a professional ballerina, Julie has been taking ballet lessons for the past six years. She says her new instructor and the size and quality of the studio have helped her tremendously.

"Miss Pam [Villeneuve] knows what it's like to be a ballerina, and she has helped me improve on pointe," says Julie.

Ballet occupies most of Julie's free time. She studies twice a week in an advanced pointe class at the new studio and rehearses twice weekly with the Harford Dance Theatre for the Christmas performance of "The Nutcracker."

She says dancing takes her away from everyday stress -- like school and homework -- and she hopes to one day join a dance company.

In addition to classical ballet classes for ages 3 through adult, the Harford Dance Center offers lessons in tap and jazz dance, ballroom and country-western dance.

Mrs. Villeneuve, the center's director and its principal instructor, has been trained and coached in classical ballet by many professionals, including Camille Izard of the American Ballet Theatre and Murial Stewart of Anna Pavlova's Company. She was one of five picked from 400 applicants to receive a scholarship to work with Suzanne Farrell of the New York City Ballet.

Mrs. Villeneuve also is pursuing a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance performance and choreography at Towson State University.

Though her list of credentials is long, she accredits her love for dancing and the drive to pursue a career to her very first teacher.

She was 5 years old then and attended a ballet class on the recommendation of her doctor. "I had flat feet, and my doctor thought dancing would help strengthen my arches," remembers Mrs. Villeneuve.

She was very shy when she attended that first class, but her teacher's encouraging and positive manner motivated her to continue dancing, she added.

"And that's real important for children at that age," says Mrs. Villeneuve. "As a teacher, I'm responsible for their first impression of dance, and if it's not going to be one that is loving and positive, they are not going to enjoy it later when it does get a little more tedious and technical as far as discipline goes. That first experience has to be positive."

Her positive attitude is evident as she teaches the children.

"You are doing so wonderful, I'm really proud of you, you have learned a lot today," she tells her young students as they leap across the dance floor with her during the final moments of the class.

"I practice every day at home," replies 6-year-old Beth Miller, her eyes beaming while she talks to her teacher. "I want to become famous, just like Pavlova."

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