The cream-colored chipped walls hold posters of dancers, young and old. Worn ballet shoes lie in the corner in heaps. A neon sign reading "Bonnie Haney School of Dance" shines in the window of this third story schoolroom. The golden arches of McDonald's appear in plain view from the window. Green and brown bars move horizontally around the room. No signs of any ball or typical sporting equipment is present--just a handful of girls with sweat trickling down their faces.
These young girls lightly touch the worn bar with their right hand and gently and gracefully plie with their legs. (plie means to bend at the legs) To the sound and motion of the music, these girls turn around and repeat the exercise.
What is commonly called "bar work" in ballet language continues for about 20 minutes. These precise leg and arm movements bring about the gracefulness, posture, balance and fluent movements that are normally seen in ballet dancers.
Each girl appears to have an invisible private square to dance in. The sweaty and strained look on their faces shows the frustration they feel from the difficulty of the exercises.
Typically, frustration that evolves inside a person from participating in a sport is correlated with an opponent. In the sport of ballet, the frustration is from inside the dancer. The goal is ultimately to beat yourself.
Bonnie Haney, a dance instructor in Moorhead, commented, "You're getting so in tune with your body, it's really intellectual as well as physical. You're constantly being challenged with thinking as opposed to just moving."
At age four, Haney began her involvement in the dance world. She claims she was the shy girl in the corner. After high school this shy girl won a scholarship to dance with the City Lights Ballet Company in Minnesota. This involved traveling, which didn't appeal to Haney in her teen years. She then moved to Canada to attend the Ballet School of Toronto. This is a highly respected dance instructor school. After starting dance schools in Minnesota and Nebraska, Haney moved to Moorhead and opened the Bonnie Haney School of Dance, 18 years ago.
Haney said the best time to start a child in ballet classes is around the age of five. "There are over 800 French terms, and it's one thing to understand them, but it's another thing to have to dance it. A well trained dancer can pick up anything (other types of dance). It gives them overall confidence."
A beginner may take one class a week and as he or she progresses, move to two classes a week. Serious dancers make this type of commitment. Haney believes strongly in her dancers having a life outside the ballet studio. By being involved in other activities in school and in the community, these dancers are "well rounded". The world of dance is not only for women, but for men as well. Haney instructs boys and men from ages 4 to 28. The female dance population exceeds the slowly increasing male population.
Haney says that a big misconception of dance is that the dancer must be tall, thin, graceful and delicate. Many parents may say, "My child is too big," or "My child is too clumsy," but Haney has to ask, "Too big or clumsy for what?" When children are four and five, parents are "already thinking professional." The main concern is that the child likes it and starts growing with it. The goal to become a good dancer, or professional dancer must come from within the student. As for the argument, "My child is too uncoordinated," Haney says, "That's what we're here for."
Dance is supported more and more every year in the Fargo/Moorhead area. "The program is becoming bigger. People are seeing an end result...after six months to a year a dancer can show obvious improvements on their balance, posture, gracefulness and fluent movements."
The people of Fargo/Moorhead have an opportunity to see this "end result". Each spring the Bonnie Haney School of Dance performs a recital to display their abilities. In December the studio puts on its version of The Nutcracker.
"Part of the magic of dance is learning how to slow down and think, and there's a lot of respect that goes with that. That's part of the magic of dance. There's a lot of respect for the art. You always want to work and do better--it gives you a goal to achieve-it makes you work hard without realizing it because dance is fun."
The girls do their pirouettes and leap across the black rubber floor--their bodies soaring like doves, and land gracefully back on their personal earth.
"Each dancer is painting a picture of their body in their head while they are trying to achieve it with their body."
Story by Jessica L. Johnson
Photographs by Terri Mogen
Design by Amy Asleson, Shay
Dickman and Kelly Tomlinson
For more information on ballet click on one of the following:
Frequently Asked Questions about Dance
CyberDance: Ballet on the Net
American Ballet Photography Exhibition