Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Georgia on My Mind

"You're from Michigan?" asked the hotel clerk in Macon. "Do you have snow? It must be nice to have snow."

It only goes to show that landscapes you have never seen, but only imagined are the most exotic and intriguing. Post cards of snow covered cabins are so much more romantic than getting up on the roof to make sure the ice doesn't cause leaks in the ceiling. We were not looking forward to our trek into the snow belt.

When we got to Macon, Valery recognized the downtown immediately. "I danced here," he said. He didn't recall exactly when he performed with an American company here, but he has a great visual memory. Directions, faces, and theaters never seem to escape him.

The Dance Arts Studio is one flight up a narrow staircase in a brick city building. We were greeted by Elizabeth, a friendly brown-haired woman who described herself as "a mom manning the phones." Elizabeth had taken classes from Jean Evans Weaver when she was a girl.

"The floors still creek in the same places," she said.

You never know, before you walk into a studio, what level you're going to have in class. One studio's "advanced" is another's "beginning." The cream of the ballet crop at a hip hop focused studio is going to be different than the average student at the classical ballet focused studio.

Even before class we could tell from the photos on the wall that these students were focused on ballet, and were most likely going to be fairly accomplished. You can often recognize an advanced ballet student by her epaulement. Beginners are paying far too much attention to the way their feet are pointing to concentrate on those fluid arm and head movements.

Jean, the director, is a slim, poised woman who wears her hair in a soft white bob. She sat, comfortably perched on a stool at the front of the butterfly-lined studio and wore a serious expression throughout. It wasn't until we'd finished that she broke into the smiles and warm-openness we'd come to expect from people in this part of the country.

The combination of a building with history, and a group of students with focus made this one of our favorite studios on the tour.