Every July two very dynamic and distinct dance programs take off at Ballet Tennessee. The first is a three-week national-level ballet intensive called BTSI. Students audition in the spring for entrance into the program that brings staff from both regional and national dance companies. Each day they attend classes in conditioning, ballet technique, pointe technique/variations, jazz/musical theater, and choreography. The mental, physical, and artistic stamina these young dancers gain is an asset in their continued development in dance, as well as being applicable in careers that may not be in the performing arts.
Ballet Tennessee faculty Errin Cusack, Hannah Locke, Jenison Owens, and Lindsay Pierce are the core staff supporting the guest artists. The guest instructors this year are Brian Gephart and Jere Hunt. Mr. Gephart just completed his third season dancing with Atlantic Ballet Theater of Canada. He completed his dance training with the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem, NC. Mr. Gephart brings strong classical ballet technique and riveting ballet choreography to the intensive. This is his second year as a master instructor for BTSI.
Jere Hunt completed his training with a BFA from Marymount Manhattan College under the direction of Katie Langan. In 2010 Mr. Hunt joined Rioult Dance New York. He brings a wonderful foundational Graham modern technique class to the ballet intensive. Mr. Hunt’s modern choreography is intricate and dynamic incorporating movement phrases created by the dancers.
In addition to Mr. Hunt’s master instruction for the Ballet Tennessee Summer Intensive, he is also the lead teacher for Ballet Tennessee’s Dance Alive program. Ballet Tennessee faculty Brittany Johnson-Mills, Hannah Locke, and Jenison Owens are the core teaching staff. BTSI dancers, Emma Caines and Nia Sanders, are assistants to the teaching staff for Dance Alive.
Dance Alive is a two-week introductory dance program. This year marks the 18th year of the partnership between Ballet Tennessee and the Department of Youth and Family Development. Students from recreation centers are transported to Ballet Tennessee located at John A. Patten Recreation Center in Lookout Valley. Students are greeted at the door each morning where they begin two hours of dance instruction and choreography. The children help to create movement patterns that the instructors then incorporate into the choreography. Selected by an audition process, the students are all on full scholarship for the two-week program. Both Brittany Johnson-Mills and Jenison Owens were Dance Alive, and later, Talent Identification Program scholars through their high school years. Their study through all the Ballet Tennessee programs makes them vital assets in Dance Alive. .
Both of these inspiring summer programs culminate in a FREE public performance Friday, July 25, at 6 p.m. The performance is at the UTC Fine Arts Center on the corners of Palmetto and Vine Streets.