By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Ana Teresa Atiles and Hallie Baker were selected for the University of Oklahoma School of Dance Saturday Youth Program. They both attend dance classes at Encore! Dance Studio, 706 Devon St. The studio is under the direction of Holly Belford-Davis who grew up in Stillwater taking dance classes and returned to buy it 12 years ago when the longtime owner, Linda Twedell, retired.
Baker and Atiles are students at Stillwater Junior High school and “they eat, breathe and sleep dance,” Belford-Davis said. “Both are extremely hard workers.”
She said these two dancers take as many lessons at the dance studio as they can schedule including special classes from traveling master teachers who come to Stillwater.
Baker, 13, has danced at Encore! Dance Studio for 10 years. Atiles, 14, moved to Stillwater from Georgia and has danced at Encore! for three years.
Dancers throughout the state audition for a spot in the youth program. They make a commitment to attend every Saturday at OU to receive intensive training from dance professors. Classes are offered in classical ballet and modern dance to students ages 10-18. Students who are 10-12 years old must have a minimum of two years of training and be enrolled in at least two dance classes each week at a local school of dance.
Students who are 13-18 years old must have four years of previous training and be enrolled in at least three weekly dance classes.
Advanced students often perform with the OU School of Dance’s Oklahoma Festival Ballet. Many students from the program are accepted to summer intensive programs at major dance companies across the country.
The Saturday Youth Program was created more than 20 years ago by School of Dance Director Mary Margaret Holt as a community outreach effort. Coordinator of the program and OU faculty member Rebecca Herrin said the program is a wonderful supplement for local students who are serious about dance training.
“We find that students enrolled in the Saturday Youth Class demonstrate notable progress due to the opportunity to supplement their local classes by working with other dedicated young dancers in an atmosphere that is disciplined, challenging and exciting,” Herrin said..
Belford-Davis said four other students from Encore! Dance Studio have previously attended the program and they bring back good techniques to apply in class and influence their fellow classmates.
The University of Oklahoma’s program in dance was founded in 1963 by Yvonne Choteau and Miguel Terekhov, former principal dancers with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Choteau is one of the five American Indian ballerinas honored with a mural painting at the state capitol.
What had been a department became the School of Dance in 1998, with Mary Margaret Holt as director.
Undergraduate and graduate dance majors, along with general education students, total approximately 1,000 enrollees in dance classes per semester, training in the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center.
For more information, contact Rebecca Herrin, 405-325-0567, extension 19.