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Ballet begins with the very young

January 10, 2008|By Mary O’Keefe

“Pancake” may not be a term typically associated with ballet, but for those in the California Dance Arts studio it is a key word to their dance training.

“What kind of pancake are you?” asked Kamissa Marshall, ballet instructor.

“A strawberry one,” said Ashley Ahn, 4-year-old ballerina.

Four tiny ballerinas all sat with their legs spread out, stretching their torso to the ground, flat as a pancake to the floor. All tell their instructor what type of pancake they would most like to be.

Then they are up and skipping from one piece of carpet to another. They bend, skip, stretch and twirl, all the while keeping a watchful eye on their image in the long mirror that lines the studio. This may seem like kids just being kids but every exercise from pancakes to what type of princess they want to twirl like, are all part of a long life of discipline as a dancer.

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“I remember pancakes and skips,” Marshall said. She began her dancing career at the studio and is now teaching the love of ballet to others. Marshall portrayed the Princesses in the “Snow Queen” that was produced over the holidays by the California Dance Arts and La Cañada’s California Theatrical Youth Ballet. Two of the dancers who performed in that ballet, Ryan Morrison and Alyssa Thompson, headed off to the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre Ostrava Ballet in the Czech Republic and a future as professional dancers. They also began as young dancers at the studio. They are all inspiration to the little ones that now follow in their ballet slippers.

“My favorite is dancing with scarves,” said 4-year-old Olivia Schleifer.

Her fellow ballerinas Solange Aguero, 4, and Heather Eberhard, 3, agreed that princesses and scarves make dancing fun.


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