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Sanibel Ballet celebrates grand opening, adds beginner classes

By Staff | May 25, 2011

Karen Whitaker has been dancing since the age of four. At the youthful age of 12, she entered the Tampa Ballet as an apprentice and, after being scouted, joined the Dallas Ballet as a principal dancer. She studied under Nathalie Krassovska, prima ballerina from the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

After suffering a knee injury that forced her to undergo arthroscopic surgery, Whitaker continued trying to dance – again with the Tampa Ballet and then the Los Angeles Ballet. She ultimately retired from professional dance and returned to Florida, where she began teaching and to rehabilitate.

When she moved to Fort Myers in 1987, Whitaker became Ballet Mistress at The Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts in Cape Coral, where she and many of her former students worked on Broadway and with professional companies. She eventually stepped away from teaching, went to college, and raised her son.

Now that her only son is going off to college, Whitaker has returned to her first love – ballet. She approached Sanibel Health Club’s owners, Jenna Hoyt and Tim Shevlin, with an idea. They were delighted to have the Sanibel resident conduct private ballet instruction in the perfectly-appointed dance/aerobics studio at the club. Whitaker’s lessons and classes have been focused on classical ballet for serious ballet students – those with at least three years of experience in classical ballet and good knowledge of placement, movement and terms.

Whitaker told the Sanibel-Captiva Islander in January, “If I find enough promising students, I’d love to start my own ballet company – but that’s for the future.”

She may not have her own company just yet, but Whitaker will now be sharing her talent and vast knowledge of ballet with beginner dancers at Sanibel Ballet. The beginner classes will be broken into age groups, allowing children and adults alike to enjoy the beautiful, formalized dance of ballet.

Sanibel Ballet’s summer schedule is set to begin on June 13 and Whitaker is accepting registrations for the four-week summer sessions. The new schedule is as follows:

• Mondays – Beginner Ballet, ages 5 to 6, 2:30 to 3:15 p.m.; Beginner Ballet, teens and adults, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.; Intermediate Ballet, 4:30 to 6 p.m.; and Advanced Ballet, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

• Tuesdays – Beginner Ballet, ages 7 to 8, 1 to 2 p.m.; Advanced Ballet, 2 to 3:30 p.m.

• Wednesdays – Toning for the dancer’s body, noon to 1 p.m.; Beginner Ballet, ages 9 to 11, 1 to 2 p.m.; Intermediate Ballet, 2 to 3:30 p.m.; and Pointe, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

In addition to the new beginner classes, Whitaker celebrated her grand opening and ribbon cutting on May 25 at the studio.

“This is a dream being realized,” said Whitaker. “Ballet is where my heart is.”