Children learn ballet and jazz in Dayton

Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Bethany Mullen, 6, left, watches other dancers while waiting in line to perform a move. Lucy Goodman, 4, also waits for her turn.

Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Bethany Mullen, 6, left, watches other dancers while waiting in line to perform a move. Lucy Goodman, 4, also waits for her turn.

Wearing shades of pink, white and black, young girls lined up along the dance bars and pointed their toes outward with heels together.

Position one.

The young ballerinas-for-an-hour, ages 4 through 6, are in one of 13 area classes taught by Carolyn Oliver, owner of Ballet Society of Nevada. Each Monday and Wednesday, she imparts a lifetime of ballet and jazz dance experience to her students at the Community Center in Dayton. The Central Lyon Parks and Recreation Department sponsors the program.

For the youngest, classes are simplified and mixed with tumbling and exercise. Two classes of older students follow. The most experienced class receives professional-level instruction.

"I do more jazz with the older kids," Oliver said from her home in Carson City before the classes. "I don't do a lot of jazz with the younger kids because it's too hard on their bodies. I do more tumbling with them.

"The jazz I teach is not hip-hop. No way," she said, calling the dance form "vulgar."

"To learn to dance well is tough. It's not an easy thing."

Her students will perform at Piper's Opera House in Virginia City on June 11. The younger students will dance to "Cinderella." Older students will perform a 1950s ballet to "Route 66." They are also working on an underwater story by L. Frank Baum called "The Sea Fairies."

Summer and fall classes do a version of "The Nutcracker" at Pipers.

Oliver studied ballet in Corvallis, Ore., under Robert Irwen with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

"It's really one of the first main (ballet) companies in the Unites States," Oliver said.

As a working dancer, she joined New York's Corps de Ballet, the ballet company for the Radio City Music Hall, then danced professionally with the Monte Carlo company.

An auto accident put an end to her dancing professionally.

Oliver has been teaching her skills to others for 40 years, mostly in northwestern Nevada. A number of her students have gone on to dance professionally.

On Wednesday, the girls in pink learned the basics of graceful movement.

"We're going to fly a little," Oliver said, directing the girls in undulating waves of their arms followed by broad arches toward the bars.

Outside the classroom, mothers waited and chatted, occasionally stealing a peek at the class.

"She's just like all little girls her age," said Desirae Flores, about her daughter Lilly, 6. "She just loves ballet."

Lilly's best friend, Bethany Kentopp, 6, was also in the class. The girls and their moms come in from Silver Springs for the class.

"They do everything together," said mom Jennifer Kentopp.

Nearby, Victoria White, mom to Sara, 6, chatted with Jennifer Goodman, mom to Lucy, 4, all of Dayton.

"It give moms a chance to meet each other and socialize," White said, adding that the classes teach the girls discipline and raise their self esteem.

"And, frankly, there's nothing else going on (for the children in Dayton). Sara, she wanted ballet over the Kindermusic (at the Children's Museum in Carson City). It's about the girlie-girl things. She loves the costumes."

"I think Lucy's learned a lot," Goodman said of the preschooler who is learning to work with a teacher as well as ballet.

Class completed, the little girls found their moms, and the next class of older elementary-aged girls slipped on their ballet shoes and stretched.

Lucy's mom replaced her slippers with street shoes. When asked what she likes about ballet, Lucy whispered, "First position," demonstrating with her toes pointed outward.

n Contact reporter Sally Taylor at or 881-1210.


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