Tiny dancers learn the moves

Posted on November 20th in News


Ballet studio will perform Friday, Nov. 22

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald


The class of young ballerinas lines up for practice. (Photo by Samantha White)

The class of young ballerinas lines up for practice. (Photo by Samantha White)

In preparation for their debut performance, a garden of “Rosebuds” glided gracefully (for the most part) across the Steens Mountain Ballet studio on a crisp, but sunny November morning. The “Rosebuds,” ages 3 and 4, are the youngest group taught by Steens Mountain Ballet Director Rebecca Madsen at her studio in Hines.

Madsen teaches a total of 60 dancers who range in age from 3 to 17. There are 57 girls and three boys enrolled this semester, and all will be dancing in Act II from The Nutcracker Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Auditorium.

The 3- and 4-year-old ballerinas will be dancing as “Rosebuds” in the “Waltz of the Flowers.” They will be accompanied by ballerinas playing the part of “Flowers” and Demi Soloists Annabelle Johnson and Sayge Root.

The “Waltz of the Flowers” is just one of the dances that will be performed, as the dancers tell the story of when “Clara,” played by Sayge Shelman, and the “Nutcracker Prince,” played by Eli Ward, travel to the beautiful “Land of Sweets,” which is ruled by the “Sugar Plum Fairy” who will be played by Mackenzie Moulton.

The performance is free, and the public is invited to attend. Donations will be accepted to start a scholarship fund for dancers and help defray the cost of performances.

Ballet classes
Steens Mountain Ballet classes are divided into age categories. Ages 3-4 take Creative Movement, 5-6 are in Pre-Ballet, 7-8 take Ballet I, 9-10 are in Ballet II, and Ballet III is for dancers ages 11 through teen. But Madsen said skilled dancers may be placed in more advanced classes, regardless of their ages.

Madsen plans to teach three, 12-week semesters and one, three-day camp annually. Semesters are divided into seasons. Winter semester takes place January through March; spring semester is held April through June; and the three-day summer camp is scheduled for July 23-25. The current, fall semester began in September, and will conclude with The Nutcracker performance on Friday.

Madsen said she tries to keep class costs affordable, so participants can take classes continuously without creating a financial burden on their parents.

About Madsen
Madsen and her husband, Matt, moved here from Utah about three-and-a-half years ago when Matt was offered a job as a research scientist for the Agricultural Research Service.

The couple has four children (two boys and two girls), and Madsen, who took her first class at the age of 9, said she wanted to create an opportunity for her daughters and other children in the community to learn ballet.

“The arts are so important for children,” Madsen said. “Ballet, and the arts in general, help youth. I loved it when I was a teenager. It was kind of my ‘out.’ It’s just a neat thing to do.”

Madsen’s background in dance is extensive. She trained with the Central Utah Ballet/Kosan Youth Ballet for eight years. In high school, Madsen was a member of the Untouchables dance team. She studied modern dance, ballet and lyrical jazz dance on a two-year scholarship at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, and has performed in a variety of classical productions, concerts and competitions. She was a student teacher with Central Utah Ballet. And, when she was in college, she taught private dance lessons.

Madsen said living in a small community granted her the opportunity to continue teaching. She explained that, if she lived in a larger city, she probably would have just enrolled her oldest daughter (Cora, age 4) in ballet classes. But, because there weren’t any classes available in this area, Madsen  decided to convert her shop into a studio and share her knowledge and skills with the community.   She began teaching classes locally in April, and the decision seems to be paying off.

“The kids are amazing,” Madsen said. “They try so hard. They are grateful for the opportunity. They love it and eat it up.”
Madsen said the most rewarding thing about directing the Steens Mountain Ballet is “seeing the kids love it” and “seeing their eyes light up when they figure something out.”

Dancers’ debut
Madsen’s dancers have been preparing for their upcoming performance for about two months.

Act II from The Nutcracker will be the first performance for Steens Mountain Ballet, but Madsen said she hopes to put on two performances  a year.

She said she is both excited and nervous about the upcoming performance, but said she is mostly excited that the children will have an opportunity to perform.

“It will be a fun community event, and I hope people will support it,” she added.

Next semester
Depending upon the number of participants who elect to continue, Madsen may accept new dancers next semester. She said she has also been “playing with the idea” of adding adult classes.

For more information about Steens Mountain Ballet, visit steensmountainballet.blogspot.com.

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