Oxford Ballet School teaches ‘serious’ competition

Dominique R. McGhee
The Oxford Eagle

Almost 13 years ago, the Oxford Ballet School opened its doors to aspiring area dancers and has been a strong support for students who have trained there.

Genevieve Fortner, founder and director of the Oxford Ballet School, has been dancing for over 30 years and felt Oxford would be the ideal place to open her school.

“There was a lack of one in the community and a need for more than what the school could offer,” Fortner said.

The mission of the Oxford Ballet School is to provide classical ballet training that can either lead to a professional career or nurture an appreciation for the art form. The school also teaches discipline through the body and by developing the talents of students to their fullest potential.

Fortner’s effort have been well received by the community.

“It has been fantastic, very supportive,” she said. “ We are known as the serious school.”

The Oxford Ballet School has been able to combine a fun learning experience with the discipline to properly learn an art form that has been admired and passed down for centuries.

The school produces a variety of ballets. The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty are Fortner’s favorites because of the selection of stages and required abilities the two ballets require.

“They are a delight for all ages from the very young to the very old,” said Fortner.

Of the newer productions the Oxford Ballet School will be performing this year, Fortner thinks The ABC Classics will be very interesting for several reasons.

The ballet involves using the last name of classical composers from the letters A to Z and dancing to selections of each composer.

Aside from the unique performance style, Fortner feels it can be a collaborative affair.

“It is ready for public schools and library settings, and could be an accompaniment to music classes,” she said.

The opportunities offered by the Oxford Ballet School extend beyond local exposure. Fortner’s students  have worked in professional companies, such as Ballet Arkansas, and they have studied with larger schools like the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet in New York.

“It is a special privilege to see that they have been ignited with the same passion for dancing as I have,” she said.

The school’s proximity to the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the University of Mississippi campus has provided multiple opportunities for students.

In previous years, the Oxford Ballet School performed The Nutcracker and Cinderella on the Ford Center stage.

As years passed, there were fewer chances to perform there because the Ford Center hosted more events, but students still get the opportunity to dance there.

When other companies perform at the Ford Center, Fortner encourages students to visit them and audition for performances.

Two years ago when the Dance Alive National Ballet of Gainesville, Florida, performed at the Ford Center, Fortner encouraged students to audition and they all won a spot.

Kate Meacham, marketing director at the Ford Center, reaches out to local dance schools when there are performance opportunities for students.

Meacham knows any chance a student gets to learn from a professional can impact their future.

“Learning about people in the field teaches them about protocol, and the level of commitment it requires,” she said.

Aside from the students’ participation in The Nutcracker,  Oxford Ballet School students also participate in many workshops at the Ford Center.

Meacham described the relationship between the Ford Center and the Oxford Ballet School as “positive.”

Though all events are open to area dance and performance schools, Meacham has noticed that the Oxford Ballet School students “responded to and participated in greater numbers.”

The students’ willingness to seek opportunities, work ethic towards dance and passion can be somewhat attributed to Fortner’s influence.

Over the past decade, Fortner has taught over 100 students. She offers regular class instruction to advanced students and  workshops for younger students at her studio.

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