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Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017
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Ballet school has vision of sugar plums

CARROLLWOOD - Gissell Durand yells to the dancers over the music, "Smile," "Watch your elbows" and "Show rotation of supporting leg." Durand and her husband, Julio Montano, watch over the dancers making sure to fine tune the choreography at a recent rehearsal of "The Nutcracker." The dancers are members of the All American Classical Ballet School and have been preparing for more than two months. This will be the third time the school has performed the classic holiday ballet. About 125 students ages 5 to adult will be involved in the production that will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel, 30651 Wells Road. "We have 'The Nutcracker' jitters," said Angela Tompkins, 15, who is performing in the ballet for the first time.
Montano said many ballet companies do "The Nutcracker" for the holidays because the dancers enjoy it so much. "It's a full production of classical ballet that requires a lot of work and helps parents understand our art and love it," Durand said. "And the girls would do this production every six years if they could." The school focuses on one production a year. The main production is either "The Nutcracker" or a spring recital. Terri Howell opened the All American Dance Factory 16 years ago and then decided she wanted to offer classical ballet and opened All American Classical Ballet School, 13155 N. Dale Mabry Highway, five years ago. Montano and Durand started teaching ballet at the school when it opened in Carrollwood. Montano, 38, started dancing ballet in Cuba at age 8. When he graduated high school he started dancing for La Escuela Nacional de Cuba. Then when he was 20 he moved to Peru and continued dancing at Ballet Nacional de Peru. This is when Montano started teaching and around the time he also met Durand. Durand, 36, started dancing in Peru at 9. By the age of 24, she was teaching and dancing at Ballet Nacional de Peru. At 30, she decided to stop dancing and concentrate on teaching. Montano said putting on a production such as "The Nutcracker" requires lots of work, teaching the choreography and then balancing and perfecting the final product. Because Montano and Durand learned the same style of ballet, the Vaganova style, Montano said teaching dancers "Is easier and provides better results." "She is more about details and I am more about energy," he said. The combination of their teaching styles has helped the school earn several awards in events such as the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, the American Dance Competition in Daytona Beach and at the Youth American Grand Prix in Columbia, S.C. "This is a small school, but we do wonders," Montano said.

If you go

WHAT: "The Nutcracker"

WHERE: Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel, 30651 Wells Road.

WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday

COST: $15 at door; $12 if pre-ordered at school office.

INFORMATION: (813) 962-0999 or visit www.allamericanclassicalballet.com

jbalanza@tampatrib.com (727) 815-1059

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