There are few sports that require as much discipline as ballet – an art form rooted in technique that serves as the basis for all forms of dance. While strength, coordination and control are natural takeaways from ballet, its lifelong impacts go far beyond the physical.
Spring Hill-based The Children’s Ballet Theatre is a traditional ballet academy that teaches far more than pliés and relevés, with invaluable life skills and acts of service being key takeaways for students.
“Ballet teaches students to have poise, that they’re going to be good citizens in the community and that they can do hard things,” Chelsea Howell, The Children’s Ballet Theatre artistic director, shares. “I myself grew up in the world of dance. My mother was my first dance teacher. It just snowballed from there and one day, I decided to open my own ballet school. I wanted to proficiently keep the arts alive in the hearts of children.”
The Children’s Ballet Theatre was born out of a desire to focus on ballet technique, performance and service. Beginning with a preschool academy for children ages three to seven, the theatre offers creative movement classes aimed at refining motor skills and introducing young dancers to the structure and terminology of ballet. Introductory classes in ballet are offered through age
seven, followed by the ballet academy for dancers up to 18.
“Our classes are structured like an old classical ballet school, where students all wear uniforms and a classical bun,” Chelsea adds. “Students in the ballet academy take one ballet class, and as they grow and mature, that class grows with them. With any art, you keep building upon it so you gain more experiences, knowledge and muscle memory.”
Guided by her heart for service, Chelsea created an opportunity for dancers to give back through the The Children’s Ballet Theatre Company, a group of dancers aged 10 to 18, merging dance with service. Company members are required to meet certain criteria and complete an interview and audition to join, then follow a schedule alternating dance training and service projects. The group works with MOVE Inclusive Dance, a local studio that welcomes students of all ability levels.
“This year, we were able to go and help them with their recital,” Chelsea shares. “We danced with them, helped backstage, and, ultimately, helped them do and feel what we feel as well. Our dancers were happy to help and even want to serve in their studios more as well.”
In December 2022, Children’s Ballet Theatre celebrated its 10th anniversary with a performance of "The Nutcracker," with a new show slated to debut in the spring with a story featuring all levels and ages. “We don’t just go in and teach ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary or modern, it’s all encompassing of life,” Chelsea says. “Whatever the path our dancers take, they take a piece of selflessness with them as they go out into the world and open hearts. I find joy in knowing they can come back to this place and know this is home, it’s a safe place for them.” ChildrensBalletTheatre.com