The Villager 
April 27,  2000  By Jessica Shaw contributing writer


Dancers receive invitations to top ballet schools


The Woodlands Dance Academy/Woodlands Festival Ballet has something to brag about this year.

Four Academy dancers recently earned placement and scholarships with the nationally known schools Pennsylvania Ballet, Joffery Ballet and Boston Ballet.

Deborah Rayburn, artistic Director at The Woodlands Dance Academy/Woodlands Festival Ballet, said of the schools, "These are the creme de la creme of ballet companies that offer intensive, strong summer programs. They provide classical ballet training in a professional atmosphere."

National auditions for admission to accredited ballet schools were held in January immediately following the Christmas holidays.

The Academy dancers were given a two-week vacation and returned January 1 to begin the audition process.

"The auditions are tough for the girls both mentally and physically," Rayburn said. "To the girls who receive these honors this is the ultimate pat on the back and the best adulation for all of their hard work."

In addition, the dancers get an opportunity to get out in the dance community and be seen by national dancers and teachers, which in turn will help them develop a rapport with the school they choose to attend and continue that relationship by returning each summer to the same company.

The dancers will return to The Woodlands Dance Academy in the fall ready to start another year of training.

The Woodlands Dance Academy is the official school of The Woodlands Festival Ballet, a pre-professional not-for-profit performing company that depends on corporate as well as individual sponsors.

Founded in July 1996 by Rayburn, the Academy's mission is to "provide performance experience for advanced ballet students and to encourage and promote the art of dance in the community."

Performance training includes training with professional dancers who often appear in Woodlands Festival Ballet performances.

The academy provides students with academic training as well as dance training. Along with their educational classes, students are enrolled in 15-17 hours of dance classes, which earn them physical education credits. Many students maintain an "A" average in addition to the physical demands placed upon them.

As an added benefit, students of The Woodlands Dance Academy learn life skills they can take with them no matter what their future holds, even if professional dancing is not in their forecast.

"Students of The Woodlands Dance Academy/Woodlands Festival Ballet learn valuable skills during their time at our school. Even if they do not continue dancing after graduation, the intensity and focus they have maintained stays with them even beyond their dance training," Rayburn said. "They learn social skills through both good and bad situations, and learn to be adaptable to different circumstances."

The Woodlands Festival Ballet will offer an intensive summer workshop June 12-17, which is open to anyone interested.

Kurt Hathaway from Ballet Arkansas and Clara Cravey from the Houston Ballet will be in attendance to offer their expertise and choreography.

Rayburn attributes the success of The Woodlands Festival Ballet in part to the great deal of parental support provided. "We have a phenomenal group of parents," she said. "Many things we do would not be possible if parents were not working alongside the students."

Rayburn also gives credit to the academy's board of directors for its aggressive fund-raising programs such as Birdies for Charity, which is held during the Shell Houston Open.

The board helps to ensure that the Woodlands Festival Ballet is able to put on performances each year.

The Woodlands Festival Ballet will present "Coppelia," a three-act ballet, at the Montgomery College Theater June 3.