Ballet in Tacoma?

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

When it comes to Tacoma’s reputation and history, one of the words that probably doesn’t come to mind – especially for our neighbors north of us – is ballet.

But it should. Ballet is an activity, a tradition even, in a city better known for timber, hard work and a working port.

Beneath the well-known grit, off to the side, is a graceful counter-companion to the dust, sweat and brick that we usually associate with Tacoma’s harsher roots and branches.

Founded in 1955 by Jan Collum, Tacoma City Ballet School provides one-of-a-kind comprehensive classical ballet instruction, offering a complete course of study in the technique of classical ballet and professional on-stage performance. (Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet was established in 1972.) You can see a summary of the history and legacy of Tacoma City Ballet here.

Tacoma City Ballet School provides world class, personalized classical ballet training for those of all ages who dream of a professional career or who simply love to dance and express themselves physically. Along with the old-school traditional classical ballet instruction, live piano accompaniment is featured in all ballet classes.

As the Tacoma City Ballet website puts it:

A complete professional curriculum comprising the Techniques of the Danish, English, French, Italian, and Russian Schools of Classical Ballet is taught with emphasis placed on the development of body strength, flexibility, and correct alignment of the body or aplomb.

Does that sound like the Tacoma most of us know and (might not) love?

But wait, there’s more

As you might guess, there’s more to ballet than prancing around on a hardwood floor.

Classical ballet, above all, is a performing art. That means that Tacoma City Ballet School offers instruction in performance technique and etiquette along with the opportunity to perform in a professional theater accompanied by a live professional orchestra. And yes, that includes kids.

Beginning at age 8, the opportunity to audition for specific children’s roles in Tacoma City Ballet’s seasonal productions is offered. And yes, that means on stage at venues as venerable as The Pantages in Tacoma. And many others.

Live performances

In an era of screens, large or small – and their constant presence – there is literally nothing like a live performance.

Seeing young people perform – and, even better, seeing a child you know develop the discipline and composure to perform on a public stage is a rare gift.

Tacoma City Ballet holds several events throughout the year. From Pinocchio to The Nutcracker to a must-see Halloween extravaganza, some of Tacoma’s most agile and determined young people can be seen in action. Video clips from past performances can be seen here. Upcoming performances can be seen here.

Who is welcome?

In short, anyone who loves to move is welcome. From four-year olds to adults, all ages and backgrounds are welcome.

As you might guess, ballet can be intense. And in more ways than one, not for everyone.

As to budget, scholarships are available – especially for those from active duty military families and dancers of color.

The schedule, to put it mildly, can be demanding – if not intimidating. The results can be astounding.

To see if it fits for you and the children in your life, every summer, Tacoma City Ballet offers the Annual Free Ballet Summer Immersion Week.

During this week, all classes are free to all dancers (for ages 11-18) throughout the Puget Sound Region. You can see details here.

In short, Tacoma City Ballet is step into a different era, culture and way of moving and expressing one’s self.

To see young people move with grace, control and discipline just might be a revelation.