By Heather Barfield
Statesville Record & Landmark
March 3, 2016
[Iredell, North Carolina, USA] – A need for physical therapy, and a few friendly sibling dares, led the Schwab children into ballet classes. Now what started as a hobby has led to great success.
Andrea Schwab and her children Aaron, 18, Gabrielle, 13, Ethan, 15, and Michayla, 9, have been involved in dance for almost seven years. The activity brought the family closer together, Andrea says. “We spend a lot of time together, whether it’s in the studio or in the car driving to dance practice or auditions,” she says.
The Statesville family’s ballet journey began when Gabrielle was diagnosed with muscle atrophy in her calves caused by severe intoeing, commonly known as pigeon toes, at the age of 6. Doctors suggested a couple different options: She could get corrective braces or undergo surgery, or she could get involved in leg intensive activities like ballet.
Gabrielle says she fell in love with ballet when she first tried it at Betty’s School of Dance in Statesville. “Ballet is the base and foundation of other dance forms,” says Noel Ware, the Schwabs’ first dance instructor. “We started off with classical ballet … and they loved it.”
Aaron followed Gabrielle into ballet shortly after he broke his leg playing basketball. A doctor recommended extensive physical therapy or ballet. He was hesitant at first, but a dare from Gabrielle pushed him into the studio, Gabrielle says.
“The first class was weird,” Aaron says. “I heard the instructor tell the class to do splits and I was like ‘yes! ice cream’… when I realized we weren’t going to get ice cream I knew it was going to be more difficult than I thought.”
Aaron says he has developed a true passion for ballet after meeting his current instructor, Michael French. Now he isn’t concerned whether others think ballet is primarily for females. “I look at it as if someone is not willing to listen and accept me, then they are not worth my time,” Aaron says.
Aaron later passed along the dare to younger brother Ethan. Ethan says he could not back down from a dare and took his first classical ballet class a year-and-a-half ago. The brothers have a competitive relationship, Andrea says.
Ethan will join Aaron at International Ballet Academy’s summer intensive program. Although he said he enjoys ballet, he plans to pursue the masonry program at Iredell-Statesville Schools’ Career Academy and Technical School in the near future.
Michayla began dance when she was 7, and she’s already landing parts. She was awarded the role of Clara’s little sister in Hickory Ballet Academy’s “Nutcracker” this past year, her mother says.
Aaron recently received a full tuition to Nashville Ballet’s summer intensive program as well as a scholarship from Hickory Ballet Academy to the International Ballet Academy in Greer, S.C. He says he is serious about dance and wants to pursue a professional career.
Melissa French, The Schwabs’ current dance instructor at Hickory Ballet Academy, said that the Schwab children take classes five nights a week, and Aaron and Gabrielle often have private lessons to refine their skills.
The children have learned a mix of the Vaganova (Russian) and Cecchetti (Italian) ballet methods.
French says she hopes to see Aaron become a professional ballet dancer.
Older brother Gavin, 21, is involved with ballet indirectly. Although he does not dance, he has helped work behind the scenes, Andrea says. Andrea also is involved, helping sew costumes for some of Hickory Ballet Academy’s performances.
Andrea says ballet classes have helped her children learn in their homeschooling classes as well. “Ballet takes a lot of discipline and focus, which helps with their studies,” she says.
Melissa French says that ballet has an impact on their students’ grades because the school requires their students to make passing grades. “About 30 percent of the students I teach are homeschooled,” French says. “The flexibility of homeschooling gives them time to focus on their craft, and it also gives them a chance to socialize with our variety age groups.
“Dance is good for everybody, it just helps with the mind body, body and soul,” French says.
© 2016 BH Media Group, Inc