They’re dancing down the street

Fast-growing Bainbridge Ballet heads to Hildebrand.

Sometimes it pays to set the barre a little higher.

A year ago, New Motion studio discontinued its dance program to focus exclusively on physical therapy. Instructors Sara Cramer-Sherbina and Emil McCulloch didn’t want to see their students stranded, so they formed a partnership and opened Bainbridge Ballet at the Pavilion last August.

“Between us,” Sherbina said, “we had about 30 students left with nowhere to go.”

“We loved our students and didn’t want to abandon the program,” McCulloch said. “We get attached to these children we teach, you know.”

For their first offering, a summer program for kids, the two anticipated a modest turnout – their core group and perhaps an additional 20 students.

Neither partner was prepared to see the initial registration jump to 70 students, then to 150, four days before the studio even opened.

That “outrageous growth” – which has taken the studio to an enrollment of 220 in less than six months – prompted Bainbridge Ballet to relocate to Hildebrand, in the space formerly occupied by Airbiquity.

“The Pavilion was just a place to get started,” Sherbina said. “We had no idea we would outgrow it so soon.”

Their students now enjoy two large mirrored studios with fully sprung floors and viewing windows. On Monday, the first day of class, McCulloch and Sherbina were still taping down the “marley” – a high-tech surface that protects the wooden floor and provides the right amount of friction for dance shoes – and awaiting installation of the ballet barres.

Not that ballet is the only thing going.

The studio offers an unusually wide range of dance classes, over 50 for the winter/spring 2004 session – twice as many as they were able to offer at the Pavilion.

Classes range from the traditional to the exotic, with plenty of general fitness offerings in between. Ballet is featured, of course, at levels ranging from “pre-ballet” through advanced pointe. There are also separate ballet classes for boys and adults.

A range of tap is offered, too, including adult classes.

Fitness courses include “Stretch Anatomy,” “Kinetics FX” and Pilates – including a Pilates class specifically designed for men over 40.

The Kinetics FX class, is “specially geared for boys,” Sherbina said, “for their energy level and the way they learn.”

The training develops gross motor skills and improves body coordination – with benefits that apply to athletics and beyond.

“Studies have shown that any training in coordination also transfers directly to math and directly to music, as well as sports,” Sherbina said.

More unusual classes include hip hop and Middle Eastern belly dance, which the studio calls “a terrific aerobic workout often described as kinetic yoga.”

Sherbina credits much of their success to this diversity of offerings – especially the adult classes, which until now have been scarce on the island. The studio offers a variety of discount plans, including family and multi-class discounts, and a flexible system for adults, who often prefer to drop in on classes rather than be locked into a specific schedule.

Both McCulloch and Sherbina bring a background in classical ballet and extensive teaching experience to the new studio.

McCulloch, who began her serious training at 8, has danced and performed for over 25 years. She studied under David Howard at the New York City Ballet, Tyrone Brooks at the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Stanley Holden in Los Angeles. She also attended the NYC Ballet’s prestigious School of American Ballet, where her fellow students in one class included Mikhail Baryshnikov. She has taught, choreographed and staged for the Wheaton and Orchesis dance companies.

Sherbina began dancing at age 5, studying with Doreen Gilday at Oakland Metro, Barbara Remington at NYC Ballet, Robert Joffrey and the Pacific Northwest Ballet, among others. In addition to work for the Princeton Ballet, Belle Mead Ballet and the River Ballet companies, she has taught for over 14 years on Bainbridge.

While both Sherbina and McCulloch share a strong orientation toward traditional Russian ballet styles and techniques – Sherbina’s main teacher was a French-Canadian who learned from Russian defectors in New York City – the pair tries to balance that with a light-hearted atmosphere at the studio.

“We just feel it’s very important to keep it fun,” Sherbina said. “I think the atmosphere is what’s key. We wanted a good atmosphere for the kids and for the teachers – one that’s warm, friendly and non-adversarial.

“We would rather foster individuality than competition.”

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