They just finished one semester at the Wallowa County Dance Academy but teacher Ashly Hanson Braden is already preparing for a new one to start in January.
On Sunday, Dec. 15, the academy’s students performed their season-finale recital dancing to excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” The performance was held at the OK Theatre in downtown Enterprise.
Braden, who has a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in dance, has been running the academy for about a year and a half. Having studied a semester at the Limón Institute in New York City, she doesn’t just instruct — she demonstrates, showing her charges how to do the various modern dance and ballet steps, jumps and moves.
“Now, girls, I want to see you jump like this,” she said as she leaped off the floor.
When the new semester starts, some of Braden’s older students will begin their en pointe training in which the girls dance fully on the tips of their toes.
“It takes about two to three years of training to build up the strength,” she said.
Braden grew up in Lostine and after college and a dozen years in La Grande, she and husband Larry Braden moved back to Wallowa County with their four children, aged 4 to 16 years old.
But she also has about 55 kids part time as her dance students. She said the tally actually fluctuates between 50 and 70, “depending on who’s playing what sports.”
Braden teaches kids aged 2 to 14 years old. Friday mornings are for the younger kids and the older students train after school Monday through Thursday. At present, all the students are girls, though she has had boys – and one of her sons even takes part occasionally.
Braden said she’s been dancing since she was about 3 years old.
“I was really lucky to have a gal move here from Portland,” she said and hopes to pass it on. “I was very lucky to have it when I was a kid,” she said. “I hope to give kids here the same opportunity.”
Braden said anyone interested in the semester than begins in January can call her at 541-786-3847 or check out the academy’s Facebook page. She prefers new students sign up by the end of December, but takes students throughout the semester.