Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ballet classes at UMass Rec Center require no prior experience and is a great option for everyone

(Alice Barigelli/ Flickr)
(Alice Barigelli/ Flickr)

If you’re like me, you haven’t taken any form of dance class in several years. Many of you probably haven’t stepped foot in a dance class ever, and that’s okay, too. For anyone who has ever wanted to dance but has let fear or embarrassment stop them from trying, my advice for you is this: Try it.

We often get discouraged when trying anything challenging or out of our comfort zone, but trying new things is how we grow. Challenging ourselves is healthy. Confusing our muscles through new physical activity is healthy. Dancing, listening to music and letting go of tension is healthy. The best part about these ballet classes is that you don’t need any prior experience to try something new, enjoy yourself and get a good workout.

The Recreation Center at the University of Massachusetts is a great place to experience a dance class. Ballet is taught by Stacey Hazen at 10 a.m. each Tuesday and Thursday in room 210. Hazen has been dancing since she was three years old and has taught ballet since she was in sixth grade at St Saviours School of Dance in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. She is a sophomore dance major and this is her second semester teaching ballet at UMass.

Hazen begins each class with some warm-up stretches, followed by various exercises such as pliés, tendu, and dégagés using the barre. Throughout the class she alternates between barre work and sequences in which each dancer practices leaps and turns across the floor.

Hazen takes things slowly and demonstrates each dance move in front of the class for those who don’t know any ballet terminology. The class also does not require specific clothing or ballet slippers.

Hazen stated that anyone can take her ballet class no matter their prior dance experience, which is a question she said she is often asked. Many people have started her class as beginners and worked their way up, according to Hazen, and she finds it “exciting to see their progress.”

Hazen said she hopes people learn that “things can be challenging, and that’s okay.” The most important part of her class, Hazen says, is to “stay aware of your body.” She never wants anyone to feel pressured to do movements or stretches they do not feel comfortable for them.

Chris McGrail is not a student at UMass, but she has been attending Hazen’s classes every Tuesday and Thursday for a few weeks and finds each class challenging but starting to get easier. McGrail said she had never danced before, but she always wanted to, so she finally built up the courage to take a class.

McGrail finds ballet class to be a nice “focus time” with no pressure to keep up with the other dancers. She uses each ballet “to slow down and concentrate,” focusing on her body while getting a good workout.

UMass sophomore Sam Jurgilewicz has attended Hazen’s classes for about five weeks and started dancing when she was three years old, taking ballet, modern, lyrical and point lessons until she graduated high school. She said she was excited to learn the Rec Center offers ballet, as it gives her a way to maintain her flexibility and dancing skills.

Jurgilewicz finds Hazen’s class to be “a great way to start my day,” further adding that ballet is a way for her to express herself. She encourages anyone who has never danced before to try the class.

“It’s not like any other sport and it’s a great way to release stress and focus on yourself,” she said.

Both Hazen and her class attendees stress that anyone can enjoy themselves a the ballet class whether they have several years of experience or no familiarity at all. Ballet is not about getting the steps down perfectly or competing with the person next to you; it is about moving your body, challenging yourself and having fun while doing so.

There is something beautiful about hearing the classical music and moving in a synchronized motion with the rest of the class. Each class member attends for the same reasons: to learn, dance and do something healthy in a non-judgmental atmosphere.

Emily Medrek can be reached at [email protected].

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