Gregory-Lincoln Education Center dance instructor Thomas Porter teaches all types of dance in his classes, but he has found that ballet helps his students improve in all areas.
“When I began taking dance lessons, I focused on jazz and tap,” Porter said. “But when I took ballet, I saw a major improvement in my jazz techniques. Ballet quickly became my favorite form of dance.”
That’s why he jumped at the chance to have Melanie Hovis from the Houston Ballet teach a series of six master classes at Gregory-Lincoln this spring. Hovis has been teaching with the Houston Ballet for two years, having danced previously with the Austin Ballet.
“I love working with the students and teachers in the schools,” she said. “Dance is a great way for students to learn more about themselves and develop their self-confidence.”
Hovis began the second of the six ballet classes with stretching exercises on the floor followed by work at the barre. After the students were warmed up, they did some floor work that included simple combinations and jumps.
The Houston Ballet Education and Community Engagement program gives schools like Gregory-Lincoln six free hours of instruction from an experienced ballet teacher. The lessons complement, support, and extend what students are already learning in their dance classes.
“Gregory-Lincoln is a fine arts magnet school where students study all fine arts from Pre-K through second grade,” said Magnet Coordinator Cheryl Jones. “Then in third grade, they have to decide which area of the fine arts they want to focus on.”
“I like dance class because I get to meet kids who aren’t in my grade level,” said sixth-grader Elektra Olivarez. “I have two little sisters who want to come here and dance as well.”
Sixth-grader Camren Heard came to Gregory Lincoln specifically to dance. “I tried out for the dance program in third grade, and I made it,” she said. Heard is also a member of Dynasty Elite, the school’s dance team.
Porter’s classes prepared 22 different pieces for the HISD districtwide recital in late winter. They are now rehearsing a production of the Lion King that takes place May 24 and 25.
This is Porter’s second year at Gregory-Lincoln. His classes include ballet, jazz, modern, creative movement, hip-hop, and ballroom dancing.