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By Denise Ritter
The Fairlawn-Bath Patch
November 24, 2011

Owen Strasser is serious about dance. The 8-year-old Bath resident is at the Christine Jones-Meneer School of Dance three nights a week where he takes tap, jazz and ballet.

Lately, he’s been spending extra time at rehearsals for his upcoming performance in the Ballet Theatre of Ohio’s production of The Nutcracker at the Akron Civic Theatre. Strasser will dance as both the pickpocket and as a soldier for seven public performances. Opening night is on Saturday and the performances run through Dec. 4.

“When I was 6, I really wanted to be in dance,” Strasser said. He started with tap and jazz. He then took an interest in ballet, but the studio where he originally took classes didn’t offer a ballet class specific to boys.

It was on the recommendation of Jennifer Desberg, family friend and marketing assistant at the Ballet Theatre of Ohio, that Owen found his way to the Christine Jones-Meneer School of Dance, and into a ballet class with other boys.

“Boys dance differently when it comes to ballet,” Joyce Strasser, Owen’s mother, said. At the studio boys take a class that is taught by a male professional dancer, she explained.

And ballet is not for the faint of heart.”I like doing plies,” Owen said. “I like warming up my body. They [plies] are like torture stretches. They torture the thigh muscles. It really hurts,” he said.

It’s through the studio that Owen found his way to the Ballet Theatre of Ohio. Christine Meneer is its artistic director. Many of the students from her dance studio audition for the company’s productions. This year’s production of The Nutcracker is its 19th season.

It’s Owen’s third performance with the dance company that is based in Munroe Falls. In the spring, he was a munchkin in the company’s production of The Wizard of Oz, and he performed in The Nutcracker last holiday season.

“He loves dance. He’s passionate about it,” Joyce Strasser said.

To accommodate that passion, the Strassers enrolled Owen in Ohio Virtual Academy, an online school that is funded by the state and managed by K12. The program allows the second-grader, and his family, the flexibility to take multiple dance classes and attend his nightly rehearsals.

The production is a family affair, said Joyce Strasser. Owen’s sister Lauren is an elf for Santa. And parents are required to put in five volunteer sessions. While Owen is practicing, Joyce is decorating the lobby of the historic Akron Civic Theatre.

“It’s evolved from making a little Santa’s workshop into a Gingerbread room and a Candy Land hopscotch game,” Strasser said.

Dance is not Owen’s only focus. He enjoys doing the science experiments he needs to complete for school. And he’s thinking about taking gymnastics. At home, he builds elaborate sets, Joyce explained. He works things out. Inspired by The Nutcracker, Owen devised his own growing tree.

“My husband and I say he’s going to be an engineer,” Joyce said.

Copyright 2011 The Patch

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