South students pursue discipline of ballet dancing

Zoe Delis, asst. a&e editor

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Lacing up her worn-in pointe shoes, senior Jennifer Listerman prepares for her highly-anticipated winter performance of the Nutcracker. Dancenter North has become a second home for Listerman, as she is there at least 20 hours every week. For many ballerinas, it takes many long hours and hard work to achieve the technique the dancers desire so much.

Having 14 years of experience in ballet, Listerman explained there are many reasons why she trains so hard for it. Ballet has the ability to communicate stories and display her emotions within the movements without even saying a word, according to Listerman.

“I love expressing myself [through dance] because I often find that words can never really do feelings justice, but dance always seems to,” Listerman said.

Similar to Listerman, sophomore Sam Gregerman has been taking ballet classes since she was 3 years old. Although she does many different types of dance, what strikes her about ballet is how it makes her feel and the athleticism it involves, explained Gregerman. Every type of dance requires a lot of strength and tests her abilities to work hard, she said. Gregerman emphasized how she feels about the common misconception that dance is not considered a ‘sport’ necessarily, but she strongly disagrees with the opinion.

“People don’t really associate ballet as being a sport, but ballet is actually so physically challenging, just as much as sports,” Gregerman said.

Listerman said she loves using other styles and incorporating them into ballet because of the different emotions you can invoke in each of them. According to Listerman, she goes to class five times a week for four hours at a time because she knows how well her performances can illustrate a story if she puts in the work.

“I love the stories you get to tell with ballet and that you can communicate them to people without even saying a word; it is all through movement,” Listerman said.

Gregerman said she dances competitively 20 hours a week, which is a big commitment. Although Gregerman takes multiple ballet and pointe classes a week, she said it’s all worth it when she performs with her group.

“With my competition group last year, we practiced so much and spent a lot of time together,” Gregerman said. “We became such a close, tight-knit group of people.”

Sophomore Sophia Kendall expressed the importance of ballet and how it differs from other forms of dance. According to Kendall, ballet helps with the technique and athleticism needed for all dance styles. Being on the poms team, the strength and flexibility training that go along with ballet assist her in putting forth the best of her dancing abilities on the school dance team, Kendall explained.   

“Ballet is a great way to improve technique, and it is the base for every type of dance, so it helps me with poms and other styles of dance,”  Kendall said.

Ballet dancing is a very emotional experience, according to Kendall, and you are able to express things you are going through in the movement. The best way to do this, however, is with a solid teacher, Kendall said.

“One of my teachers, Ms. Beth, always talked to us before class about what was going on in our lives and she would help us use our stories to express how we felt through dance,” Kendall said.

For Gregerman, ballet has taught her a lot about her capabilities and hard work. Constantly working on improving every move allows Gregerman to learn the basics of discipline and improve her skills in ballet. According to Gregerman, the discipline is one of her favorite things about ballet because it makes her put more effort into her dancing.

“There is so much discipline to ballet, each movement has to be perfect, but I think that is why I like it so much because once you get it down, everything looks so beautiful,” Gregerman said.

The most extreme part of ballet is being en pointe, a dance technique in which all body weight is balanced on the tip of the toes, according to Gregerman. Pointe dancers are prone to many injuries relating to the ankles and feet, so ballerinas take a lot of time to stretch out, according to Listerman.

“It helps to do a lot of foot and ankle stretches, to avoid any injuries,” Listerman said. “I do a lot of stretching in general, especially when I am en pointe.”

At her studio, Listerman is preparing for her upcoming performances of the Nutcracker at The Genessee Theatre in Waukegan and Libertyville High School. She explained how intense the casting and preparation process is, learning choreography for four hours a week for two weeks. Listerman emphasized that auditioning for the role of the Columbine doll, one of the three major dolls in the show, will become her new favorite memory relating to dancing.

“For our annual winter showing of the Nutcracker, I was selected for the role of the Columbine doll, which is a very big honor and I am looking forward to dancing the character,” Listerman said.

Looking towards her future, Listerman was faced with the decision of  what she wanted to pursue when applying for colleges, she said. Listerman always knew she wanted to be on Broadway, but now she has to figure out how to get there. She explained that she would like to pursue dance in college and work her way up from there.

“My dream is to pursue ballet first and then hopefully go to Broadway, which is actually a very common career path for many ballerinas,” Listerman said.

When asked about the possible formation of a new ballet group at South, Listerman did not have a strong opinion about whether it will be created or not. She said that she does so much dancing outside of school, that she wouldn’t even have time to be involved in the group. However, she thinks it would be nice for people who want to learn ballet and improve their skills.

“I think that the idea would be a really great opportunity for people who want to dance ballet, but cannot afford taking ballet classes at a real studio,” Listerman said. “Students would be able to learn ballet without the commute and money [that] dance studios require.”

According to Kendall, she wants to pursue dance in the future and be on a dance team, preferably one involved in school. She said she wishes that students at South would recognize ballet for the art it is, and she feels the fact that it is not a sport at the school prevents them from doing this.

“I love being on stage performing, that is me in my element,” Kendall said. “Once I get on stage, it is the perfect place for me where I can truly be myself.”