The Lawrence University Ballet Club is one of the newest clubs that has formed in the 2016-17 academic year. The club, founded by junior Amanda Leonard, is meant to be an inclusive club that has open-doors to all people, with no restrictions on experience, gender or body type.
“Ballet is typically seen as elite and inaccessible, but one of our goals as a club is to make sure it’s not like that here,” freshman Meryl Carson explained. “We welcome people of all genders, body types and experiences. If you want to dance with us, just show up to one of our classes with clothing you can comfortably move around in.”
One of the major goals for the club is to work towards expelling the stigma that surrounds the classical form of dance. One of the largest criticisms of modern ballet is the emphasis on having the ‘ideal body type.’ One quick search of ‘ballet body’ can show plenty of results for workouts, stretches and drills to get the coveted look.
Carson said that with accessibility and inclusivity being the basis for the club, they hope to create an environment where students can feel comfortable going to classes and learning the technique for ballet without the expectation of perfection that is present in dance studios and dance companies.
Carson explained, “When I danced at a studio, I often got self-conscious because I’m not naturally flexible and I was both taller and thicker than most of my classmates. Here at Lawrence, I can continue to pursue my love of dance without worrying about things like that.”
This supportive environment is paramount to Leonard, who started the group with the purpose of having fun and accessible ballet. Leonard expressed that her favorite part of teaching ballet to new and returning dancers is “when a group of students finally ‘get it.’” Though ballet is challenging, Leonard believes it is important that every student knows the teachers— who are all Lawrence students themselves —truly want each dancer to succeed in any and every aspect of ballet. “It shows me that the dancers are learning,” Leonard explained, “and I am doing what I am supposed to be doing as a teacher.”
Leonard also choreographs for the club and goes against the grain of traditionally choreographed dances. “I love actively exploring the music,” she said. “When I choreograph pieces, I tend to coordinate movements with certain sounds rather than counts.”
Though there are other dance groups on campus, dance is not an often-emphasized part of the campus community. There are classes offered by the one dance professor on campus that are less centered on classical dance technique and more on abstract concepts. Lawrence Ballet Club is a way for students who are used to detail-oriented work, such as classically trained instrument players or science students, to apply that skill in a new and creative way.
The relaxed nature of the classes and new ways of choreographing fits well with the broader campus community, reframing the highly regimented dance form into a club that fits the average Lawrence student’s lifestyle.
Carson and Leonard reported that the club is still getting started and is not yet big enough for its own performance. However, the Ballet Club will be performing to music by George Gershwin alongside the Melee dance group in the spring dance show on May 20-21 in Stansbury Theater. Anyone interested in seeing what the LU Ballet Club is all about, beginner classes are offered on Saturdays in the Multi-Purpose Room of the Wellness Center from 5-6 p.m.