Talented Indian Trail ballet center paves dancers’ way to NYC
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Wednesday, Aug. 06, 2014

Talented Indian Trail ballet center paves dancers’ way to NYC

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/01/14/35/s3kbb.Em.138.jpeg|209
    TAHIRA BENJAMIN - tbenjamin@charlotteobserver.com
    Ballerinas practice June 17 at Harmony Dance Center.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/01/14/35/1jgGc0.Em.138.jpeg|209
    TAHIRA BENJAMIN - tbenjamin@charlotteobserver.com
    Lesli Todd instructs students June 17 at Harmony Dance Center.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/01/14/35/1eTpGL.Em.138.jpeg|209
    TAHIRA BENJAMIN - tbenjamin@charlotteobserver.com
    Budding ballerinas warm up at Harmony Dance Center on July 17.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/01/14/35/G4Igb.Em.138.jpeg|209
    TAHIRA BENJAMIN - tbenjamin@charlotteobserver.com
    Young ballerinas receive direction from professional instructor Lesli Todd at Harmony Dance Center.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/01/14/35/SLXbh.Em.138.jpeg|209
    TAHIRA BENJAMIN - tbenjamin@charlotteobserver.com
    Ballerinas get into practice June 17 at the Harmony Dance Center.
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    Contact the Harmony Dance Center – at 5520 Cannon Drive, Suite 102, in Indian Trail – at 704-219-2602.

Fourteen ballerinas from Harmony Dance Center in Indian Trail embarked on a journey to New York City in June and returned as changed dancers.

Lesli Todd, who teaches the girls, said that since returning from New York, the girls have “Worked harder, danced bigger and really developed their technique.”

After watching professionals and amateurs, Harmony’s girls “were inspired, not only by having the chance to dance with professionals but by New York City itself,” Todd said.

While in the city, Todd’s students took various classes at the Broadway Dance Center, one of which was taught by members of the Rockettes.

They also received instruction from well-known ballerina Donna Wood, at Alvin Ailey’s studio.

Having the chance to be taught in the studio was a dream come true for Harmony’s Grace Laxton. “The studio was so cool. I was blown away,” said Grace, 11, who has practiced ballet for seven years.

Audra McGee, 11, who has practiced for nine years, described the studio’s big windows: “It was so cool being able to see myself in the reflection, as well as all the big buildings around us,” she said.

To get to New York City, the dancers started raising money last year by selling raffle tickets. They also received donations from individuals and businesses, and cleaned tables at Moe’s restaurant.

Todd’s husband, Cameron Todd, auctioned off his artwork at Harmony’s annual recital, along with baskets donated by businesses.

The studio also hosted dance workshops. The theme for the studio’s Halloween workshop was choreography from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Todd said that fundraising was difficult and sometimes even awkward: for example, Grace said she enjoyed working at Moe’s but that sometimes “it felt uncomfortable asking strangers for donations.”

Angie Bagley, mother of Harmony ballerina Courtney Bagley, said committing time was a difficult part of the fundraising, but that it was worth it.

“The amazing instructors they had (in New York City) pushed them to come out of their comfort zones,” Bagley said. “Lesli definitely pushes them, but they really went above and beyond to learn from other dancers they’re not familiar with.”

Technique wasn’t the only thing the dancers learned. Ava Mikeal, 11, who has danced for six years, said she learned about high expectations in the dance world.

“They don’t wait for you,” Ava said. “They expect you to learn quickly.”

Courtney Vartanian, 15, said she learned how to believe in her ability. “I had to do my own thing and let go of what others thought,” Courtney said.

The trip wasn’t all work, however; the dancers got the chance to visit many landmarks. Courtney Bagley, 13, said she loved seeing the 9/11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square.

“Honestly, I did not want to leave; it was amazing,” she said.

Todd said she felt the trip helped the girls grow.

Todd grew up dancing and studied at The Ailey School and the Joffrey Ballet School in New York when she was in high school. Throughout her years of dancing at Gus Giordano Dance School in Chicago and being mentored by Jimmy Locust, who danced with Michael Jackson, Todd has developed belief in proper technique.

“Not all of my students will become professional ballerinas, but they all deserve professional teaching nonetheless,” Todd said. “I’m happy to put them through everything professionals go through.”

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