Category Archives: Dance & Fitness

Learn about dance and fitness classes at Ballet Austin through the Butler Center for Dance and Fitness

Come Cool Down at “Center Stage”

If you’re reading this, you’ve managed to survived the 100+ degree temperatures July has hit us with every single day this month.  Congratulations!

Because we know just how hard it is to enjoy just about anything in this oven-like heat, Ballet Austin and Austin Film Festival are teaming up one last time this Sunday to bring you the final film in our Dance Film Series, “Center Stage”.  Cinephiles and dancers alike won’t want to miss this event!  Your $10 admission to the film not only guarantees you a seat in our perfectly air-conditioned AustinVentures StudioTheater, but it also gets you a spot on the dance floor in our Ballet class, taught by Ballet Austin Company member Chris Swaim.  What could be better than a movie AND a chance to get some exercise away from the glaring rays of the Texas sun?  Scroll down for more information on “Center Stage”, the Ballet class, Sunday’s instructor Chris Swaim and an article about the event published in the Austin Post.

Center Stage (2000)
For most of her young adult life, Jody Sawyer has dreamed of becoming one of American Ballet Company’s “perfect little ballerinas” and now she is going to get her shot. The only problem is many others share that same dream and she find herself competing with them all. Center Stage allowed audiences to enter the world of Ballet and understand the rigors and stress that these young adults must endure to be successful while at the same time managing the burden and complications of coming into their own.

Our Ballet class introduces basic ballet vocabulary and steps. If you have always wanted to learn ballet, or if you took ballet as a child years ago, this is a great class. Classes are set to live accompaniment. Much of the class includes barre work with an introduction to dancing center floor.

Christopher Swaim, BCS Instructor and Company member,
is originally from Bryant, AR, where he began his training with Kirt and Linda Hathaway at the Academy of Ballet Arkansas. After graduating with distinction from the University of Oklahoma with a B.F.A. in Ballet Pedagogy, he joined Ballet Austin II in 2004 before joining Ballet Austin in 2006. Mr. Swaim has danced principal roles in The Sleeping BeautyCoppeliaThe Nutcracker, and Valse Fantasie, and has been featured in works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Stephen Mills, Thaddeus Davis, Amy Seiwert, James Clouser, Sidra Bell, Miguel Terekhov, Septime Webre, Nelly Van Bommel, Gina Patterson, Nicolo Fonte, and Ben Stevenson. He has also performed at the 2010 San Francisco International Arts Festival as a guest with Amy Seiwert’s company im’ij-re and with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center in 2008. Mr. Swaim teaches in the Butler Community School and across Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

For more info, please view our Ballet Austin Dance Film Series page.

To purchase tickets, please go here.


Hula Your Heart Out at Ballet Austin

Is it just me, or is the whole world vacationing in Hawaii this summer? Maybe it’s because the islands have been in the news as the Obama family’s favorite destination or the travel deals are too good to resist, but everyone seems to be getting the aloha fever. So what about the rest of us who long for the island breezes but don’t have a trip to the Big Island scheduled?  Don’t fret: Ballet Austin has you covered.

Did you know that we offer Hula drop-in classes and Hula courses led by experienced dancers?  Oahu native and Community Education Director Pei-San Brown holds the rank of Kumu Hula (Hula Master) and was honored to compete in the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, the world’s most prestigious hula competition. Honolulu native and Ballet Austin Hula Instructor Vivian Kaw also competed in the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival and has studied the art form for a greater part of her life.

Pei-San and Vivian are leading several upcoming opportunities for hula enthusiasts at Ballet Austin:

  • Come Dance! 2011 (Sunday, August 28) – This FREE day of dance at Ballet Austin is the perfect opportunity to try hula on for size, with two hula classes scheduled during the day. For more information, visit our Come Dance! 2011 page.
  • Beginning Hula – This popular Monday evening course is currently filled to capacity so if you’d like to take the plunge, sign up now for the fall course beginning in September. Call the Butler Community School at 512.476.9051.
  • Continuing Hula – There are currently spots available in this course taught by Vivian on Wednesday evenings at 7 pm. Participants should have previous hula experience under their belts for this next level. Visit the Butler Community School page for more details.
  • Intermediate Hula (Teen/Adults) – This Tuesday evening class at 7 pm is also for those who have hula experience. It’s a drop-in class, so visit the class registration page.

Let’s make it a date: stop by, say aloha, and join me for some hula, Austin!


National Dance Day 2011

Are you a So You Think You Can Dance fan? If so, you’re probably aware by now that the second annual National Dance Day is rapidly approaching. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, mark your calendars because on July 30th, people around the country will strap on their dancing shoes and learn choreography created by three celebrity choreographers – Mary Murphy, Robin Antin and the duo behind NappyTabs.

Ballet Austin is incredibly excited to be the local venue and host for National Dance Day. On that Saturday, we will still be offering all of our regularly scheduled classes but will ALSO offer three event-specific classes (broken down by skill level), where your favorite BA instructors teach the choreography created for this national celebration. All ages and skill levels are welcome, and a $5 minimum (per class) tax-deductible donation is all that’s asked for admission for all classes. You don’t even need to worry about your class card. Just check out the schedule for that day, show up at the BCS, give your donation and start dancing!

Ballet Austin’s Featured “National Dance Day” Classes:

Beginner | 10 – 10:45am
Ballet Austin Instructor: Tina-Michelle Pittsley

Intermediate | 1:45 – 2:45pm
Ballet Austin Instructor: Kathryn Waggoner

Master | 3 – 4pm
Ballet Austin Instructors: Kathryn Waggoner and Boo Ruiz

For more information and to see the other choreography videos, check out our website here.

We hope to see you on July 30th!

Summer Intern Sweats It Out

Greetings from Ballet Austin’s newest intern!

Hello all Ballet Austin blog followers! My name is Caitlin Conran, and I’m Ballet Austin’s Marketing intern for the summer of 2011. All summer long I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work in Ballet Austin’s marketing department working on this blog and our other social media sites, and taking any and all varieties of dance classes that Butler Community School has to offer. Last week I decided that it was about time I get out of the office and into the studio, so I set out to sample two BCS classes and report back on the blog!

Now, to start, let me be honest: I’ve never really been a dancer. I took some ballet classes before the age of 6, and I attended a few BCS classes prior to my internship, but I’ve never danced consistently, so I wouldn’t consider myself an “experienced” dancer. I’m more of a yoga girl myself, so while I’ve been able to master the gracefulness of certain poses, I’ve never really been able to combine grace with aerobic activity, such as prancing across a stage or plieing without tripping over myself.

Inexperience aside, I decided to begin my BCS class-sampling with a Ballet Fit (Teen/Adult) evening course, taught by Elise Pekarek.

The class promised the gracefulness of ballet fused with a sweat-tastic series of aerobic exercises, and my goodness was it sweaty. In lieu of the recent burn ban in Austin, Elise deemed the theme of our class “Rain Dance,” and rain it did – I can’t remember the last time I sweat so much. But it was a fabulous, much-appreciated sweat. The class taught me all about plies, tondues, releves, and also managed to get me down on the floor doing close to fifty push-ups (how did you get me to do that, Elise?!). I worked every muscle in my legs, arms, and abdominals… which is essentially every muscle in my body (ouch!). Set to groovy, upbeat tunes, and an all-around great energy, this class was a perfect opportunity for me – the inexperienced dancer – to learn a few moves and also get an awesome aerobic workout! It was set at a perfect pace so that I was able to follow along and still keep my heart rate up. I’d recommend this class to anyone who loves fast-paced exercise, such as running, and is looking to mix up their routine!

For my next class I decided, under the persuasion of my sore muscles, to slow down the pace and check out an Elementary Ballet (Teen/Adult) class.

I dusted off my old ballet slippers and hit the dance floor in a tank top and yoga shorts. I was relieved to find that a leotard and tutu were not a necessity – however, basic knowledge of ballet vocabulary was. The Ballet Fit class had introduced me to the staple poses of ballet, so luckily I was able to recognize a lot of the movements and keep up with the rest of the class. Elementary Ballet at the BCS is one level above the Beginning Ballet course, offered to individuals with little to no experience dancing ballet. Both ballet courses offer a wonderful combination of on the bar and off the bar dance routines, all of which are set to the tune of live piano accompaniment! I absolutely loved the change of pace in the ballet class. I was able to get a good workout without working up too much of a sweat. Elementary Ballet really stretched, strengthened and toned my muscles with graceful, low-intensity movements that left me feeling empowered and inspired to try more!

And so concludes my BCS class-sampling, but not my love for BCS dance classes! As my internship here at Ballet Austin continues, so will my attendance of the wide range of classes the Butler Community School has to offer, along with, of course, my growing love of dance. So come on out to the BCS this summer and challenge your regular workout routine with me at any and all of these wonderful dance classes!



In Search of All That Jazz

When I think of “jazz,” the music of Bourbon Street or from a favorite Broadway show pops into my mind. But Jazz encompasses a wide range of music from hip hop, reggae, contemporary, and other countries, just to name a few. With such an eclectic mix of music, what exactly is jazz dance?

Several classes at the Butler Community School (BCS) fall into the “jazz” category: Broadway Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Jazz Turns & Jumps, Jazz Funk, and just plain ol’ Jazz!  Because I get so many questions about jazz as well as the differences between each class, I decided to share some interesting facts about the dance form.

Jazz dance has a rather long and rich history that has evolved over the years. Jazz had its roots in African culture, where people depended on dance to tell stories and express their beliefs. This interpretive dance was brought to America. The style later changed even more with European influence, but it still continued to be a dance of expression.

Since the 1920s, Jazz has continuously evolved – Jazz dance changed as our culture changed. From the Charleston of the 1920s, jazz evolved into swing jazz during the 1930s big band era. People like Jack Cole, Bob Fosse and many others made theatre jazz popular in the middle of the century. In the 80s, FAME, FLASHDANCE, and FOOTLOOSE left their mark. Each decade brought something new and fresh. The evolution of Jazz has lead to jazz funk, lyrical, and the contemporary jazz of today. But even today,  despite the range, just mention jazz to one person and it will mean something quite different than it might to another.

In spite of such diverse influence and change, or maybe because of it, jazz classes are some of the most popular dance classes around today. At the BCS, the legacy of Jack Cole can still be found in a Broadway Jazz class. Contemporary Jazz offers a more commercial style with a mix of lyrical, pop, and contemporary often seen on So You Think You Can Dance. Jazz Turns & Jumps is a technique class, designed to work on movement and learn tricks. Jazz Funk falls in line with the hip hop classes, cool and funky to the hottest pop music. And then there is just Jazz, a fun, upbeat, New York style jazz class.

Despite all the changes over the decades, and all the different styles, one thing’s for sure: Jazz is fun. There’s a style for everyone, too, so let go and express yourself. It’s what Jazz is all about!


Click for more information on Jazz classes at the Ballet Austin Butler Community School.

Let Us Take You to the Movies

Let’s face it. Summertime in Texas is HOT.

Finding fun activities to do, not to mention working out, can be incredibly challenging now that the temps in our great state have reached triple digits. So we’d like to invite you to stop by Ballet Austin this Sunday to beat the heat and catch a movie with us in our AustinVentures StudioTheater. We are partnering up with Austin Film Festival once again to bring you the second installment of our summer Dance Film series. This Sunday, at 3pm, we are screening The Company. $10 not only gets you in the door for the movie, but ALSO gets you access to one of our incredibly popular Ballet Fit classes (my personal favorite) directly following the show. Interested? Scroll down for more information on The Company, Ballet Fit and Sunday’s instructor and new Ballet Austin Company member, Elise Pekarek.

The Company (2003):
Through a tale composed of true accounts, Director Robert Altman (“M.A.S.H.”, “The Player”) brings us an intimate look at the intense lives of ballet performers at the Chicago Ballet Company. Allowing freedom from tightly scripted dialogue, Altman elicits genuine performances from his cast. This, along with a plot comprised from real-life stories, gives “The Company” such an authenticity as it reveals to us the lives of those who endure the pressures of ballet and performance art.

Ballet Fit incorporates a variety of ballet-inspired movements to improve flexibility and balance, and also strengthen, lengthen and tone muscles. This class is focused on fitness and fun. By integrating classical ballet movements with additional exercises such as crunches and push-ups, Ballet Fit will promote overall toning, help reduce weight, increase muscle strength and flexibility, improve coordination and posture and firm target areas. This is a class for dancers and non-dancers alike. No previous ballet experience is required. Wear workout clothing and ballet shoes or socks. Resistance bands used in some classes are provided during class.

Elise Pekarek, Instructor and 2011/12 Company member:
Originally from the Chicago area, Elise began her ballet training with Judith Svalander in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Elise attended summer programs at Ballet Austin and Pacific Northwest Ballet, and in 2007 was accepted into Ballet Austin’s Trainee Program. Elise spent two seasons as a Trainee, followed by two seasons as an apprentice in Ballet Austin II. She was recently invited to join the Company for the 2011/12 Season. Elise teaches classes for Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School and Pilates studio.

For more information, please view our Ballet Austin Dance Film Series page.

To purchase tickets, please go here.

Today I Took My Test

After recently completing a certification course in Youth Fitness, today I took my test.  I love being a continuous learner, always thinking about what I can learn next. I want to learn something today that will bring me one step closer to excellence.  I hope I will always have the desire to learn new things. It’s what makes life exciting.

I look around at the many instructors who teach classes at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School, and I realize that I am surrounded by people who share my passion for learning, becoming more qualified in their field, and pursuing excellence. So I thought I’d give a shout out to a few BCS instructors who recently completed training, or are currently in the middle of it. I believe it is part of what sets the BCS apart; excellence in the classes offered, incredible instructors of the highest caliber.

Congratulations to BCS Hula instructor Pei-San Brown who just attained the high rank of Kumu Hula (Hula Master). Ballet Austin’s Pilates Program Director, Vlada Sheber never stops learning. This past year she attended training with the Pilates Pink Ribbon Program to become a Pilates Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist.

Pilates and Ballet Fit Instructor, Elise Pekarek recently completed training to become certified with Balanced Body Pilates.  Brittany Harpole who is a Certified Pilates Instructor, and teaches many of the BCS fitness classes, is currently enrolled in a course to be certified in Turbo Kick. Boo Ruiz is working towards a master level certification in fitness.  Several other instructors hold certifications in yoga, are certified personal trainers, and have a wealth of experience and expertise in their field.  I am proud to work alongside such an exceptional slate of instructors in the BCS. Come take a class and learn from the best!

…I passed my test by the way.

Get out of Your Rut – Mix up Your Routine

On my run this morning I started thinking that my exercise routine has become pretty…well, “routine”.  I run down the same streets, past the same houses without even thinking. Nothing changes. My brain and body both have it memorized; even my pedometer gives the same reading. I get great cardio, burn calories, feel good, but where’s the challenge? Where’s the fun? Do I need something new?

I talked to a woman last week who expressed a frustration in her current fitness regimen. She said, “I’m in an exercise rut. Can you help me?“ Another woman told me she was looking for something new and fun to re-invigorate her workout. “I want to challenge my brain and my body,” she said.

Ruts happen. And unless you’re that rare person who can do the same thing over and over, day in and day out, without losing interest or enthusiasm, staying motivated and engaged in your workout is difficult.  The solution is different for everyone, but maybe it’s time to try something new. Take the BCS 4-week Course Challenge! The Butler Community School has 12 different Dance & Fitness courses beginning this week that will get you moving while learning something new and having fun. Mix up your routine. Try something different. Keep it fresh!

From Tap dance for beginners, to Hula, Yoga, Pilates-based courses, and Boot Camps; early morning, lunch time, and evening. Each course offers motivation, accountability, and camaraderie; three ingredients that will help infuse your workout.

There’s also the group aspect. One of the great things about a group is that if you show up half asleep at an early morning boot camp, or exhausted at the end of a long work day, once you join the group, you become re-energized. With a friendly instructor to challenge and motivate you, it can’t get any better.  Or maybe it can; the power of the group!  Nothing brings people together quite like learning together, pressing through muscle burn, or reaching a goal. Whether learning to tap or being pushed to your cardio limit, taking a BCS course will provide opportunity to develop a common bond while getting into the best shape possible. Give it 4 weeks…

Need to get out of the exercise rut? The solution might be as simple as taking a BCS Course. Sign up today. Maybe you’ll see me there!

BCS: I’m Doing This for Me, Part 3

This is the last in a three-part profile series on Butler Community School attendees and their favorite classes.

As the Schools Communication Associate, I spend a lot of my day talking with people about everything we have to offer at the Butler Community School. From Broadway Jazz and Yoga to Hula and Zumba, there’s so much going on that I pretty much live and breathe BCS. At the end of the day, you may think the last thing I’d want to do is actually take a class … but that’s exactly what I do!

Talking with some of our regulars and finding out what they love about our classes at BCS made me realize that I’m just as much of a regular as they are… Most weeks you can find me taking Ballet Fit, Arms & Abs, Yoga, Zumba and Pilates Cardio.

Pilates Cardio

All of the classes I take on a regular basis lean more towards fitness than dance, but I still absolutely love them. This really surprised me because in the past, exercise was always something I dreaded doing. In fact, if I could, I would find any excuse not to do it.

I think the thing that makes the difference here is I never feel like I’m exercising. One of my favorite classes is Ballet Fit. The class mixes basic ballet technique with strengthening and toning exercises. After a plié combination at the bar, you’ll hit the floor for a series of abdominal exercises that you’ll definitely feel the next day. Every class is different so you never get bored or feel like you’re always doing the same routine.

Despite it being an incredible workout, the thing I like most is that I always feel like I am indulging my inner child. And trust me, she always gets a kick out of pretending to be a graceful swan. Elise and Emily, the instructors for Ballet Fit, are always encouraging and really strive to make sure that everyone’s having fun during the workout. Thanks to their upbeat personalities and the nature of the workout, I feel energized every time I walk out of a class. Who wouldn’t want to be a beautiful swan with killer abs?

A Little Bit of Broadway on 3rd

“I am not a rich Aunt from New York City…but I played one on stage!”

That’s just one of the characters BCS Musical Theatre Workshop participant Sabrina Vega has played. She has been Ms. Hannigan from ANNIE in last year’s Broadway in May, Aunt Sophie in Holiday Road, and yes, rich Aunt Betty in Magic in Manhattan.

Every fall and spring the Butler Community School offers a Musical Theatre Performance Workshop that culminates in an onstage production in Ballet Austin’s AustinVentures StudioTheater. Community theatre at its best! This spring there are over 80 participants from age 8 to 58 who will be performing in the upcoming musical Broadway in May//Broadway Today. Sabrina is back again for a 4th time.

Here’s what Sabrina had to say about why she loves this workshop and why she thinks everyone should come see the show!

“I am excited about Broadway in May. What a great opportunity to perform songs, dances, and scenes that are on Broadway stages today! I think everyone who is in the cast has a dream, or a secret desire, to perform on Broadway. This workshop, and the performances in a real theater, gives us the opportunity to fulfill that dream. I love the process of creating pieces from Broadway shows into something of our own through original choreography and interpretation. This spring, Broadway Today takes many shows from the Great White Way and combines them all into one musical theatre review. What fun it has been for cast members to find a show or song that calls to them, and then perform it. This opportunity brings out the best in me; gives me a chance to try something new and fun. It also gives the audience a peek at what shows are on stage today in New York City. There’s something for everyone, even a sing along! Broadway in May//Broadway Today will include serious social issues, hilarious fun, classic characters, and endless entertainment on many levels.

I am not a rich Aunt from New York City…but you will see me in the opening CHICAGO number, ADDAMS FAMILY, BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, JERSEY BOYS, BEATLES, ANYTHING GOES, and more. Don’t miss it!”