Wednesday, 24 April 2019 13:39

Set for Success: Michigan Ballet Academy gives back to dancers and community alike

Written by  Michaela Stock
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Dancer performing with the Michigan Ballet Academy Dancer performing with the Michigan Ballet Academy Courtesy Photo

World-class ballet training, unrestricted access to the arts and a strong work ethic define the Michigan Ballet Academy’s mission for its nonprofit ballet school. 

Based in Grand Rapids, the MBA offers a children's division and a pre-professional training program for dancers in West Michigan, both of which are rooted in the classical Russian “Vaganova” teaching method. 

“The pedagogy of MBA is based on this very codified Vaganova method developed in the 1930s,” said Dr. Marcia McEvoy-Madden, vice president for advancement of the MBA. “It combines the elements of the Soviet ballet’s rigor, the French ballet’s romantic lyricism, and the Italian ballet athleticism. It’s recognized around the world as the most formal training program for classical ballet.”

The Michigan Ballet Academy is one of only a few nonprofit schools in the country that teaches the prestigious Vaganova method. However, the MBA wants to serve more than just technique to its students.

“We’re also striving to develop a real strong work ethic, personal responsibility and self confidence that will serve our students throughout their lives,” McEvoy-Madden said. 

Students at the Michigan Ballet Academy are taught from a faculty of instructors who have all held professional careers, and the MBA’s board is composed of professionals proficient in nonprofit leadership, arts management and legal expertise. 

This high level of instruction and direction has proven its excellence more than once. 

“Every year since MBA opened its doors seven and a half years ago, graduates have received contracts to professional ballet academies,” McEvoy-Madden said. 

Alumni from the Michigan Ballet Academy have accepted professional contracts to companies from the Portland Ballet to the Nashville Ballet and Grand Rapids Ballet. Students have received technique awards, as well as scholarships to the world’s most prestigious training programs, including the American Ballet Theatre, by competing in the Youth American Grand Prix ballet competitions in Paris and Toronto. MBA grads also have been awarded notable college scholarships to dance programs in various universities.

“We’re trying to accomplish several things,” McEvoy-Madden said. “One is to get kids the opportunity to fulfill their dreams if they want a professional ballet career, or if they want to get a scholarship to college. We’re also providing performances at a very reasonable rate for the whole family to come and not spend more than $75 (altogether).”

The nonprofit academy aims to give opportunities for West Michigan residents to enjoy ballet at affordable rates.

“(MBA has) given away more than 1,000 complimentary tickets to underserved families and students in the community,” McEvoy-Madden said. “Arts provides cross-cultural understanding. It opens doors to self-discovery, it builds bridges to lifelong learning, and it also provides an irreplaceable avenue for expressing the full measure for what it means to be human.”

The Michigan Ballet Academy has also never denied admittance to a student due to financial need, and 13 percent of its students are on scholarship. This all points back to the MBA’s mission of providing world-class ballet training, while enriching the lives of West Michigan residents and beyond.

“We’re not about making a lot of money. We’re about giving back to the community,” McEvoy-Madden said.

Upcoming Performance: Don Quixote
Jenison Center for the Arts
8375 20th Ave., Jenison
Saturday, April 13 
at 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 14 at 2:30 p.m.
michiganballet.org

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