- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - For Velma Schrader it is about the children and classical ballet.

Last year, Schrader celebrated her 50th year of teaching dance in the Mid-Ohio Valley. In 1985, she founded and began directing Schrader Youth Ballet Company, a nonprofit corporation established to promote and foster dance in the Parkersburg area.

At the age of 85, Schrader, of Belpre, still enjoys teaching classes three days a week at her dance studio at 601 Market St. in Parkersburg and preparing her students for productions, such as the popular “The Nutcracker (Clara’s Dream)” in December.

“Those kids (young dancers) keep me going,” Schrader, the artistic director, said in her dance studio office recently as she took a brief break from her class instruction.

Schrader began teaching dance in the living room of her Belpre home 50 years ago. As the size of her classes grew, she moved her dance studio to the basement of her home, then to an old skating rink in Belpre, followed by a move to Parkersburg’s Seventh Street, then to the former McCrory’s department store in downtown Parkersburg and finally to 601 Market St.

Schrader is proud of her former dance students who have moved on to larger performing stages and teaching careers. Schrader alumna Emma McGirr, a Little Hocking native, danced as Clara in “The Nutcracker” with the Nevada Ballet Theatre in December.

Former Schrader Youth Ballet students have performed with the Radio City Rockettes dance company of New York City, Schrader noted.

Erin Augenstein, executive director of Schrader Youth Ballet Company and a dance teacher, danced with Schrader ballet in the 1980s through the early 1990s.

“I often danced character roles or danced the male role (Hansel in ‘Hansel and Gretel’),” Augenstein said of her time as a Schrader Youth Ballet dancer. She also helped with stage managing at the dance studio.

Augenstein’s daughters Nora and Josie began taking dance classes at Schrader Youth Ballet at a young age. They now attend several classes a week.

“It’s been wonderful for them both to study with Mrs. Schrader, as she is focused both on correct technique as well as a beautiful performance,” Augenstein said.

“Mrs. Schrader teaches proper technique in all of her classes, whether it is in a beginner ballet class or jazz class,” said Augenstein, who teaches creative movement, pre-ballet, jazz and adult ballet classes at Schrader Youth Ballet.

“It’s been an honor to follow her lead and become a member of professional organizations such as Dance West Virginia and the National Society of Arts and Letters,” Augenstein said.

Schrader has had a long association with the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in Winston-Salem. She was a friend of the late Duncan Noble, a dance teacher at the North Carolina school of the arts, and brings Nina Danilova, a native of Russia and a classical ballet professor from the North Carolina school, to Parkersburg to instruct at Schrader Youth Ballet.

Schrader Youth Ballet Company students have studied at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for several years.

This summer, five Schrader Youth Ballet students will be attending the UNCSA preparatory program: Madelyn Duvall and Sylvia Diaz will attend on scholarships, and Anna Martin, Nora and Josie Augenstein will also attend. Abigail Kuhlman will attend the summer dance program at West Virginia University.

Schrader brought “The Nutcracker” to the Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta last year along with the regular holiday performances of the production to the Smoot Theatre. The ballet company used to bring its performances to Chillicothe, Ohio, and Charleston, Schrader said.

Students travel from as far away as Meigs and Athens counties to study dance at Schrader Youth Ballet Company.

She would like to see more boys take classical ballet classes, Schrader said.

“We have to bring boys in from other areas” for parts in Schrader productions, she said.

Schrader said she enjoys ballet because it combines music, dance, scenery, decorating and drama. And it tells a story.

Ballet also teaches children the importance of proper manners.

“We say thank you at the end” of ballet dance routines, Schrader said.

Although classical ballet, featuring classical music, is Velma Schrader’s forte and love, Schrader Youth Ballet Company also offers dance classes in jazz, creative movement and clogging. More information on these classes is available at schraderyouthballet.com.

The ballet company used to teach 300-400 children a week but has scaled back to instructing about 60 children now, Schrader said.

Cara Kuhlman, of Parkersburg, is Schrader Youth Ballet Company Board of Directors treasurer and assistant to Schrader. Kuhlman’s daughter Abigail takes classes at the Parkersburg studio.

Schrader Youth Ballet “is a great place for kids in the community to learn an art, classical ballet,” Cara Kuhlman said.

Kuhlman described the ballet studio as a safe environment where the young dancers meet great friends. Dance classes involve hard work but the children enjoy the experience, she added.

Because it is a small school, the dance students receive individual instruction, Kuhlman said.

Melinda Roush, president of Schrader Youth Ballet Company Board of Directors, believes that ballet classes help children by teaching them poise, manners and an appreciation of ballet. The program also fosters friendships among the children, she said.

Roush is teaching beginning and advanced clogging on Thursday evenings at the Market Street dance studio.


Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), https://www.newsandsentinel.com

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