In March of 2013 Rafik Hegab and his wife, Elisabeth Muscat Hegab, took over the Gainesville Ballet School and set about transforming it from a traditional ballet academy into an innovative adventurous residence for an internationally fueled school and performing company. Since then the organization has grown rapidly: the school moved into a new 4,700 square foot facility, expanded the dance curriculum and faculty, and added a music program and special needs dance classes. A professional company was formed, and the company’s performances were moved to the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. A resident company was formed; well-known dancers from Brazil and Japan were invited to join.
"Students of all ages and abilities are welcome.” says Ms. Hegab. “We have a great pre-ballet program for young children, an outstanding pre-professional program for aspiring professionals, adult classes, as well as casual dance classes.” The curriculum includes ballet, pointe, pas de deux, variations, character, modern, jazz, jazz/tap, hip hop, Mom and Me, adult classes, special needs dance, as well as private lessons in voice and piano.
Ballet Academy of Warrenton has been schooling area dancers for fifteen years, and Director Linda Voelpel has strong opinions about what constitutes good training. Although the school offers classes in modern dance, Broadway-style jazz, tap, acrobatics, and flamenco in addition to ballet, the emphasis is on a strong foundation in classical technique. “Classical ballet provides the foundation for all other dance forms,” said Voelpel. “Dancers can transfer their skills into jazz, modern, or whatever else. Accomplishing that solid ballet foundation is crucial to becoming an outstanding dancer in any form.”
The school places an unusual emphasis on acrobatic skill. Voelpel emphasizes that it is different from gymnastics. .”Acrobatics emphasizes flexibility and control and uses equipment different from gymnastics. Those who choose to go on to professional dance careers will likely find themselves in auditions where basic acrobatic skills are expected; and more advanced skills give the dancer an advantage over someone who cannot do a front handspring,” said Voelpel.
Currently the school has about 125 students. Voelpel is rigorous about the importance of keeping her dancers healthy. “Education about good eating habits and nutritional needs for dancers begins in our Introduction to Ballet classes at age five and is interwoven into all classes from that point. Any student showing signs of bulimia and/or anorexia would be referred to a professional qualified to handle the situation.”
The Lasley Centre opened its doors at Vint Hill in June 2011, with the goal of providing excellence in dance training for students in Fauquier, Prince William, and the surrounding counties of Northern Virginia. Since then, the school has grown to over five times its original size, and has moved into a custom-designed state-of-the-art facility. Its dancers have been selected for prestigious summer intensives with major ballet companies such as ABT and Boston Ballet, and have participated in performances with the Joffrey Ballet and NYCB at the Kennedy Center.