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Dancing Into Old Town

The Washington School of Ballet is offering ballet classes at The Athenaeum.

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Students at the Washington School of Ballet practice.

Ballet is a historical art form that is taught by dance studios and companies throughout the world. One dance company in particular, which continues to instill traditional ballet technique to dancers, is The Washington Ballet. And now with the help of The Northern Virginia Fine Art Association, they will be offering beginning ballet training at The Athenaeum.

"The company was established over 40 years ago," said Donna Glover, the schools manager and Children’s Coordinator for The Washington School of Ballet, in reference to the company’s history. The Washington Ballet has both a dance company and a dance school but "we are doing a school" said Glover.

The Washington School of Ballet currently offers dance classes at two locations in Washington D.C. but wanted to offer another location outside of the city. "It’s the demand from the parents, so to speak, across the river," said Kee Jaun Han, the director of The Washington School of Ballet. And Han said, "It was a beautiful place to have our satellite program."

Meanwhile the Northern Virginia of Fine Arts Association always trying to supply fine arts to the area, saw the want for dance classes. "It is a wonderful building," said Harry Mahon, the President of The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association, and "is the home of the Fine Arts Association. We have the art gallery which presents visual arts; we also have music, Second Thursdays; and now we have The Washington Ballet coming with a dance program."

"We recognized a desire for ballet classes in the area. We talked to several different people and the Washington Ballet made sense," said Mahon.

"The Washington Ballet has a close relationship with the Athenaeum. They [The Washington Ballet] have been performing there." said Han. They had done a presentation around Christmas and "we did that and it started to foster a relationship. When we started to branch out we thought of he Athenaeum," said Glover.

However, "for years and years, we [The Athenaeum] had dance classes for young people," said Mahon. Previously with the recent history, dance was ministered by The Fine Arts Association. It became a management challenge. [But] we are thrilled to be working with The Washington Ballet. They have quite the reputation. We have been very impressed with their professional attitude and how they work with the kids.

But even though The Northern Virginia Fin Art Association and The Washington Ballet are working together, Mahon said, "They are running the program under their rules. The art association does not tell them how to run their program. It’s more of a community service. The Washington Ballet was looking for a building and it just worked."

Since the dance program itself will be ministered by The Washington Ballet, they will be getting the same program as the one in D.C. said Holly Rasmussen, a facility member and dance instructor for The Washington Ballet who will be teaching at The Athenaeum.

Rasmussen said "We are training them like they will be professional dancers."

Han said, "We are offering creative movement and pre-ballet" for ages 4 through 8 and "it’s the same syllabi that we use at the North East [Campus] and the South East [Campus]. To participate in these classes, children have to audition. "We just held an audition," said Han, but "we have another audition Aug. 9."

Han said in the audition they look for things such as coordination, flexibility, attention span, and musicality because, "first of all when they are too young, they are not really ready for dance."

"Mostly it’s such an early age, we look for the ability to follow direction," said Glover.

In terms of the actual audition, Rasmussen said "One [person from the Washington Ballet] is teaching and one [person from the Washington Ballet] is watching. When it’s over, we collectively decide." For the students who make the auditions, their classes will start in September and will follow with their annual session.

"We are very excited to be there. Its perfect for dance classes," said Glover, "We are hoping this is a year of many."