The Portland Ballet finds silver lining, celebrates milestone year
Grace. Balance. Discipline.
The words seem antithetical to the last 18 months of a pandemic, but for The Portland Ballet, they are hallmarks.
The Hillsdale ballet studio kicked off its current season with a hybrid approach to auditions, rehearsals and assessments.
New dance students are still being accepted for the 2021-2022 curriculum year via video audition for those ages 8 to 22 who've had prior training. The Portland Ballet also offers pre-ballet and elementary level classes for kids ages 6 to 9 and creative ballet for tots ages 3 to 6.
Like most institutions, the organization had to adapt when faced with closures and social distancing restrictions that prevented traditional dance rehearsals and classes.
But the show must go on.
"Initially, we had to figure out logistics: optimal placements for video devices, recommended flooring, and where to buy barres," said Laura Grimes, who handles public relations and marketing for The Portland Ballet. "Teachers learned to communicate via video. Piano accompanists learned how to play live from home. It was certainly an adjustment, but once the new rhythm kicked in, classes just clicked along like usual."
There were perks to the online format. It allowed for dance instructors from Los Angeles, New York and St. Louis to join in. It also allowed dancers from outside of Portland to participate.
Grimes noted that after the ballet studio shut down last spring and had its first open class, enrollment peaked at 55 dancers- more than double the average enrollment of 20.
Since then, the studio has reopened for some in-person sessions, with adherence to evolving local and state health guidelines.
While some find joy and a hobby in the movement of ballet dance, others find their life's calling.
"It's like Olympic athletes. This is what they do. This is their focus and it's what they love doing," Grimes said, describing the dancers that pursuit what's called the "career track" program at The Portland Ballet. The program serves highly trained dancers who want to pursue ballet as a profession.
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