A dream to dance

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— When dance instructor Stephanie (Hunter) Reese says it's time to get down to business, people listen. More than a dozen 13-year-old girls, dressed in leotards and ballet shoes, surrounded her in a rehearsal earlier this week. The girls giggled and grabbed each other and acted like any group of young people would. And Reese laughed and played around with the girls for minute, too, demonstrating a strong union the dance teacher has with her students.

But when Reese said it was time to get in line and dance a number, it got quiet and the girls got down to work.

Steamboat Ballet is just another top-of-the-line institution that offers opportunities to learn and understand high art in the little city of Steamboat Springs.

The dance school was conceived and is operated by Reese behind her goal to offer some "serious" classes for different forms of dance.

"Usually dance is viewed as fun time. It's not viewed as an education institution," Reese said.

That's not the case in places such as New York, where people dedicate their lives to a dance career. Reese hopes to re-create that atmosphere in Steamboat Springs to show young people that it is an art form.

"I came in with a vision of offering the most top-notch training that I could," she said.

That doesn't mean it's all straight faces in the dance studio. In fact, most of the girls practicing for Steamboat Ballet's spring recital next week are wearing smiles during rehearsals.

"You have to have some personality with the kids," Reese said.

But for those who want to be serious about dance and want to pursue it on another level, Reese strives to give them a glimpse of what it takes to be a professional.

Though she received ample training to teach at this level, Reese also looks to friends in the dance world to help her out. World famous master instructor Michael Vernon makes yearly visits to the studio for a workshop; former Broadway dancer and master instructor Joe Istre does the same.

"I want to offer the best education I can for these kids," Reese said.

She also is beginning to take students on yearly trips to New York for dance workshops to introduce them further to the professional world of dancing.

"If this is really what they want to do, this is the way to get a foot in the door," she said.

Jazz dancer Katie Noble said has been dancing for four years and says since she has been with Reese she has seen things on a broader scale.

"I've always wanted to be a performer. I do voice. I feel like dance is good to have with it," she said. "She (Reese) came from a different place and she brings different types of choreography with her."

The variety of dance Reese covers will show up in the third annual spring recital next week, titles "Turning Pointe."

About 100 children from ages 6 to 17 and a handful of adults will participate in the program, performing traditional ballet, Manhattan jazz dance, hip hop, tap and even a cancan number inspired by the movie "Moulin Rouge," just to name a few acts.

"Usually, I'm insane this time of the year; I'm off the wall. This year, I'm approaching it more laid back," Reese said.

She also has more help this year. Teacher Laurie Weaver was hired to take care of some of the classes, and more parents are involved with the production side of the spring recital.

The recital is at 6:30 p.m. May 11 at the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium.

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