Pointe shoes are not the only means of elevating ballerinas at the Oklahoma City Ballet.
Next spring, its ballet school will begin implementing the American Ballet Theatre's National Training Curriculum, a program that combines classic technique, injury prevention and child development.
The first three years of the program was made possible by an undisclosed gift from Christian Keesee, an Oklahoma City native and trustee of the American Ballet Theatre, based in New York City. Keesee's grandfather John E. Kirkpatrick founded the first professional ballet company in Oklahoma City, the predecessor of Oklahoma City Ballet.
“ABT training is different because it's a specific set of goals for each class and each age group that they're tested on each year,” school director Jane Vorburger said. “So the exams bring a level of rigor and precision to the classes and to the teaching that you don't get without doidng the exams.”
To become certified in all nine levels, faculty members complete a 20-day training session. To remain certified, 75 percent of students must pass annual exams. Training incorporates elements of the French, Italian and Russian schools of ballet.
“It follows a set of age-specific goals and level-specific goals that the children have to achieve to reach the next level,” Vorburger said.
About 200 students, ages 8 to 18, are enrolled in the school's dance classes. The school also offers community opportunities, such as its Mommy and Me classes and exercise classes for adults.