47 YEARS OF DANCE EDUCATION

Growing up, Kristie (Wright) Smith had always wanted to be a professional ballet dancer. However after time training in Chicago, she discovered that she preferred a “more normal” life—she desired a family, loved to garden, and enjoyed teaching dance. After assisting the late Betty Hayes, her local instructor, and slowly acquiring her own students out of her parents’ home and at a day-care facility through high school, Kristie merged the best of both worlds opening her own Kokomo studio in June 1971 with Betty’s blessing. The studio space that had once been a ballroom with large dance rooms and loads of atmosphere was a second-story walk-up in downtown Kokomo—the same studio space where she began dance lessons with Betty in 1960. During the first 25 years of instruction, each class was accompanied with live music—Kristie recalls it took eight men to carry the old Knobe upright piano up those old downtown stairs! Our first recital was held at Maple Crest School Auditorium in Kokomo in the spring of 1972.

 Kristie as a teen in Betty Hayes’ basement studio

Kristie as a teen in Betty Hayes’ basement studio

 Young Kristie

Young Kristie

Kristie’s early training had an emphasis on the Cecchetti Method of Ballet but consisted of a mixture of various methods. In 1995, she started the journey of acquiring teacher certification in the Cecchetti Method. Since that time, we have held the Cecchetti Method of Ballet Syllabus classes, along with yearly exams, in addition to non-syllabus classes for students who are interested in acquiring a higher level of technique. With the help of Brenda Gilner, Kristie wrote an original ballet The Magic Garden, which the studio produced twice, in 1993 and 2003. Other studio performance highlights include A Michael Jackson medley – “Thriller, Billy Jean, and Beat It” that utilized the trap doors that were once a part of Havens Auditorium at IU Kokomo. Imagine a foggy stage, white lights, and dancers coming up from underneath the stage. We were also very proud to perform the original choreography to "The Four Little Swans" from the ballet Swan Lake. It is a particularly difficult piece that is usually only performed by professional ballerinas. We still have two of those swans at the studio -- Miss Dawn (Hall) Mykut, who is now a member of our teaching faculty and Heather Hanson who you will see at the studio supporting her daughter and taking classes.

Over the years, the Kokomo studio has had several locations, including a fully customized studio space on South LaFountain that burned down in 2007. We lost many precious items—pictures from years gone by and the collection of Christmas tree ornaments that students had given over the years. One of the few items salvaged is the framed quilt that hangs in the hallway of our present studio. With the help and patience of our studio family, we were able to renovate and remodel our current three-studio space by November of 2008.

We were excited to open our Logansport studio in October of 2003 at The Logansport Art Association. Classes were held on Friday evenings that first year, expanding to Saturdays for the second year. By 2005, Amii McCord began teaching all the classes offered at that location. In 2007, with the support of Amii and her husband Mike, classes moved to our current location on Spencer Street (formerly McCord's Lumber Company). This two-studio space now hosts four teachers and facilitates classes four days a week.

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