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Volume 26, Number 10 — October 2018

Dance: Bristol Ballet

By Angela Wampler | A! Magazine for the Arts | July 26, 2011

Bristol Ballet
Bristol, Va. • 276-669-6051

Maria Long, a 16-year-old rising junior at Sullivan Central High School, is a member of the Senior Company at Bristol Ballet. Maria's two older sisters took ballet for many years; now she's following in their footsteps. Maria says, "Ballet has the gracefulness, precision, and quality that no other type dance can quite achieve. I enjoy most every aspect of it. Ballet is unique in its expression and the amount of athleticism it takes, so although it is demanding and a huge time commitment, the skills you learn are irreplaceable. Although performing is exhausting and I get very nervous, it's definitely worth it to be able to show the audience how much we love what we do. Despite the hours of sweating and enduring pain, the long drives to and from the studio, and various expenses, ballet is a chance for me — and the audience — to get away from whatever difficulties may be going on in our lives. Throughout rehearsals and even in class, we all try to keep that 'performance mode' in mind."

This summer Maria is attending Governor's School for the Arts at Middle Tennessee State University, specifically for music, but she says, "I am counting on taking some ballet classes there as well. And, of course, Bristol Ballet has a summer intensive of its own....I wouldn't say that my future plans past high school include ballet primarily, but I do know that taking ballet has changed my life, and I will find a way to incorporate it somehow, whether it be attending ballet performances or enrolling daughters of my own in it someday."

Maria adds, "I have had a hard time choosing what activities to be dedicated to, but ballet is always one of the top priorities for me. I personally have had to choose ballet over other activities, but I have also found ways to keep up my other passions, too. My friends and I have a fairly wide range of interests. With dance, band, track, soccer, horseback riding, cycling, hiking — even school subjects such as math and science — I have many groups that I hang out with and talk to. I really love any type of art form. I enjoy going to operas in Nashville and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Visual art is also something that I'm rather fond of, especially our school program. I attend many concerts due to the fact that our family is full of musicians, and I myself play French horn in the Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra."

Michelle Peterson is a 17-year-old rising senior at Sullivan East High School and a Senior Company member of Bristol Ballet. "Ballet has been my main source of dance instruction," she says. "When I was little, I took a variety of other forms like tap and jazz. I chose ballet because it teaches so many fundamentals that one can grow up with and so many life lessons to live by. I enjoy other arts, but I have always enjoyed ballet more than anything else. [For example] I want to see my friends on a Friday night and go to football games, but because of the commitment that I made to ballet, my choice is to dance. This sometimes can be very aggravating, but ballet is something that I love to do." Michelle does not plan to be a professional ballerina, but will continue dancing to stay in shape.

Jessa Williams, 17, is a home-schooled senior and a member of Bristol Ballet's Senior Company. Her sister also danced with Bristol Ballet. "She had fun and enjoyed it, but it ended up not being her thing," Jessa admits. "Ballet is definitely my favorite activity, and I've never wanted to quit. I have had to choose ballet over activities in the past, like horseback riding and soccer, but I definitely think I made the right decision. I've had a couple of contemporary/modern classes here and there, but I've had mostly ballet instruction since I was three years old. Ballet is such a great choice! It's a lot of fun, a very good workout and helps make you stronger. You form close relationships with your teachers and fellow dancers, and it also teaches you dedication, responsibility, and maturity. I honestly enjoy everything about it. I love how the studio is a great place where you can get away from everything else in your day, and it's a place where you can relax and focus on yourself. It teaches you more about yourself, and makes you a better person. I'd love to continue taking ballet in college, and possibly minor in it. I've also thought about teaching ballet when I get older, so I might try and pursue that." Jessa is also a pianist. She says, "I love music, concerts, shows — and festivals are tons of fun!"

Highlands Center for Ballet Arts

Topics: Dance, Family

Michelle Peterson

Jessa Williams