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Saturday, August 11, 2012

BalletNova: Mason's mecca for dance

BalletNova teacher Irina Wunder.
BalletNova, the dance studio in Bailey’s Crossroads, is not just about little girls in tutus and buns dreaming about Swan Lake and sugar plum fairies.

The school (3443 Carlin Springs Road) also offers classes for classes for kids and adults in modern dance, jazz, hip hop, tap, pilates, and yoga-based stretching. Ballet classes range from pre-ballet for the little ones to a pre-professional track for serious dancers hoping to join a professional ballet company, to master classes taught by visiting professionals.

There’s also a youth and teen program for kids who just want to take a ballet class once a week but not make a career out of it. During the summer there are children’s dance camps and intensive workshops for those who want to take it to the next level.

About 800 students are enrolled in BalletNova classes, and another 150 or so adults have bought cards they can use to pop in for a class whenever their schedule permits, says BalletNova Director Caroline Frankil Warren. For beginners, there are brief “try-it-out” workshops in jazz, modern, hip hop, and ballet.

There’s even a creative movement class where three and four-year-olds pretend to move like a snake or frog or other animal. “When they’re little, it should be really fun,” says Warren.

Because ballet offers so many benefits, including improved posture, grace, body awareness, muscle tone, and stress relief, it attracts athletes, other types of dancers, and people who just want to be fit, notes Melissa Klein, a former ballerina who takes adult classes at BalletNova.

“Ballet is the foundation of all dance,” and once you’ve mastered the basic techniques, it’s easier to excel in other dance forms, says Klein. She calls dance “part of the enjoyment of life.”

BalletNova presents “Tthe Nutcracker”every December, and there’s an annual spring performance featuring a mix of classic ballet, modern dance pieces, and new pieces choreographed by Artistic Director Nancie Woods.

The school takes part in several community partnerships. Its Jeb Stuart/Culmore Neighborhood Outreach program, for example, provides free dance instruction to members of  Jeb Stuart High School’s dance team.

On Aug. 24, BalletNova will present a performance choreographed by Elizabeth Burr, the winner of the organization’s first “Young Choreographers” competition. Burr won a $500 dance scholarship.

There will be another “Young Choreographers” competition later this year. It’s open to any dancers ages 14-18; they don’t have to be students at BalletNova. Contestants will be invited to submit videos to You Tube. Ballet professionals will select the finalists, and the winner will be chosen by the public via online voting.

The teachers at BalletNova have had distinguished careers as dancers, choreographers, and artistic directors with major ballet companies.

BalletNova alumni have gone on to dance professionally with the American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Ballet Met of Columbus, the Royal Ballet, and other prestigious companies. Some have also pursued full-time dance training at places like the National Ballet School of Canada, School of American Ballet, and the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Warren acknowledges one of the school’s biggest challenges—recruiting boys. There are just five boys taking ballet classes, including one 16-year-old who is spending the summer studying at the Houston Ballet.

To drum up more interest, BalletNova holds a free Boys Day once a year, where eight to 14-year-old boys can take classes in things like stage combat, martial arts, and leaps and turns. “It’s a lot of fun for them. We don’t call it ‘ballet,’” says Warren.

The studio is in the midst of a fundraising campaign, with the goal to raise $6,000 to create a theatre for performances. Companies and individuals interested in exploring sponsorship opportunities are encouraged to contact Warren.

The school moved to its current location in Bailey’s Crossroads in 2008, after being based in Arlington for 25 years. After moving, the group changed its name from the Arlington Center for Dance to BalletNova, which more accurately reflects the fact that students come from the entire Northern Virginia region.


  1. Their Nutcracker is outstanding, but be sure to get your tickets early--they sell out.
    This year the show will be Nov 30, Dec 1-2

  2. BalletNova is amazing!!!! Best dance school in the area.