For the Pettingers,
Ballet Classes at OBT are a Family Affair
For the past six years, the Pettinger family from Happy Valley has maintained a well-choreographed schedule outside of school. With three boys — Sam, 11; Luke, 9; and Isaac, 7 — taking a total of 17 hours of ballet classes at Oregon Ballet Theatre per week, at least one of them has class five days out of the week.
Being a part of the boys’ ballet program has not only brought exciting stage performance opportunities, but also has helped each dancer improve his balance, endurance, flexibility, and strength. Boys’ ballet training does more than just prepare a dancer for the spotlight, but it also prepares the boys for athletics by improving flexibility, balance, ankle strength, and jumps.
OBT School Director Marion Tonner said, “it is so endearing to see an entire family enjoying the ballet, and especially heart-warming to see three young men develop life skills through their ballet training.”
Tonner has taught both Sam and Luke and been able to observe Isaac in his early years’ classes following his brothers’ interest in ballet.
“In the Pettinger family we have three wonderful young male ballet students and a very supportive set of parents,” Tonner said. “I am sure it is not easy to manage all the activities that three growing boys enjoy, but they do it with great energy and love!”
We recently connected with Rebekah and Mike Pettinger and their three sons over a Q&A to find out what they enjoy most about OBT and what keeps them motivated — even during a pandemic.
REBEKAH and MIKE: We love a lot of things about our boys being students at OBT. They are gaining musicality and confidence and connection to their bodies. We also appreciate the structure, discipline, and dedication to hard work they are learning at OBT. During non-Covid times, it is great for our kids to see the upper level students and company members around the studios. Being boys in ballet, they sometimes feel different than other boys at school, but it is wonderful for them to come to the dance studio and see the older boy students and male Company members working hard at ballet. It gives them male role models who are strong and talented, and shows them where dance can take them if they work hard.
OBT: What have you learned from watching your children dance?
REBEKAH and MIKE: We have learned how much hard work, dedication, and precision it takes to be a dancer.
OBT: Do you have a favorite ballet performance that you have seen? If so, which one and why?
REBEKAH and MIKE: We love watching all of the OBT productions, and if I had to choose a favorite I would say Alice (in wonderland) because it is so fun, whimsical, and colorful. Outside of OBT, our most memorable ballet was watching the Bolshoi Ballet perform Spartacus in 2019 at Covent Garden.
OBT: To someone who hasn’t signed up for dance classes at OBT, but is thinking about it, what advice would you offer?
REBEKAH and MIKE: OBT is a wonderful place to learn ballet. If you are interested in your children receiving a quality ballet education from talented, dedicated, and caring teachers, this is a great place for you. If you are looking for a place where there are lots of recitals with costumes, or dance teams and competitions, this is probably not the right fit.
OBT: What would you say about the ballet teachers at OBT?
REBEKAH and MIKE: The ballet teachers at OBT are wonderful. They are amazing and talented teachers who care about the growth of all the students, and they are consistent in their expectations of the students, which grow as the students do. The teachers are serious and professional, but also care about the students as individuals and are dedicated to helping students become the best dancers they can be.
SAM: Entrechat six.
(The Entrechat Six ballet moves mean to “to weave” or “to braid.” The dancer jumps into the air from a demi plié in fifth position beating their legs six times in the air before landing in fifth position with the opposite foot in front.)
LUKE: I like performing! I have been in The Nutcracker twice.
OBT: And, what is your favorite ballet step or exercise?
(During a balancé dance step the dancer moves while alternating balance between their feet. The rhythm is usually in three counts like a waltz and has the motion of going “down, up, down” with their legs.)
OBT: Isaac, you are in Primary Ballet. What do you like most about dancing at OBT?
ISSAC: I like taking Miss Olivia’s class and learning new things.
OBT: And what is your favorite ballet step or exercise?
(A tendu means “tight or stretched” and is a fundamental ballet movement where the working leg is extended along the floor until only the tip of the toe remains touching the floor. It can be performed to the front, side or back and usually begins in 1st or 5th position.)
OBT: Besides dance, what other activities are the boys involved with?
REBEKAH and MIKE:
Other activities our kids enjoy are playing the piano, baseball, and basketball.
OBT: How has the pandemic changed your dance schedules?
REBEKAH and MIKE:
The pandemic has made our dance schedule somewhat less hectic in that we are not running to and from the studio all of the time. However, the boys are really missing the camaraderie and connection of being in the studio with other dancers.
OBT: Your schedule is so busy. And since we’ve been teaching remote classes, how are the boys doing at training at home?
REBEKAH and MIKE:
It requires a bit of juggling at home and requires us to have more than one dance spot set up. Of course they all prefer one of the dance spots over the other and so when they have overlapping classes there have been disagreements about who gets the “good spot”. After a year of dancing from home via Zoom we have figured out a pretty good system of taking turns.
OBT: As parents, how rewarding is it to see your children learn and grow through the training at Oregon Ballet Theatre?
REBEKAH and MIKE:
It is extremely rewarding to see the growth and development our boys have experienced at OBT. Their training has helped instill discipline and respect into their lives in and out of the studio. The focus and discipline they are learning at OBT also serves them well in regular school and in other interactions. Their physical strength and confidence in their bodies that they are developing is also wonderful to see. In addition, the experiences they’ve had performing on stage in large productions are character-building opportunities that they will always remember.
To learn more about the boys’ ballet training — as well as upcoming workshops and summer
programs — at school.obt.org
Photography credit: Jingzi Zhao