REENFIELD — Dana Hart, founder and director of Dance East Ballet Academy is building her dream, one pair of ballet shoes at a time.
It has been a long journey from the young woman who was a young dance student at Wilkerson Dance to who Hart is today, director of her own studio.
Born and raised in Greenfield, Hart began dancing at the age of 13. After graduating from Greenfield-Central High School, she attended Ball State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in dance performance. She danced with the Ball State Dance Theatre, Banevolks Folk Dance Company in Muncie, the Anderson Young Ballet Theatre, and then as a freelance dancer in Chicago.
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In 2000, Hart traveled to East Africa with the Canossian Daughters of Charity and taught English, computer skills and, of course, dance. It was there that Hart realized how much she preferred teaching over performing. She returned home to accept a job with Indianapolis Public Schools, where she taught dance at Shortridge High School and the Broad Ripple Arts Magnet for 10 years.
In 2009, Hart left IPS to open her first studio in the Creative Arts and Event Center in Greenfield where she rented space from Stacey Poe, owner of Rhythms by Stacey. Called Sacred Ground, Hart’s group performed liturgical dances for churches and church groups.
But three years ago, Hart’s mission changed, the group’s name changed, and Hart moved her studio to its current location at 28 N. East Street.
Hart’s mission is to offer high-quality dance training, stimulate creativity and encourage growth in an educational environment. Her studio, Dance East Ballet Academy, offers focuses on classical ballet. Hart’s vision is to offer training for dancers who want to do something with dance as a career.
Hart works with dancers ages of 4 to 17. She insists that all of her dance students take ballet classes so that all students are on the same page technically with tap, jazz and modern as electives they can take at the academy. She hopes to educate her students and adults alike as to what ballet is all about.
“It takes a big commitment,” Hart said. “We are not just playing at dance where you wear your pink tutu and spin around.”
Hart hopes that after training at Dance East Ballet Academy, her dancers can go on to audition for college dance programs and professional companies.
Hart’s work will be on display with her spring showcase, called “Dance in Bloom,” at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts at 122 W. Main St. in Greenfield.
The first act of the showcase is all ballet, presented in a format so audience members can see the progression of the training of young dancers, from creative ballet by the youngest to the more technically advanced technique of the more advanced dancers.
“As they get older, you can start to see their artistry develop,” Hart said.
Act II of the showcase will feature tap, modern and jazz pieces from the elective classes.
Hart credits her Parents’ Circle — Stephanie Capen, Andria Cherry, Shannon Fitzgerald, Joanna Mulligan and Natalie Roots — for helping her to cope with the growing pains of the group and aiding with fundraising and production support.
“They do so much, and I couldn’t do it without them,” Hart said.
Natalie Roots’ daughter, Annika, who is 8, has been taking lessons, ballet, tap and jazz, from Hart for more than two years.
“She absolutely loves it,” Roots said. “Her confidence has grown so much.”
Roots also enjoys her role in the Parents Circle. She helps out with duties like fundraising, marketing and decorating.
“I look at it as a blessing,” Roots said. “It gives me a chance to be involved in what my kids are doing.”
Older students love her classes, too. As far as age goes, Rebekah McCartney came late to ballet. She had taken dance classes when she was much younger and decided, at 15, that she wanted to get back to ballet. She takes three hours of class a week and has hopes of soon joining the pre-pointe class.
“Ballet is empowering,” McCartney said. “It makes me feel strong and graceful.”
McCartney’s class will be demonstrating a collection of short ballets in Saturday’s showcase.
“Dana strives to make everybody succeed,” McCartney said. “She won’t let you get away with doing something wrong in your technique.”
“Dance in Bloom” takes the stage at 7 p.m. $5 tickets are available at the dance studio or at the door before showtime.