Local dance school celebrates 90 years

Recent Golden Class tap dance students ham it up for the camera at the new south studio for the Dayton Ballet School at the Washington Twp. Recreation Center annex. CONTRIBUTED
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Recent Golden Class tap dance students ham it up for the camera at the new south studio for the Dayton Ballet School at the Washington Twp. Recreation Center annex. CONTRIBUTED

Dayton Ballet School stays in step with times.

Ballet schools have adjusted to new trends over the years. Few more so than the Dayton Ballet School, which actually predates the Dayton Ballet Company by 10 years. In addition to ballet classes, they’ve added tap dancing, and even Zumba recently. The school is celebrating its 90th anniversary year.

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The south studio, which was located at Ohio 48 and Springboro Road, has moved to the Washington Twp. Recreation Center annex. The school rents the studio from the township. Carol Jean Heller, who’s been with the company for 60 of those 90 years, started the tap dancing classes around 1986.

“I’ve been a student, teacher, or administrator for the school over the past 60 years,” said Heller, Ballet School director. “I think it’s great we’re celebrating our 90th anniversary. I’m so proud we’ve been able to exist this long, mainly due to the quality of our school.”

One of her students was in his 60s when he took a tap dancing class from her. Richard Croskey, 76, lives in Washington Twp. He has been teaching dance classes over the past three years at the Dayton Ballet School downtown location at Victoria Theatre. He will begin a six-week session Golden Class in tap dancing at the south studio on Feb. 8. The Thursday morning classes for seniors start at 10 a.m. for ballet, and 11 a.m. for tap.

“Six or seven people have signed up so far. I have a lot of people from the past who took dance classes from Carol Jean, and some of those are coming back,” said Croskey, a retired Tennessee State professor. “Some students that I taught will come back, and some of the Zumba people might take tap.”

Croskey utilizes all types of music in his classes, some Gershwin tunes, and music from the 1940s, like band leader Frankie Carle and music from the Fred Astaire era. He explains why taking dance class, such as ballet and tap, are good choices for seniors.

“First of all there’s movement and balance involved. Seniors definitely need balance,” said Croskey. “There’s rhythm, balance, exercise, and it’s fun. Although tap dancing isn’t as technical as ballet, they want to try something that is fun.”

Founded by Josephine and Hermene Schwarz in 1927, the Dayton Ballet School is one of the oldest dance schools in the U.S. It is the only ballet school in the Miami Valley associated with a professional dance company. Its primary goal is to prepare dancers for professional careers. Some graduates have danced with the New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey, San Francisco Ballet, Atlanta Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre. Others have performed on Broadway, or taught in schools and universities.

The mission of the Dayton Ballet School is to provide the very finest dance training to children and adults who wish to experience the wonder and the fun of dance. The goal of the school is to serve the community, by not only strengthening the body but also by introducing accomplishments and discipline to all participants.

The new partnership with Washington Twp. will continue the work of Dayton Ballet School’s Susan S. Kettering Branch, serving the south area. The Washington Twp. Recreation Center is located at 965 Miamisburg Centerville Road.

For more information about these and other Dayton Ballet School classes, call Heller at 937-223-1542, or email Caroljean.Heller@daytonballet.org.

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Contact this contributing writer at 937-225-2211 or email PamDillon@woh.rr.com.