• Tue. Oct 19th, 2021

Minnetonka Classical Ballet Training School Prepares Dancers For Professional Careers

ByKaren B. Brown

Apr 1, 2021

Inspiring young ballet dancers to achieve excellence through their technique and love of the art, WestMet Classical Training in Long Lake provides pre-professional guidance to students interested in pursuing a serious career in concert dance.

Open since May 2020 (for virtual classes, later expanded to in-person instruction), Allynne Noelle and Thomas Brown have used their knowledge from their extensive dancing careers to develop a place that inspires students to make their dreams come true. The program includes four skill levels with less than 10 dancers in each to encourage personal growth through individualized criticism. Practicing an average of 17 hours per week, the training structure prepares dancers to hopefully receive scholarships or internships at leading ballet schools, leading to professional careers. “Our goal is to train these dancers and equip them in the best possible way,” explains Noelle.

In addition to teaching technical elements, Noelle says that gaps in the traditional style of training need to be filled to prepare dancers for professional careers. Emphasizing the importance of professionalism, the school also focuses on professional skill sets beyond simple body movement. “Fantastic technique and a gorgeous body can only get you that far if you can’t really perform like a professional in a business,” she says. “[Brown] and I started WestMet Classical Training to really offer this totally holistic understanding of what it means to be a ballet dancer. She continues: “I thought it was unfair for young dancers to get thrown away. [to] wolves and have this expectation that they’re supposed to know how you’re supposed to operate and what you’re supposed to do. It’s a kind of sink or swim moment.

Addressing elements, such as understanding what it means to be an understudy, learning to perform on stage, and understanding character dance (a subdivision of classical ballet that focuses on the theatrical elements of song and movement), the school creates a environment where individuals can have role conversations and learn the skills needed to be successful.

In addition to studio work, WestMet also prepares dancers for stage experiences. Each year, the school prepares a Nutcracker performance at the Westonka Performing Arts Center (unfortunately canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19) and a series of performances in June. In addition, the dancers participate in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), an international classical ballet scholarship program, offering a competition that offers young dancers the opportunity to train at other prestigious ballet schools in the world. whole world. From summer programs, short stays and even internships, the YAGP provides exposure for their future careers.

Although WestMet requires an audition to join the school, its approach to gaining new members is different from that of some studios in the area. To make sure individuals are the right fit, Noelle says they “get to know each dancer, their skills and their facilities” through one-on-one interviews and a 30-day trial period. “It’s important to get to know the dancers, their learning curve and their personality in the classroom,” she says. “It’s a way to give them a real period of adjustment to make sure that’s what they want… and they’re happy as much as we are happy.”

For Ava Tellier, a 15-year-old student at WestMet, it was the school’s inviting environment and unique teaching style that prompted her to join us. Taking ballet, jazz and tap dance lessons since the age of 5, Ava got to experience WestMet’s approach three years ago at the Summit Dance Shoppe, where Noelle and Brown previously co-led the ballet. “I think every [ballet] the class was different so I was never bored, ”says Ava of her experience at Summit. “Each class was really fun and something new.”

Originally viewing ballet as her least favorite dance style, Ava says she was drawn to this art form after working with Noelle and Brown. “I fell in love with it,” she says. “I owe them literally everything.

In recent years, Ava has focused heavily on ballet. Practicing 20 hours a week, she hopes to attend the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle after graduating from high school. “[Dance] is something that I really enjoy doing, ”she says. “I also like that it’s always something I can work on because I know it won’t always be perfect. I really like it.


Career Posters

Brown and Noelle bring great experience to WestMet. While starting from different starting points, the careers reunited the now married couple, eventually ending up in Minnesota.

A native of Florida, Brown fell in love with ballet at the age of 14, attended the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville and then joined the Richmond Ballet, where he spent most of his career (2003- 2015). With the company he played several leading roles in ballet classics, such as Giselle and Swan Lake in places like the Egg in Beijing, the Royal Opera House in London and the Grand Shanghai Theater. Joining the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Washington, DC, in 2015, he continued to broaden his lead role experience, working in ballet, contemporary and modern styles.

Noelle began her professional career at age 15 with the Los Angeles Classical Ballet and later with the Inland Pacific Ballet in California. After graduating, she moved to Florida to join the Miami City Ballet, where she danced as a soloist for seven seasons. Progressing in her career, she joined the National Ballet of Canada. Her time there came to an end shortly after a serious foot injury caused her to return to California. She then joined the Los Angeles Ballet Company, where she danced for five seasons as Principal Principal and began her own summer internship for young dancers, performed in award-winning dance shorts and held lead roles. guests throughout California.

Noelle joined the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, where she met Brown. Developing as dancers, they began teaching in various studios and became co-directors of the ballet program at the Summit Dance Shoppe in Plymouth, their first teaching experience in a competitive studio. The couple share the title of Outstanding YAGP Teachers in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

WestMet serves as a springboard for dancers who aspire to develop a professional career. Getting access to prestigious summer training programs is one way to achieve this goal. WestMet dancers have been accepted into the following summer programs:

The Royal Ballet, London

Paris Opera Ballet, France

Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Canada

American Ballet School (SAB), new York

Ballet West, Utah

Intensive new generation ballet courses at the Patel Conservatory, Florida

Pacific Northwest Ballet, Washington

University of North Carolina School of the Arts

Boston Ballet, Massachusetts

Princess Grace Academy, Monaco


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