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Volume 26, Number 10 — October 2018

Dance: Highlands Center for Ballet Arts

Abigail Daniels (arabesque)
Abigail Daniels (arabesque)
Additional photos below »

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

Highlands Center for Ballet Arts
Abingdon, Va. • 276-623-0822

Abigail Daniels, 14, will be a freshman at Holston High School where she will play oboe in the band. She belongs to a family whose members are involved in music and art and have a background in dance. Abigail takes ballet for her own enjoyment: "I plan to dance as long as I still enjoy it, which could be a while." When she's dancing, she says, "I feel, of course, happiness; a sense of empowerment; and nothing short of the feeling that I have accomplished something wonderful."

She recalls, "When I was a little girl I played on recreational soccer and basketball teams, just like my older brother did. When I first experienced ballet, I found it to be intriguing and different than anything I had done or was used to. Later, I found it a place to express myself. Obviously, the other activities that I tried couldn't compete with the feeling ballet gave me. There are always going to be plenty of football games, school dances, and pool parties that I can go to when it's convenient — at least that's what my Mom says! Ballet is my team, just like football, softball, or basketball; I can't let them down. And when you have other teams, you just have to try to make it all work while trying to please everyone." Abigail also enjoys English classes at school and creative writing assignments. She has been studying piano for nearly four years.

Anna Gent is 12 years old and attends St. Anne's School in Bristol, Va. She and her older sister, Bailey, dance with Highlands Ballet. Anna likes ballet because "it keeps me in shape, helps take my mind off of things, and I enjoy experiencing different feelings in my body, whether the movement is fast or slow." She also enjoys art classes at school.

Shandi Honaker, age 17, is a rising senior at Abingdon High School. She has been a student at Highlands Ballet Center for a dozen years. Shandi says, "I'm lucky to be a part of a very musical family. My grandmother and her daughter, my aunt, both danced when they were young. I have been fortunate to be exposed to a variety of basic dance styles. I've had ballet, jazz, hip-hop, modern, character, and contemporary classes. Every teacher is a new experience because each one puts their own spin on things and contributes new ideas."

Shandi also enjoys all types of artistic creations: music, literature, operas and plays, clothing, paintings, sculptures, photography, choreography, etc. She enjoys ballet because "it has sustained my joyful spirit throughout the tricky adolescent years. Regardless of the type of day I might have, I know that I have somewhere to go that evening where I can drop my troubles at the door, and I'm free. I'll be honest; I won't say that dancing is a 'walk in the park' for anyone. It's mighty frustrating when your body refuses your demands, but that's exactly what I love about dancing. Sure, it will get easier as you gain experience and training, but it will never get easy. Ballet is a perfect art with imperfect artists. There are always a couple hundred hurdles ahead, and I never have a chance to get bored. I choose ballet over other activities nearly every day of my life. Maybe sometimes I skip out on things that would be worth my time, but I'm confident that ballet is pointing me in a better direction than activities most kids my age may participate in. I choose ballet because, in my opinion, it is the best foundation of technique on which a dancer can build techniques of other styles of dance. Ballet teaches ultimate control of one's body and mind; it's all about discipline. When dancers acquire control, they can pick up any given dance style much faster and easier."

She notes, "I'm not sure what the future may hold for me. I'd love to dance as long as I live, or at least as long as possible. Dance is a very difficult field to 'get your foot in the door' and keep it there, so I will never know until I try, I suppose! I am confident, however, that the skills ballet has given me will help me to excel in any direction I may go."

Jordan Rolfe is 15 and attends Lebanon High School. She doesn't plan to dance professionally but wants to continue classes in college. Her mother originally put her in ballet classes "so I would learn to be more graceful. Then I really loved it and stuck with it." She loved it so much, she chose ballet over band last year. Jordan enjoys attending concerts and sings in choir at school. She also likes to write and draw.

Susan Rogers, 23, began taking classes at Bristol Ballet "to be like my big sister" who took ballet, tap and gymnastics. Susan later trained with Highlands Ballet in Abingdon and continues to be a part of Highlands Ballet productions whenever possible, whether it is backstage or teaching. A graduate of Bristol Tennessee High School, Susan recently earned a bachelor's degree in dance from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and is moving to Greenville, S.C. where she hopes to continue dancing. Besides ballet, she has taken several types of dance classes: contemporary, Graham technique, Limon technique, jazz, vintage jazz, capoeira (Brazilian) and musical theatre. "It's important to be well-rounded as a dancer," she says. "I chose ballet because it is a great beginning and the foundation of many techniques. If you have a good foundation, you can explore more in your art. My love for dancing and the technique I have learned can never be taken away from me; it will always be a part of me. It has always given me solace and helps me stay healthy. I feel at peace and all my problems seem to melt away when I place my hand on the barre." When Susan was younger, she was involved in other activities such as piano lessons, horseback riding, and her church youth group. As she got older, the time demands for each activity and school became greater, so she says, "I had to choose. Dancing won out because I was most passionate about it. While in college, I chose dance over other activities because it was part of my grades and degree work." Whenever possible, though, she enjoys theater, visual arts, music, photography, and literature.

Annika Sikora is 14 years old and will be attending Abingdon High School this fall. Annika's sister danced for eight years, and their mother danced for four years. In addition to ballet, Annika has been taught jazz, hip hop, lyrical, tap, and pointe. She says, "Ballet is like a staple for everything else: once you understand the movements, most other types of dance make more sense. I like ballet because it helps me focus on something other than what happened earlier in the day. It also is fairly labor intensive, which helps me stay in shape. When I was younger, I didn't have to spend as much time at dance, so I was able to do other activities as well. But, as I got older, I began spending more and more time in the dance studio. I feel more at home there than anywhere else, so I often choose dance over other things, mostly school sports." She enjoys watching dance performances, plays guitar, enters photography competitions, and has participated in several plays.

Topics: Dance, Family

Sisters Anna and Bailey Gent both dance with Highlands Ballet.

Shandi Honaker enjoys ballet because "it has sustained my joyful spirit throughout the tricky adolescent years."

Jordan Rolfe doesn't plan to dance professionally but wants to continue ballet classes in college.

Madison Little

Annie Wright