Ballet Mississippi offering summmer classes
Ballet Mississippi is spicing up the summer months by offering classes taught by legacy instructors like Jason E. Bernard, Marcus Alford, and Maria Konrad.
Mary-Michael Garrison, marketing director for Ballet Mississippi, said they had an incredible faculty in 2021, and this year is no different.
“We had an incredible faculty last year, but to have this amount of amazing people come to the Jackson metro area is unbelievable,” Garrison said. “It’s just awesome to watch the kids have fun with these teachers and see what comes out of it.”
Jason Bernard is a native of The Bronx, New York, and made his Broadway debut at the age of 17 in The Tony Award-Winning Musical "Bring In 'Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk,” national and inter- national touring productions of "Riverdance,” and he was a featured performer in the Showtime original movie "Bojangles" Starring Gregory Hines. He also appeared as J. Bunny in The Spike Lee Film "Bamboozled.”
Marcus Alford is the founder and artistic director of JAZZ ON TAP and BalletFest Atlanta. He authored Jazz Danceology in 1991, which is now a standard in the libraries of jazz dancers, teachers, and universities. Alford has also performed in and choreographed many award-winning video projects for clients including Kohler Corporation, Sprint, IBM, Milliken Carpets, and NFL Commissioners. His concert choreography can be seen in companies throughout the dance world.
Maria Konrad graduated from the Alexander W. Drey- foos High School of Performing Arts and then earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in performing arts from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Her performance experience includes the Barrymore Awards, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the Merriam Theater, and Project Dance. In the Philadelphia area, her choreography was featured in West Side Story, Hello Dolly, Annie Get Your Gun, Project Dance, The Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.
David Keary, executive-artistic director for Ballet Mississippi, said the feedback for Ballet Mississippi has been overwhelming and exciting.
“The neighborhoods surrounding our facility on
Mannsdale Road have embraced us and are very happy we’re here,” Keary said. “This is part of our organizational structure and development. I’ve been contacted by other cities in the state to open ballet schools there. It’s all about growth, development, and the future of this organization.”
Ballet Mississippi originally started in downtown Jackson at the Mississippi Arts Center in 1978. In 2006, Ballet Mississippi extended from downtown Jackson to Madison and settled in the Madison Square Center for the Arts building on Main Street. They recently moved in January 2022 to their new facility on 1620 Mannsdale Road right down from St. Anthony Catholic School.
“We’ve established a presence here, and we have a lot of students,” Keary said. “We were outgrowing our space in downtown Jackson, so we
moved and extended to Madison and now have locations in both cities. We needed more space to move and breathe and provide other dance forms for our students.”
Keary said Jackson is in many ways an older community and has been the bedrock of providing Mississippi with several great art organizations such as New Stage Theatre and Mississippi Symphony Orchestra.
“Those organizations have been around the community for a lot of years and continue to bring a very high level of pro- fessionalism,” Keary said. “Madison has that same kind of development going on, and we’re going to see something beautiful coming out of the
coalition of these two communities.”
“If you look at the faculty we’re bringing in, we’ve got some of the best,” Keary said. “You can get some of the finest training in the country for a very low cost when it would be super expensive otherwise. These teachers are the building blocks of this organization, we are just starting.”
Mary-Michael Garrison said along with the growth of the organization, they are also growing their curriculum and class types.
“For me, being in Madison is a great opportunity to reach more audiences,” Garrison said. “We’ve been in the Arts Center in Jackson for decades, so this is a new opportunity for us to own a building and establish a presence we can extend to other cities like Canton and Gluckstadt. We’ve also been happy with our relationship with Mayor Mary Hawkins- Butler, and she’s welcomed us here with open arms.”
Garrison said along with the legacy teachers on staff this summer like Bernard, Alford, and Konrad, they will also have other staff members such as Lisa-Johnson Willingham (Alvin Ailey Dance Center in New York City), Anna Marie Rabassi-Davis (Pennsylvania Regional Ballet), Lisa Hess Jones (Former Soloist/Principal Dancer New York City Ballet), and Catherine Bishop, a classic ballet dancer who spent two years on a full-ride scholarship in Ireland and will teach traditional Irish dances this sum- mer.
“Our faculty is amazing, and we can’t wait for our students to meet them,” Garrison said.
Ballet Mississippi in Madi- son is located at 1620 Manns- dale Road, right down from St. Anthony Catholic School. To sign up for their summer class- es, visit www.balletms.com/pk/. For more information about the legacy teachers, visit the Sum- mer Intensive Guest Faculty section at www.balletms.com/2022- summer-faculty/.