Answers to Our Most Frequently Asked Questions!
What is the Excellence in Dance Studio?
The Excellence in Dance Studio was founded by the late Nan Klinger. Nan was involved in dance education since 1953 when she began her first studio in the basement of her home. In 1966, she was chosen as one of forty ballet teachers nationwide for a Ford Foundation project to develop young ballet talent. This project brought her in close contact with George Balanchine, the New York City Ballet and many prominent artists in the dance world. The experience inspired Nan to start her own youth ballet company in 1975. Since that time, the Excellence in Dance Studio has been the home of Ballet Excel Ohio, formerly the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet Company, one of the first pre-professional youth ballet companies in the nation. Mia Klinger, the current artistic director, continues the tradition of excellence to this very day.
I see different schedules for the “Community School” and “Pre-Professional School”, what is the difference?
The “Community School” is the first level of dance instruction at the Excellence in Dance Studio. Children dancing at this level take one ballet class per week. At the end of each academic year, students are recommended to new levels in the Community School. If a child seems to be physically and cognitively ready, the teacher may recommend that the child audition for the “Pre-Professional School”. At this level of instruction, the children begin to take more than one class per week, and the dance instruction becomes more technical. During the audition, held in the spring of each year, children are given a typical ballet class and their ability to attend and focus on this level of ballet instruction is assessed. Students ready for this type of experience are then admitted into the Pre-Professional School. In some cases a child may be ready for the Pre-Professional School but does not have the time and/or interest to pursue this level of dance. These children are more than welcome to remain in the Community School.
Once they are in the Pre-Professional School, do they begin to dance with Ballet Excel Ohio?
No, Ballet Excel Ohio (BXO) requires a separate audition. Once the children have been in the Pre-Professional School for one year they may begin to audition for BXO—if they are interested in this type of experience. This audition is held in late April or early May of each year and is open to dancers in the Northeast Ohio area. The students must be 7-years-old as of September 1st of that calendar year and must be taking at least two ninety-minute ballet classes per week. The audition is judged by dance professionals from outside the studio and scoring is ranked. Dancers invited to join BXO as apprentices must agree to participate for a full calendar year. BXO is a demanding responsibility! Dancers must take 4-7 ninety-minute classes per week during the school year and most take much more. They must participate in some form of summer study and many also audition to perform children’s roles with professional ballet companies (i.e. The Kirov, Houston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and New York City Ballet). They must also attend all BXO weekend rehearsals and performances. BXO members perform each March at the Civic Theatre and also perform throughout the school year for local schools in the BXO On Tour. In addition, some years BXO dancers provide special performances for select groups, organizations, and events. Dancers miss up to ten days of their own schooling to provide up to thirty performances for other school children, so they must be organized and committed to both their dance instruction and their schoolwork. We are proud that so many BXO dancers not only manage this schedule but also are honor students and leaders in their schools and communities!
This seems so serious! What if my child is not interested in a dance career—is there still a place for them in this dance studio?
Definitely! It is true that many of our students are very committed to pursuing a professional dance career. Because we are lucky enough to enjoy this caliber of a studio just minutes from our homes, we attract large numbers of serious students from the surrounding regions. This does not mean, however, that all our students will choose dance as a professional career. Just like scores of children participate in Little League or softball and will never be professional ball players, many of our students will never be professional dancers. More important these students will gain invaluable experience of what it takes to be a professional in any field they choose to pursue.
If many will never be professional dancers, why waste all this time and money on dance instruction?
It’s a valid question! Many children participate in sports and never go on to play at a professional level. The time and money is not considered wasted, though, because they benefited so greatly from the experience. It is the same with a dance education. We are just beginning to understand how profoundly music and movement influence brain development, but it is clear the benefits are great! Did you know that music combined with movement has proven to be one of the most beneficial experiences possible to develop neurological networks for math and reading (from How the Brain Learns by David Sousa, 2001)? This cognitive growth combined with the self-discipline, attention skills, confidence, poise and love of the arts learned by our students makes dance one of the best experiences you can give your child. While we provide ample opportunities for students to pursue professional careers in dance, our main goal is to develop young adults with “professional” characteristics. Regardless of where your child uses these skills in the future, their time and effort will not be wasted!
So BXO performs at the Civic Theatre in March… Don’t they also do the Nutcracker there?
No, several other schools with performing groups operate in the area. BXO is very different from these groups because they are one of the few youth companies in the nation to develop and perform original ballets for children. We do teach and perform many traditional ballets. For instance, BXO has performed several original versions of The Nutcracker in the past, from a shortened Act ll with accompanying interactive activities perfect for the younger members of our audience, to a more sophisticated but still highly entertaining version titled “Nutcracker Swings” choreographed by New York Choreographer Francis Patrelle. However, we place great emphasis on adding to the dance repertoire of the nation. We bring in world-renowned choreographers and composers almost every year to develop new ballets designed for the young dancer. What an amazing experience it is for our company members to spend weeks with highly regarded professionals while they create the new ballets (and sometimes the music) right in front of their eyes! Our productions are so valued in the dance world that they are professionally videotaped each year and archived by the New York City Dance Library.
I mostly know the classic ballets; Swan Lake, Nutcracker… What are other ballets do you perform?
The question would be easier to answer if we told you what we DON’T perform! We try to give our dancers a broad dance education, so our ballets range from modern to classical. We put special emphasis on creating original ballets for children that are danced by children. In keeping with that goal, our ballets are based on child-friendly themes. For example, favorite books such as “Fancy Nancy”, “Miss Spider’s Tea Party”, “The Princess and the Pea”, and “Mole Music” have served as the basis for ballets in the past, as well as “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Peter Pan”, “Snow White”, and many others in our story book series.
That sounds wonderful, but I’m not too sure my child would be able to sit through that type of a ballet …
You would be surprised at how attentive children are at our productions. Since the stories are so visually appealing, short in length and center around themes interesting to young children, most do just fine.
It is amazing and somewhat surprising that so much can be going on in this small space in the center of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio! How can I get more information on both the studio and BXO?
There are many ways you can get information. The most accurate answers will come from your child’s dance instructor, so please don’t hesitate to speak with them! Mia Klinger, the artistic director, is also happy to answer any questions you might have. Additional information and photos are available at Ballet Excel Ohio. If you have time, take a moment and read the articles on the bulletin boards. In addition, videos of BXO will be available for you to watch while you are waiting in the lobby during your child’s class. We have included BXO 25th anniversary video, a wonderful way to learn the history and amazing scope of BXO, and videos of some of the past ballets (and if appropriate, the books they were based on) for you and your child’s enjoyment. Lastly, we will be posting information concerning BXO as it becomes available. After all, the Excellence in Dance studio is YOUR studio and BXO, in turn, is YOUR ballet company! We will make every effort to keep you informed of the newspaper articles, T.V. shows and other media events related to both!