KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) - Ketchikan Theatre Ballet’s new executive artistic director, Desiree Roan, aims to bring new ideas, a broadened program and stringent goals to the organization.
“We are definitely raising the barre,” Roan said, emphatic that the phrase use the French spelling for a dancer’s support bar. “The level is going to be lifted up, but not overnight. In increments.”
Hired in May, Roan stepped into the director’s position about a half a year after the previous director departed.
Roan said she has worked as a professional dancer all of her adult life, working in Oklahoma, New Mexico and also touring “all over” with her own company. She said she and her husband, Charles, are retired, but they saw an opportunity when she discovered KTB’s search for a new director.
“He and I have always wanted to be in Alaska,” she said.
That interest in Alaska - and the fact that dancing and teaching dance “is my passion” - drew Roan to KTB.
Roan was introduced to dance when her mother enrolled her in classes to channel her “oodles of energy.” She said she was lucky to have been an “Army brat” who lived with her family in places that enjoyed dance teachers with incredible talent and experience, and guest artists from around the world.
Although retired from dancing as a professional, Roan said she still does “lots of guesting” for companies who need a character artist.
Since arriving in Ketchikan on July 3, Roan said she has “hit the ground running,” tackling the studio’s tight schedule as the season ramps up.
One of the new programs she brought with began Wednesday. A “Fairytale Ballet Camp,” inspired by the movie “Frozen,” caters to children who are 4 to 10 years of age. The camp ties into one of Roan’s goals, which is to offer more opportunities for younger children.
Other new classes Roan is launching are a “Mommy/Daddy & Me” class for 2-year-old children; a “Discovery Ballet” class for beginning dancers who are 8 to 12 years old; and free trial classes for children between the ages of 2 and 12 at an open house.
“Having a great experience really helps the kids to step up,” Roan said, adding that success in dance classes can help to increase a child’s sense of self worth that boosts confidence to pursue all kinds of goals in life.
She also has scheduled a new “Creative Movement” class to the studio’s offerings, giving 3- and 4-year-olds separate instruction. As a veteran dance teacher of children in those age groups for many years, Roan said those age groups have quite different needs. In addition to teaching the children about dance, she said the classes for the younger age levels are about preparing them to be students. The dance part is easy with the young children, she said.
“They love to dance, to move, and the repetition,” she said. Also, “they love the success.”
Roan said studies have shown that early childhood dance education “helps develop the brain and prepares them academically for math, reading . problem solving. It helps them in every facet.”