When Paige Retchko was growing up in a tiny town in rural south Georgia, she learned to dance from a teacher whose own teacher had danced in the Ballets Russes—the Russian Ballet. “It was just happenstance,” she said. “But that was my exposure to real artistry.”
Now, having found her way across Georgia to a tiny town in the opposite corner of the state, Ms. Retchko wants to be that same kind of happenstance for a new generation of danceurs et danceuses. Her Dade County Dance Center at 12580 North Main Street in Trenton will have its “grande opening” on Saturday, July 28.
That’s the way Ms. Retchko accidentally spelled it in an online announcement—you get so used to using French words in ballet, she explains--croisé, penché, pas de deux. OK, The Planet figured, let’s go with it; or shall we say, allons-y!
Which is how The Planet happened to entitle this photo of Ms. Retchko posing with her children (Josie, 3, and Charlie, 5) La Danse Des Pinceaux, the Dance of the Paintbrushes.
Pinceaux—er, paintbrushes—as well as brooms and mud buckets, are right now more in evidence than barres and pointe shoes at the storefront Ms. Retchko is fixing up in the Gross Shopping Center. The Dade County Dance Center will occupy the space beside Lookout Mountain Community Services, which at one point used it for auxiliary offices. Ms. Retchko had picked out the abandoned Fred’s store on one of her Trenton drive-throughs, then learned that this neighboring 3000-square-foot space was pretty much exactly what she needed, with one large and one huge room both perfect for dance studios. She is adding sprung floors to make them suitable for dancing and has already taken out the drop ceilings.
“For a proper dance space, you do need some clearance,” said Ms. Retchko. She explained that once she gets boys in her classes as well as girls, and starts working with partnering: “You can’t really lift a girl up over your head with that there because she’ll bang her head on it.”
Little girls are the stereotypical ballet studio consumers, but Ms. Retchko is emphatic about her intention to recruit boys, too. Look at all the great ballets, she says. “The stories are fairytales,” she pointed out. “You’ve got to have a prince, or a soldier or somebody. How are you going to have that if you don’t have boys training in your class?”
If boys are inclined to think ballet dancing is girly, she directs their attention to the great Russian dancer and heartthrob Mikhail Baryshnikov. “There’s nothing delicate about what he did,” she said. “It was always very strong.”
(And The Planet will add here at no additional cost, for the benefit of lonely males of any age who happen to be among the readership, that dances or dance classes are excellent places to rendezvous with females of any age.)
To point to an example closer to home, Ms. Retchko’s Charlie at 5 is already the alumnus of a ballet class at Creative Life Skills in Dalton, the dance studio where Ms. Retchko has taught for seven years, the last three as assistant dance director.
La danse has been Ms. Retchko’s life since she caught the bug in girlhood. She earned a bachelor’s degree in dance studies at Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga., and taught ballet in Gwinnett County in the Atlanta area before moving to Lookout Valley, where she is married to a Chattanooga police officer. (Or should The Planet say, gendarme?)
Ms. Retchko considers herself a danceuse, not a businesswoman, and had never planned to run a studio herself. But Dade County friends planted the seed—Trenton has never had a dance studio, and would love one, they told her—and eventually it took root. “I think I’ve learned what I needed to learn in order to do it,” she said.
And she intends to do it in a grande way. “We’ll be a full classical dance studio,” she said. “Our focus is classical ballet and our goal is to have a pre-professional dance ensemble.”
One of the large studio spaces Ms. Retchko is renovating. She is adding sprung floors and has taken out the drop ceilings, which might be too low for your more spirited jetés and pirouettes.
That performance group will be called the Cloudland Ballet Ensemble, and Ms. Retchko’s ambition for it is to perform a full Christmas-themed ballet every winter. For the first couple of years, though, she’ll settle for a showcase recital.
In addition to ballet, the Dade County Dance Center will teach tap, jazz and hip-hop dancing and will offer a tumble class, as well. There are four teachers so far, Ms. Retchko, Aaron Ellison, Danielle Smith and Bailey Reed, who used to run the Inverted Athletics studio in the north end of the county.
The studio is for all ages jeunes to vieux. It will offer ballet instruction to children as young as 3 but is also recruiting for an adult class. On Monday and Wednesday mornings from 9 a.m.-noon, the studio will offer the “Little Artists Club” for children 2-5, featuring crafts as well as exploratory dance and tumbling. Otherwise the class schedule begins at 4:30 p.m., convenient for kids in école.
If you are the parent of the next Pavlova—or if you yearn to learn yourself—please feel free to check out the class lineup, fee schedules and registration deadlines at dadecountydancecenter.com, or to follow the studio's Facebook page at:
Registration for classes starts June 16 and you can preregister online on June 15.
In parting, The Planet leaves you with this pensée from Hafid Aggoune--
Danser en temps de guerre, c’est comme cracher à la gueule du diable.
--and bids you adieu.