Again and again, two girls wearing tutus leap across the floor in the front of Kettle Run High School’s auditorium. Mothers snap pictures with camera phones.
Up on the stage, other dancers practice “The Nutcracker,” a Christmas ballet tradition offered this season by the Lasley Centre for the Performing Arts.
Founded a year and a half ago by Kalie Lasley, the school teaches ballet to children and adults.
Six-year-old Abby Kane-Haspel is one of the younger students. She plays a mouse in “The Nutcracker.”
“I’m a mysterious girl and mice are more mysterious than bonbons,” Abby said while she pulled on her costume.
Bonbons are another role in “The Nutcracker.” “They like to steal cheese.” She enjoys sneaking around the house in the ballet, she said.
Amy Burkhart, 12, plays Clara. This is her first lead role.
“It really pushes me to do things I haven’t been able to do before,” said Amy, who lives in Jeffersonton.
She has had to give up a lot of time with friends in order to practice, said her mother , Margaret Burkhart.
Burkhart’s other daughter, Olivia, 16, is also in “The Nutcracker.” She praises the Lasley Centre for how her daughters have developed.
“They have gone far and above what we thought was possible right now,” said Burkhart.
Dance impacts them physically, spiritually, academically and cognitively, according to Burkhart.
The dancers ha ve to learn time management skills to get their school work done before going to dance class. Through this, Burkhart said, their sense of responsibility grows.
And, dance requires a high level of thinking. A dancer must be aware of her breathing, how her arms are bent and her legs are turned out, and the alignment of her shoulders, all at the same time, plus remember the steps.
“Basically, it’s head-to-toe thinking,” said Burkhart. “It’s about how every part of the body is placed.”
Burkhart’s daughters have studied at the Lasley Centre since it opened in J une 2011. Not only does Lasley stress excellence in teaching students the correct way to dance, the former dancer, teacher and choreographer strives to create a nurturing atmosphere for students.
“What we pour into these children’s lives is indelible ,” Lasley said. “We better make sure it is positive.”
To help her do that, Lasley hired a group of teachers who are the only “fully professional staff” in the area, as stated on the Lasley Centre website.
Instructor Mackenzie Waters dances as the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker.” The sequins on her blue and white costume sparkle as she talks.
Teaching comes naturally to her, Waters said. Now a junior at George Mason University, she developed a program to teac h ballet and jazz dance to homeless children when she w as in high school.
Last year, Waters substituted for and assisted other instructors. Now she has her own classes.
She also dances in the Washington Ballet. It’s a struggle to juggle being a student, a teacher and a dancer.
“Dancing is very grueling,” said Waters.
And, accordingly Waters, performing is dance at a different level.
Not only do teachers talk to students about being healthy, but Lasley also approaches them in a professional manner, said Kris Tchetter of Warrenton, whose 8- and 9-year -old daughters study at the Lasley Centre. She expects them to be on time and to follow through on commitments.
On her part, Lasley is dedicated to teaching dance.
“There’s a moral obligation to make sure you’re doing right by your students,” Lasley said.
Currently, classes are held in two locations, in Vint Hill and in the Old Town Athletic Center in Warrenton.
Lasley is looking for space to purchase where the sc hool can house several studios, a goal she hopes to accomplish by J une 2013, when she also plans to add different genres of dance to the curriculum.
Another June goal is to establish a nonprofit performing company to work in conjunction with the school to fund scholarships for students.
“I’m excited for Kalie’ s vision,” said Burkhart.
“The Nutcracker” is at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at Kettle Run High School. In between performances, there will be a reception where c hildren can ask questions of the 47 dancers in the ballet.
Tickets for adults are $15 and $12 for children. To purchase, call (540) 905-2782 or buy at www.LasleyCentre.com