Off of Old Forest Drive, in the back corner of the Gardner Center and up a flower-lined path lies L'Ecole de Danse. Its owner has been turning out Annapolis area dancers for over two decades.
“We moved here in 1995,” said owner Barbara Winner. “I taught at Maryland Hall from 1980 to 1995.”
Along with her daughter, Winner offers a variety of dance classes at the facility for all age groups.
“Three to 78,” said Winner about her students' ages. “I have a 78-year-old woman. She takes intermediate ballet, but she didn’t start ballet until her 50s. She’s been dancing with me for probably about 20 years.”
Winner said she too has been dancing for quite some time—about 60 years.
“I saw the movie, 'The Red Shoes' when I was 7 years old,” she said. “I begged my parents to let me take ballet. They let me start when I was 7 1/2.”
On a recent visit, Winner’s older students were stretching before a rehearsal, while two mothers sat in a waiting room chatting.
“This is Megan’s last ballet class ever,” said Sue Maloney, of Severna Park, about her college-bound daughter. “She started here in kindergarten, then took a couple of years off and came back in fifth grade or so. We love it. Their recital is wonderful.”
“I have two of them here,” said Linda Hannigan of Arnold, about her two daughters at the school.
“I’m here Monday through Friday,” she said. “I’ve been coming here pretty much since the 17-year-old was 3. I love it too or I wouldn’t be down here every night.”
That’s a lot of commitment, but dance comes with some great benefits,not all of which are physical.
“Dancers are the best students academically,” Winner said. “Dance teaches tremendous focus and self-discipline.”
Winner runs the studio with Carol Wheeler, one of her daughters.
“I teach 10 classes; she teaches seven,” Winner said.
As for Wheeler, she said other than a few years away, rooms with bars, mirrors and sprung floors are pretty much home for her.
“I grew up in the studio,” she said.
You may wonder how it is a mother and her grown daughter can work together and do it successfully for many years. It turns out they don’t work together too often—there’s only one studio.
“It’s great. It’s the perfect mother-daughter relationship,” Wheeler said with a laugh. “As for working side by side, that happens once a year. She’s leaving as I’m going in.”
There’s also professional respect.
“She allows me the independence to run the classes the way I want to run the classes and the artistic freedom to choreograph the way I want to,” Wheeler said.
The women said they've seen many of their students go off and return with their own children, including Wheeler's daughter, who's also gettting ready to go to college.
“There’s very much a sense of family here,” Wheeler said.
She also wanted to clarify the type school L'Ecole de Danse is.
"We’re not a competition school," she said. "We are serious about our training, but we’re not competitive."
L’Ecole de Danse recital is being held Saturday atAnne Arundel Community College.
In the summer, L’Ecole de Danse will be offering a fairy tale dance program for the little ones and an intensive for the older dancers. Dmitri Malikov, graduate of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and former dancer with the Moscow City Ballet, will be the guest artist for the intensive.
For more information about the school or recital tickets, visit www.lecolededanse.org.