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Friday Close-Up: Brooklyn Ballet

Lynn Parkerson is the force of nature behind the Brooklyn Ballet the newest cultural hotspot for families. In addition to performing contemporary ballets by a world-class company, the Brooklyn Ballet School is a classical ballet conservatory and a community dance center. Starting at age 2, your kids can jump in and develop a love of dance and get their bodies moving.
Located in Downtown Brooklyn, our new state-of-the-art facility includes a beautiful column-free dance studio and a 100-seat black box theater for recitals and performances.

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How did the Brooklyn Ballet come about?I founded the company in February 2002 – it was the first of its kind in Brooklyn in more than 40 years. I aim to maintain a repertory that brings a contemporary vision to the treasured art form of ballet and reach diverse audiences through public performance and community programming. The company was met with much enthusiasm from the community which prompted the inauguration of the school in 2003.

The company presents an annual performance season in Brooklyn and serves the community through educational outreach projects—specifically, Take Ballet to the Streets, an outdoor performance series, Elevate and Brooklyn Ballet in the Houses, in-school dance residencies. In addition to these programs, the professional dance school offers classes including various levels of ballet (from pre-ballet to advanced/professional), hip-hop/popping, modern, Horton technique, Broadway Jazz and more.

Tell us about your new home...what makes it special?When I founded the company in 2002, rehearsals were held ad hoc in various studios in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Even with the inauguration of the school, there was still little space to house the company’s blossoming programming. Now that Brooklyn Ballet has a permanent home, we can act as an enduring source of dance for the community at large.

The ribbon-cutting for Brooklyn Ballet’s studio at The Schermerhorn was June 16, 2009. The ceremony celebrated the large, column-free studio space, made possible after Brooklyn Ballet forged a partnership with Common Ground, an affordable housing group that aims to fill 160 Schermerhorn with small studios for artists and the homeless. The Schermerhorn also features a flexible performance space which can be used to host informal and formal events and concerts. Brooklyn Ballet will utilize this space for our children’s recitals, adult class demonstrations and International Summer Intensive, among other more casual events.

The studio at The Schermerhorn has come a long way since the ribbon-cutting ceremony in June. Now the space is fully equipped with marley flooring, 10 foot tall rolling mirrors, a state of the art stereo system and bright orange mats that can be used to divide and rearrange the space.

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Dance classes are visible from the outside thanks to gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows and it’s apparent that passersby are pleasantly surprised and delighted to get a peek at the training and rehearsals that happen daily. The space is also adaptable and has recently been used to host informal performances and Mixed Movement sessions which encourage artistic collaboration and improvisational work by artists working with a variety of mediums including sound, dance and poetry.

At what age can our kids get involved?Our children’s classes start at age 2-3 with Move With Me and ages 3-5 with Pre-Ballet and Movement Arts. These classes emphasize the joy found in movement while familiarizing students with some of the elementary aspects of ballet technique and performance.

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Any tips for getting boys involved in ballet? Our community programming has found success in reaching boys, but as our Administrative Director Camille Abenanty says, “The only way to reply to this question is to listen to your child. My son asked me at age five if he could dance... It isn't about what you want you child to do but what they are interested in. Go with it. Encourage them not to listen to others but to do what their hearts tell them, and as a parent, help them deal with it.”

Best bet first ballet to take kids? The annual trip to The Nutcracker is always a treat for kids. A full-length ballet with fantastical characters, elaborate scenery, beloved music and stunning choreography – it has it all! Introducing children to the story that accompanies the ballet is a great way to show them how movement can tell a tale. Really though, taking your kids to any kind of community-oriented programming is a great way to introduce them to dance. Some of Brooklyn Ballet’s company choreography incorporates street styles like hip-hop and pop and lock with contemporary ballet – seeing these different types of movement merge onstage is intriguing and inspiring.

Favorite thing about your neighborhood? Brooklyn Ballet loves being present within the community. Our new home at The Schermerhorn allows our work in the studio to be more visible to those in our neighborhood. We hope the performance space in our building will help bring our neighbors together as well. (And we must admit, we love being next door to Brooklyn Fare. Soup, muffins, produce? Delicious!)

Best place for a winter playdate in Brooklyn? Our studio is a great place for a playdate! Brooklyn Ballet has drop-in class rates for students of all levels, from beginning to advanced/professional. Move with Me classes for kids age 2-3 are Thursdays at 10:30am and Saturdays at 9am. Pre-Ballet classes for kids age 3-4 are a great opportunity for learning the fundamentals of ballet in a relaxed and fun-loving environment. Pre-Ballet is on Mondays at 3:30pm, Saturdays at 10am and 11am and Sundays at 10am. (Call 718.246.0146 to ask about availability and prices.)

Best spot to shop for Ballet shoes and dance clothing? We often tell our students they can find their ballet shoes at Payless ShoeSource and other apparel at the local Target, but there are several smaller dance boutiques in the area, including LaRosa Dancewear and Hosiery (272 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215, 718-499-6721?).

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Brooklyn Ballet

160 Schermerhorn

Brooklyn, NY 11201

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