Reopening act

The Burbank School of the Ballet had a grand-opening celebration in its new digs Sunday, and the adorable factor was off the charts.

Pink and black balloons, echoing the hues of the tiny dancers’ leotards and tights, floated above parents nervously chasing daughters with bobby pins and lithe young women stretching their legs beyond places God meant legs to go.

In its 13th year of operation, the school has just moved from cramped quarters up the street to a new facility on Burbank Boulevard with two studios and space to store costumes and beribboned pointe shoes.

Accommodating some 200 students in classes teaching classical ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary and hip-hop dancing, the school offered a slice of the discipline that founder and Artistic Director Lisa Sutton tries to instill in her charges with short, sweetly choreographed pieces performed by her students.

Parents like Karen Lissonshowed support for the new venture.

“We just love Miss Lisa,” she said. “She has worked so hard for this moment, and you’ll see it in the dancing today.”

The studios were created in four months by Sutton’s “rock ’n’ roller” husband, Jamie, a studio engineer who, Sutton confided, “has absolutely no background in construction or design.”

Brightly colored walls lined with barres and posters of Mikhail Baryshnikov are reflected in mirrors.

Sutton studied under scholarship with the school feeding the American Ballet Theatre and has won international teaching awards. Eighteen years of teaching dance in the Burbank area have seen her working with some of the more notable dancers to spring from Southern California, such as Natalie Krakirian, who just won the Grand Prix Award at the Youth American Grand Prix international competition.

But she also helped shape Olympic skater Lu Chen, the first skater from China to ever win an Olympic medal in figure skating, whose artistry relied just as much on ballet as triple axels.

“Ballet is the foundation of all dance movement,” Sutton said. “Like the foundation of anything, if it is not laid properly, everything collapses.”

Ballet fundamentals were certainly on display, starting with the youngest students, no more than 6 years old, gracefully performing port de bras (movement of the arms) and heart-melting poise onstage. Each class demonstrated demanding technique of extension, balance and directional intent. These girls are starting off very much on the right, pointed, foot.

Thirteen-year-old Liv Hutchings performed Swanhilde’s solo from “Coppélia” as a consummate dancing actress, her mechanized movements exact, playful and light.

Dance moms are a large part of the studio’s longtime success, with parents recognizing that certain something in their daughters and bringing them to Sutton from as far away as Lancaster and as young as 18 months.

Lidia Apperson has been bringing her 15-year-old daughter, Vanessa, to Sutton for eight years from south Glendale, sometimes as often as seven days a week.

“Vanessa is now a student teacher,” Apperson said. “She has shown such discipline here and says she won’t dance anyplace else. This is her sanctuary.”

Shaun Davidson brings her daughter Sabrina all the way from Lancaster for classes because, she said, “This is the only place that meets my daughter’s standards for classical dance.”

The Davidsons recently moved here from Colorado where Sabrina was attending another ballet school that had a strict classical discipline.

“Not all dance classes are equal,” Davidson said. “I would recommend this studio for anyone who’s really serious about ballet.”

Sutton recognized early on that her life’s journey would be to nurture that passion she has for ballet that has driven her since she was a little girl.

“I toured Costa Rica with a youth ballet company when I was 15,” Sutton said. “I realized then that giving this back, this knowledge, is bliss.”

She acknowledged that the current economic times present a challenge to running a successful studio. But that hasn’t stopped her from forming a nonprofit company, the Burbank Youth Ballet Company, with the goal of bringing dance education to the community.

“We’re setting up scholarships for talented young dancers and will provide master classes at least once a month,” Sutton said. “So that by the time they leave high school, they can go into any dance school in the country if they wish. By teaching a program of, say, ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ we can show children that music and dance and literature all have a combined discipline.”

That combined discipline was demonstrated in a solo by star pupil Krakirian, who has been offered a full scholarship to the Houston Ballet this summer. To the music of “Flames of Paris,” 16-year-old Krakirian showed the battements and balance of a pro.

Sutton was evidently proud.

“I just wish they could dance here all day,” she said.

More information on Burbank School of the Ballet is available by visiting www.Burbankballet. com.


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