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Michelle Raider, the founding Artistic Director of the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble and River City School of Dance, believes absolutely in the benefit to every child of a study of ballet technique.

Even though space and time are at a premium at the River City School of Dance, she is determined to make sound ballet training available to every interested student, not just those studying ballet at a pre-professional level.

Accordingly, there will be a class offered this coming year to those whose primary interest is show choir, gymnastics, musical theater, figure skating or cheerleading.

“By building a sound ballet technique, they will perform at a much better level in those other activities,” Raider said. “Ballet class will lead to a better understanding of anatomy, increased flexibility, grace and musicality. It will improve their sense of body alignment, balance, poise and polish.”

Through the River City School of Dance, many classes are offered, including: Contemporary, Hip Hop, Jazz, Tap and Broadway. Dancers who wish to take these classes are not required to take ballet, but for those wanting to excel in any dance genre, it is recommended.

“I believe that ballet gives the dancer the basic body movements needed for jazz, contemporary, hip hop and all genres of dance. Ballet helps you to find your center of balance, to gain strength and agility and to move gracefully. These things are what choreographers look for in technical dance ability. I believe that if you don’t possess the basic technical training that comes from ballet and your competition does, you may not get the dance job,” said Kristen Pennington-Hackman, who specializes in teaching hip hop and contemporary dance at the River City School of Dance at 4110 MacCorkle Ave. in Kanawha City.

According to Charleston Light Opera Guild Artistic Director Nina Pasinetti, “All theater and musical theater actors benefit from a dance background, especially ballet. It not only gives actors the tools they need for learning stage and musical theater movement, but, more importantly, teaches them discipline, focus and stage presence. Ballet, above all other dance, is essential for classic and contemporary musical theater dance.

“Dancing is a language that is felt instead of heard,” Pasinetti said, quoting from “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.”

This year, in addition to its ballet technique for contemporary dance, the school will offer an advanced Broadway jazz and musical theater class that will incorporate technical elements of dance, staging, singing and acting, and will help foster aspiring actors and actresses in pursuit of the stage.

“For those who do, however, want traditional ballet, River City School of Dance offers some of the best training available in West Virginia. Our highly trained staff can nurture the talent of these students, turning them into beautiful dancers, while also instilling values of hard work, discipline and time management that will serve them well for the rest of their lives,” Raider said.

“Those who opt for our pre-professional program can start at 7 years old and are able to participate alongside our company members in two performances a year in addition to the year-end recital. Our collaboration with other area youth groups lets them perform with a live orchestra and chorus.

“This year’s performances will be a fascinating look at the history of Broadway dance in the fall and ‘Peter Pan’ in the spring, presented with the West Virginia Youth Symphony and Appalachian Children’s Chorus. Our children’s programs start for children as young as 2½ years old, where boys and girls can learn early on that dance is fun,” Raider said.

The dance school will hold open registrations and houses on the following dates: Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., and Saturday, Aug. 11, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Classes in Charleston start on Monday, Aug. 13. Clendenin classes will begin in October.

Call 304-925-3262, email or message on Facebook at River City Youth Ballet Ensemble.

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