Classical dance in motion at San Gorgonio Ballet

The San Gorgonio Ballet in Calimesa offers a variety of ballet classes for ages 6 and up.

In unison, dancers at the barre rise up on their toes in time with the music and directions from instructor Julia Olsen-Rodriguez.

“One, two, hold,” Olsen-Rodriguez calls out as she walks around the studio giving specific instructions to each dancer.

It’s Saturday morning and the San Gorgonio Ballet in Calimesa is busy with classes, ranging from technical instruction to intermediate and advanced pointe to stretching and strength. The school also offers beginning and adult classes and choreography, all focused on ballet.

“We are not a dance studio. We are a ballet school and a ballet company,” said Olsen-Rodriguez, the artistic director, explaining what sets apart the San Gorgonio Ballet from other studios and classes that typically provide a variety of dance instruction.

“The difference is the school purely trains only ballet,” she said. “We bring in master teachers to hold master classes for modern dance and for styles of dance that do not stray away too far from classical genre, such as ballet. We are purely focused on ballet and we have been for the entire 16 years.”

That’s similar to the SGB mission statement, which talks about how the nonprofit is focused on bringing ballet to the community and making it accessible for all.

It’s one of the reasons the SGB is constantly fundraising. It holds bake sales in the spring and winter to help with scholarships, performances and the main goal of purchasing its own space for classes and possibly productions.

Its next fundraiser is A Celebration of Dance, showcasing the talents of students and company dancers at its studio, in the Crown Village Center on Calimesa Boulevard. There will be two performances June 1, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., with doors opening a half-hour before. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at the studio.

“This is actually the first time we are going to do a performance in that studio,” said Olsen-Rodriguez, who moved the SGB to Calimesa from Banning about three years ago. “We performed at Crafton Hills College, a school with an auditorium in Banning, theater venues.”

“For this particular event, it’s more of a promotional event to do more fundraising and do more awareness for our studio so we decided to have it in-house,” she said.

Olsen-Rodriguez grew up in Banning before earning a scholarship to the elite Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. Her first professional solo was at age 15 in “Cinderella,” according to her bio on the SGB website. Her extensive dance background includes the American Ballet Theatre, the Kirov and the Bolshoi at Vail. She has continued to dance, but also helped found the nonprofit San Gorgonio Ballet about 16 years ago.

“I really received the best training you can get in classical ballet and brought it to my hometown area,” Olsen-Rodriguez said. “I am still an active professional ballet dancer and that is very much part of being a good teacher.

“It’s really important to have both. It’s equal. I personally love to teach. I love to choreograph. I love to dance as well. It’s a balance for me.”

Moving to Calimesa

The San Gorgonio Ballet’s move to Calimesa was somewhat accidental as it was the best available space Olsen-Rodriguez could find after finding out the space she was renting in Banning was going to be sold.

“We right in the middle of rehearsal for a show and we were also getting ready for our summer intensive program … and I needed space,” Olsen-Rodriguez said, recalling the urgent situation. “It just happened to be in Calimesa.”

As she continues to raise funds for thier own space, Olsen-Rodriguez said the ballet school and company will stay, if not in Calimesa, then nearby in the Pass Area.

“This is going to be our area, but it really depends on what comes up,” she said.

In the meantime, the Crown Village Center is a good location, attracting students who are visiting other nearby shops and restaurants. At least that is what happened with Lauren Singley of Yucaipa.

About a year ago, she was walking by and noticed the class schedule in the window, offering adult sessions. The Yucaipa High School graduate decided to try one out. Now, she takes three to four classes.

“I did do dance in high school,” she said about her years on the Yucaipa Dance Team, “but never ballet. Ballet is much harder.”

“I really love it,” she said about the ballet classes, “so I just started adding more and more.”

Students at the San Gorgonio Ballet range from 6 to adult years, Olsen-Rodriguez said.

“I can actually say I have a student in their 70s,” she said.

The San Gorgonio Ballet is located at 1007 Calimesa Blvd., Suite B2, in the Crown Village Center in Calimesa.

To find out more information about San Gorgonio Ballet, visit www.sangorgonioballet.org or call 951-922-8820.

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