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Art of ballet

‘If ‘all the world's a stage,’ my dancers are ready to play their parts’

Cullman is home to world-class dancer and ballet instructor Brooke Desnoës, whose school, Brooke Desnoës Ballet Academy (BDBA), she said, “started years ago while I was still training with Dame Sonia Arova at the School of Fine Arts and later on when dancing professionally in Europe with Alexander Bennett.”

Said Desnoës, “Both were outstanding artists and amazing teachers. I was extremely lucky to work under their direction. They mentored me expertly in Russian, Vaganova and the British Checcetti methods, which prevail in the world of ballet. Later, while developing my school in Paris, I entered a close and long-term relationship with two great ballerinas and mentors, Violette Verdy and Suki Schorer, with whom I learned everything about the great George Balanchine and his technique. My school in Cullman is an extension of my career as an instructor at The Washington School of Ballet, my collaboration with the Royal Ballet and the Royal Academy and my successful career in Paris.”

BDBA is primarily a ballet school. Creative movement classes are offered for ages 3 up to the pre-professional level. Children 8 and older can take jazz.

“Indeed, it is important to let a child develop enough coordination, muscle strength and flexibility before attempting proper jazz steps. In addition, the technique and lexicon used in jazz comes from ballet and should be acquired by taking preparatory ballet classes. Booty shaking and proper jazz technique are two very different things,” Desnoës smiled.

Each November, BDBA and Ballet South, BDBA’s official pre-professional company, stage a production of the holiday classic.

“’The Nutcracker’ is a wonderful tradition that brings family together and I love to choreograph it every year. For about two decades I staged it for a very large audience at the beautiful Palais des Congres de Paris, so when I came back to Cullman my goal was to perpetuate the legacy and offer ‘The Nutcracker’ to our community,” said Desnoës.

She continued, “True preparation happens during class, where technique and musicality are perfected. When we start working on a performance the dancers have been selected for roles that fit their levels and personalities. Rehearsals are mostly about learning choreography and becoming a character; the technique must already be there. A performance should never require infinite hours of rehearsals if dancers are properly trained. I keep my rehearsals organized and fun. My role as artistic director is to get dancers ready, happy and healthy so they can give the best of themselves to the audience. All my students, even the youngest, are treated like they would be in a professional company. It is about focus, respect and hard work. Drama must take place onstage, never backstage.”

Desnoës said proceeds from “The Nutcracker” are used for scholarships for children of disadvantaged families. In the next few months Ballet South will be performing “Coppelia” in a variety of community outreach events.

Ballet South is regulated by Friends of Ballet South, a registered nonprofit.

“During my long career I have judged many competitions and taught master classes from Sweden to China and all over Europe. Many of my students now dance in celebrated dance companies. Behind their success is work, dedication and respect,” said Desnoës. “My objective is to teach my students the joy of dance and pass on to them the great knowledge I was fortunate to learn firsthand from some of the world’s most accomplished ballerinas. Ballet is a combination of strength, balance and generosity. What students learn in the dance studio they carry with them for the rest of their lives.

brookedesnoes.org  ̶  ballet-south.org  ̶  256-338-6401

  • Dancer Marianna Willoughby is one of Brooke Desnoës' students.
  • Brooke Desnoës is pictured with her dancers backstage.

"Today, our children seem to have less access to the arts than we did when I was growing up. It is a shame and we can change that for our community."

- Brooke Desnoës