Tag Archives: Academy

Tips For Ballet Austin Academy Parents

By Bill Piner, Academy Director 

About Page

Ballet Austin Academy students (Photo Credit Travis Tank)

It’s finally here. After a long hot summer—okay it’s still really hot, but go with me on this—the first day of fall Academy classes has finally arrived! Don’t get me wrong, taking a little break is nice, but it’s always exciting to see everyone return with fresh new leotards, enthusiastic smiles and lots of energy. Old friends are reunited, new ones are introduced, and parents and students alike are surging through the building anxious to find their new studio and meet their new teacher. It’s truly a sight to behold.

What to Expect

The main thing parents should prepare for these first couple of weeks is a little anxiety. Getting to know your child’s new teacher(s), and getting comfortable with a new schedule and class dynamic, can be a little stressful for parents as much as children. So breathe and know that Ballet Austin staff is here to help and support you. We want everyone to feel comfortable so that the focused, hard work ahead can be accomplished to your child’s fullest ability. It will take some time for things to settle down, but after the first few weeks, everyone should be acclimated to the new rhythm of the school year, and the apprehension will be replaced with eagerness for the year of learning ahead.

Separation Anxiety

In addition to the usual start-of-year jitters, sometimes our youngest students can experience some separation anxiety. I want to share some valuable insight from Joan Wolfe (Miss Joan☺), our Creative Ballet Curriculum Director…

“On occasion, in my 3-year-old classes, children will have trouble separating from their parents for the first time. It can be traumatic to be apart from a parent, but an experienced teacher will know what to do. I have seen situations where teachers carry the crying child into the classroom with the hope that they will acclimate. I’ve also seen parents get angry and force their child into class. Neither scenario is acceptable. While there is no one correct response in dealing with this situation, there are several things a teacher can do to ease the transition.
1) Have the child sit near the teacher.
2) Have a cute puppet to divert their attention and engage them.
3) Suggest they arrive early to help set up the classroom.
4) If nothing else will work, invite the parent to come into the classroom, and even dance with the child if necessary.
It is amazing how soon a child will be ready to have their parent transition out of the classroom once they’ve gained the teacher’s trust.”

Group of Creative Ballet students ready for the new school year. (Photo Credit Jessica Pino)

Group of Creative Ballet students ready for the new school year. (Photo Credit Jessica Pino)

This is just one example of the level of experience and professionalism that continues to make the Ballet Austin Academy a very special place for your child to grow and learn. I am so proud to work with this dedicated and talented group!

Traffic, Access, and Parking… Oh My!

The elephant in the room, the EVIL WORDS around town, the things we’d love to ignore… but can’t. As much as I, and everyone else connected with Ballet Austin, would like, we simply can’t make the construction on Mopac—or 3rd Street, or any other artery leading to Ballet Austin—go away. It’s just a part of living and working in one of the most vibrant, dynamic, and creative cities in Texas.

An important item I want to stress is to please try make every effort to be here on time. But if you are stuck in traffic, do not stress, or stress your child out about it. We are very aware of this challenge and we’ve instructed all our teachers to allow for late arrival and incorporate late attendees into class in the timeliest and safest way possible. My most sincere hope is that these inconveniences will not keep you from providing your child the quality instruction and professional environment that can only be found at Ballet Austin Academy.

The drop-off route for parents. All routes in red are open for through traffic ONLY.

The drop-off route for parents. All routes in red are open for through traffic ONLY.

Auditions

For parents of students enrolled in Levels 2-8 of the Lower and Upper Schools, being able to audition for Ballet Austin’s professional production of The Nutcracker is a benefit that is available exclusively to you and your child(ren). It’s an exciting opportunity and prepares students to see first hand what it takes to perform on stage. As a parent, it’s important for you to not only be supportive as physically—by accompanying students to rehearsals—but also mentally as this should be a fun learning experience! Click here for more information about the audition process.

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Ballet Austin Academy students can audition to play the role of angels in Ballet Austin’s production of the Nutcracker. (Photo Credit Tony Spielberg)

A Special Thank You to Parents

Our students are our most valuable resource and the dedication you as parents show on a daily basis allows us to continue on our mission to inspire the next generation to develop strong bodies, a sound sense of purpose and a passion to excel. Thank you for supporting your child in her or his training, and for supporting Ballet Austin in our effort to supply the best experience possible. Together, we will continue to get stronger, grow and improve. Here’s to another great year at Ballet Austin Academy!

Spending My Summer Vacation With Ballet Austin

By Bill Piner, Academy Director  

Ahhh… Summertime in Austin. The time when everything slows to a crawl. The sun is high in the sky and temps top 100. Everyone heads to the lake, or to cooler climes in northern states. You would think it would be nice and quiet at 501 W. 3rd St. But you’d be wrong.

Summertime is actually one of the busiest seasons at Ballet Austin. Classes at the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness are packed 7 days a week for the entire summer and the Academy’s Senior Summer Intensive Program brings students from as far away as Japan and Panama to Austin for six weeks of intensive study and potential job opportunities.

Ballet Austin Summer Intensive Level 8 (Photo Credit Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Ballet Austin Summer Intensive Level 8 (Photo Credit Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Each summer, after a 27 city audition tour, over 250 students descend on Austin.
They come here to take part in a program that is designed to improve their individual dance skills. For the post-high school crowd, they audition for a coveted position in Ballet Austin II, Ballet Austin’s paid apprentice company, or the Butler Fellowship Program, a nine-month, intensive training program that provides 15 talented students the opportunity to train at Ballet Austin tuition-free.

A Day In The Life

This is a very concentrated and intensive time for the Academy. From 8:45am to 6:15pm the studios are filled to capacity with some of the most focused young adults you will find. From my office I can look into the Armstrong/Connelly Studio. Right now the Level 6 dancers are learning a piece of original choreography from Company Dancer and Academy faculty member, Christopher Swaim, which they will perform at a small performance at the end of the session. Chris’ choreography pushes these young dancers to new limits and challenges them to take risks and find new strengths.

For the highest levels it’s all about learning what’s unique about Ballet Austin and assimilating. Will they be accepted into the year-round program or not? Will this be the next step in their personal and professional lives or not? There is a lot riding on these few weeks and it can be a nerve-wracking experience.

“I chose to spend my summer training at Ballet Austin because I was looking for an opportunity to further my dance career. Having just graduated from high school, I wanted to come to a program where I could possibly stay for the 2015-2016 season, and I knew that Ballet Austin could provide an opportunity for me. Ballet Austin’s summer program has reinforced the technique I know, expanded my artistry and allowed me to think differently about my dancing. Not only have I grown as a dancer in just four weeks, but I have also met new people with whom I have become extremely close. My classmates and I have had different yet relatable experiences. Even though some of us may be competing against each other to get a position as a Fellow or Ballet Austin II member, we all share one similar trait: the love for dance. This similarity allows for friendships to be created which aid the extremely memorable and enriching experience here at Ballet Austin.” –  Kayla Hallman

Kayla will be joining the Butler Fellowship Program in August.

Summer-Intensive

Associate Artistic Director Michelle Martin correcting a student’s position. (Photo Credit Anne Marie Bloodgood)

I choreograph on the two youngest levels in the program, where they are still struggling to find the control over their bodies that will enable them to make the prescribed shapes of classical ballet. The pace is slower, but the sense of accomplishment is just as great. When the entire group performs for an audience of their peers (final rehearsal on performance day is performed in front of the other levels in the program) and the cheers of approval erupt, I’m reminded why I chose this profession. This struggle, this mastery, this acceptance is something they all can relate to and it seals a bond that will stay with these young artists well beyond their six weeks in Austin.

Teaching (Photo Credit Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Bill Piner, Academy Director, rehearsing with Level 4 student for upcoming Summer Intensive performance. (Photo Credit Anne Marie Bloodgood)

These bonds and friendships, challenges and growth, fun and hard work, all combine to make the Summer Intensive experience one that will live with these dancers forever. This is a huge commitment and requires dedication and sacrifice from the entire family. This is another aspect of the program that I find inspiring – the fact that parents will do everything in their power to provide the best for their kids. And the fact that these kids will take that challenge and some of them will become professional dancers. Over 70% of Ballet Austin’s professional company of dancers started right here in the Summer Intensive. For them, and many others, the sweating, struggling, laughing and learning ended with the ultimate goal, a professional contract and the realization of so many dreams and aspirations.

This is how I’ve spent my summer for the past 24 years. It may not be as relaxing as going to the coast, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!