FLINT, MI–Weeks away from a set of performances, the Young People’s Ballet Theatre’s dancers have a lot of work to do–and their leaders are letting them know it.
Nicholas and Laura Schultz, the school’s new artistic directors, stand in different areas of the room of the YPBT’s dance studio in Flint Township, giving orders to the group of young dancers.
They both advise the children to nuance their posture and their dance moves to perfection. Nicholas stresses for them to work through their mistakes instead of getting discouraged, as Laura films their performance with an iPad.
“If we’re picking on you, it’s because we like you, and we want you to get better,” Nicholas said, later explaining that he made the dancers do one exercise for 20 minutes that day until they were able to move in sync with each other. “…Our job as teachers is to impart the knowledge we have from our professional experience, and get as much at them (as possible). You throw enough stuff at them, something is bound to stick.”
On March 7, the Young People’s Ballet Theatre will begin several days’ worth of performances for its first big production of the year. The show will feature two presentations: “Bottom of the Ninth,” a dedication to the women’s baseball leagues of the 1940s, and a dance based on the acclaimed bed time story “Goodnight Moon.”
Aside from a couple previous small performances, this is the Young People Ballet Theatre’s first major show with the Schultzes, who took over the program in September. They’re the first new directors since Denise Paavola, the company’s founder, retired in 2012 after 25 years of leadership.
“She basically did 100 jobs herself, and when she passed the torch on to us, you realize…how many people it takes to fill that same job,” Nicholas said, adding that she is still involved with the organization. “…She took it to this wonderful level, and now it’s our job to take it up another level.”
The dancers have adapted to the differences between dancing for the Schultzes and for Paavola.
“It’s definitely exciting to have new people giving new ideas on dance works,” said Caroline Wiley, 17. She added that having two directors works differently than only having one. “We’re getting double the corrections, and double the help.”
They had a small performance weeks into announcing the new season’s events, and the students had to learn the Schultzes way of working. Their methods differ: the Schultzes “come together so we can attack from different angles,” Laura said, while Paavola taught as one person.
“We had (Paavola) since we were little kids. Working with (the Schultzes) gave us a fresh start,” said Hannah Nettleton, 17, who has danced with the company for nine years. “They didn’t have any expectations for how good or bad we were. We just wanted to prove that we were worth working with.”
Since then, they’ve adapted to their new teachers. And they’ll work through the Schultzes’ nitpicking until they get their routine down pat. Wiley, a ten-year veteran with the group, is ready for the long haul.
“It’s worth getting yelled at here for doing things wrong, because we’ll do it right on stage.” She said.
For details on upcoming events and ticketing information call 810-309-9501 or go online to www.ypbt.org.