The Ballet Arts Conservatory of Tallahassee (BACT) will celebrate its 23rd anniversary this summer. Established by artistic director and educator Amy Lowe, the studio and its youth ballet ensemble have persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent variants by remaining steadfast in the belief that “ballet changes lives.”
Lowe was proud to see her students excel even while dancing on Zoom from their living rooms. Last year’s BACT performances took place outdoors at the Goodwood Museum and Gardens’ Carriage House as well as at the Ball House and Cottages at SouthWood.
They also joined forces with the Tallahassee Youth Orchestras in February for a special guest artist concert at Ruby Diamond Concert Hall.
This June, BACT will return to the Lincoln High School Theatre to present “Snow White” on June 3 and 4.
“Ballet helps you to deal with challenging situations,” says Lowe. “You have to be flexible with obstacles that might get in your way and find ways to overcome them. Ballet puts you in situations where you have to think on the fly and be ready for the unexpected. It’s something that comes along with years of training.”
Lowe’s extensive ballet training, teaching and choreographic work has spanned nearly three decades. She holds a degree in sports medicine with a specialization in injury prevention and treatment and is a certified teacher in the American Ballet Theatre national training curriculum, Progressing Ballet Technique, and Pilates.
In 2020, Lowe was recognized as ACHI Magazine’s Mentor of the Year and was a finalist in 2021 for Tallahassee Woman Magazine’s Innovator of the Year.
Her key motivation as an educator is to train young dancers in the healthiest and safest methods possible while sharing her passion for classical ballet. Her own love for the art form was first cultivated in her childhood living room. Lowe would frequently ask her mother to play music on their Steinway grand piano.
“I would get her to come play for me in the living room while I pretended that I was onstage or choreographing something with my accompanist in the background,” remembers Lowe. “Ballet has been innate in my soul since I was very small. It’s like air.”
Lowe first choreographed and premiered “Snow White” in 2014 but decided to bring the classic fairytale back with a new twist for this season. The process for re-creating the ballet began 14 months ago. She decided to not watch or listen to any of her prior work in order to re-envision the ballet entirely, writing a new libretto and selecting a fresh musical score.
When choosing which stories to tell onstage, Lowe first looks at her potential cast of students. Lowe chose graduating senior, Diana Fernandez, for the title role this year because of her love for the fairytale and ability to portray a range of acting skills. Guest artist, Carter Whiddon, a Florida State University graduate dance student, will play the Prince.
Lowe works closely with students of all ages who take part in the end-of-year productions and takes care to coach them individually on everything from technical finesse to finding their purpose onstage. For solo roles, Lowe begins with a choreographic skeleton, or series of steps, and then works one-on-one in rehearsals to bring a particular character to life.
“It’s very important that students understand that being a solid technician is only a small component of being a dancer,” says Lowe. “I want them to understand that being an artist is a very individual and unique experience. My role in all this is to lead them on this journey.”
Lowe credits one of her ballet mentors, Ruth Petrinovic, with influencing her teaching philosophy. She would witness Petrinovic work with dancers of varying technical capabilities, personalities, and ranges of artistry. She studied how Petrinovic coached these dancers by using different learning styles and has incorporated a similar approach into her studio classes and rehearsals.
“We all don’t learn the same,” says Lowe. “Some dancers and students need to see the choreography, some need to hear it, some need to have their bodies physically put into position. That’s something I incorporate not only into my teaching practice, but also when I craft choreography.”
While Lowe’s choreographic style for this production takes a classical approach with character work and acting layered on top of it, she most enjoys pushing herself out of the ballet box to make each image onstage support the larger storyline.
Sometimes this means finding creative ways for the music and steps resonate with the audience, whether it’s changing how a dancer holds their arms or finding a note in the music to accent with a particular emotion.
Learn More about Ballet Arts Conservatory of Tallahassee
Learn More about the “Snow White” event June 3-4, 2022
Read this article on the Tallahassee Democrat website