Class Notes : Elizabeth Byrd–Creative Movement Teacher, Le Ballet Petit

Creative movement class is a wonderful way to introduce preschoolers to movement and music in a group setting. Less focused on defining steps such as in a ballet class, it draws on children’s curiosity about rhythm, music, shapes and play.Here’s my scoop on the Kinder Class at Le Ballet Petit, one of many creative movement classes that you will find in Chicago.

It is a lovely spring morning and I am on my way to visit Le Ballet Petite Studio in the lovely northwest neighborhood Ravenswood Manor. I pass the Chicago River’s northwest branch where greenery is in abundance on each bank. This makes up the eastern boarder of the neighborhood. (“The Manor” as it is called lovingly by some, is home to Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his family.) I arrive at the studio, which is conveniently located across the street from a park. “It’s great for the kids waiting for their siblings to get out of class”, says Sarah Byrd. She runs the front desk and has two daughters who have been dancing at the school since 1987. Although it is a neighborhood school, Le Ballet Petite also draws students from suburbs such as Niles and Skokie. “We get all ages in our Nutcracker performance, from four to 70 years old!” Sarah Byrd enrolled her daughter Elizabeth in dance class because she was shy at four years old. At 10 she became a teaching assistant. She began teaching at 16 and continues to do so at 23. Why creative movement, I ask? “They’re cute,” Miss Elizabeth reasons.

A Flamenco class of about a dozen teenagers is in session. Director of the school and instructor Ida Velez shouts,“Attack somebody!” over the rhythmic thunder of the pounding Flamenco shoes. It is through this studio that you must pass to get to the downstairs dressing room or the second studio where the 3 year olds are gathering for their creative movement class. A steady stream of people course through the classroom and yet these dancers remain focused and unperturbed.

Miss Clara is the teaching assistant today, or rather “Miss Clara Chair” as the 3 year olds take turns on her lap. Hugs and high fives are plentiful and the dancers are called by their first names.

It’s impressive what you can pack into a 60 minute class: Eleven 3 year olds start bouncing in unison when the class begins to the Latin sounds of La Vida Mickey and they complete their warm ups. They do across the floor movements, which show off their coordination and balance. A mat is presented and there is tumbling. The recital piece is rehearsed and then Miss Elizabeth wraps it up with freeze dance. Miss Elizabeth makes it look easy and fun. “This is not a ‘professional’ school but we give people many opportunities to perform and students are introduced to the love of dance,” says Sarah.
Le Ballet Petit

School of Dance

4630 North Francisco Avenue

Chicago, Illinois 60625-3723

Telephone: (773) 463-3385