- Story by Dena Temple
Michele Ball says there is no better way to make friends than through dance. “When you dance next to someone, you develop a connection. The strongest friendships in my life were established through dance.”
Michele wants to bring the joy of dance to her new hometown, Bay St. Louis, by hosting adult ballet classes on Tuesday mornings and Wednesday evenings. She’s teaching the classes at the Treehouse Yoga studio, located behind the Mockingbird Café at 110 South 2nd Street.
Growing up in Levittown, Pa., Michele remembers dance always being a part of her life.
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Michele made good on her vow to pursue a career in dance. She attended the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, a school highly regarded for its ballet program, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in ballet. While at the University of Utah, she met her future husband, Dannie Ball. The couple have two sons; one is a pottery craftsman in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the other is a pilot for the US Air Force.
After getting her degree in ballet, Michele toured as a dancer with Moscow Ballet Folk Company, a U.S. ballet troupe that brought ballet to small-town America, while pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Utah. She earned her master’s degree in nutrition and continued to audition for ballet companies.
Michele and Dannie moved to Baton Rouge, where Michele continued to perform, teach aspiring young dancers, and choreograph for the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre – in addition to a career as a registered dietitian.
“It was a challenge,” she said, “but I managed to maintain careers in both nutrition and ballet.”
While the children were young, she worked in a clinical setting as a registered dietitian. Once the children were older, she worked as an instructor of nutrition at LSU.
The couple considered the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a possible retirement destination. They first looked in Ocean Springs but in the end decided on Bay St. Louis instead.
“After a few visits, we knew we wanted to retire here,” said Michele. “We love the small-town coziness, and it was closer to our home in Baton Rouge.”
Rather than wait for retirement, they bought a beach house in 2017, using it as a part-time vacation rental. “We didn’t want to wait for prices to go higher,” she said.
After they both retired last year, she from teaching and Dannie from his career as a library director, the couple purchased a circa-1920 “fixer-upper” in Old Town and have called Bay St. Louis home ever since.
But Michele was not ready to give up her lifelong love affair with ballet. She continued to travel once a week to Baton Rouge to teach her night class – then she approached the folks at Treehouse Yoga about holding ballet classes in their studio behind the Mockingbird Café.
“Yoga and ballet are complementary disciplines,” Michele explained. “They are both about flexibility, balance and muscle control, especially important as we get a little older.
“Dancing improves your health in so many ways,” she continued. “It improves overall body tone and bone density, and it’s great for cognitive function. It also has been shown to decrease the chances for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”
She added, “It’s great for me, too. I get to meet some of my new neighbors, and I get to keep dancing myself. My doctor says I have the bone density of a 30-year-old!”
The classes, which started just two weeks ago, are offered on Tuesday mornings at 9:30 am (“great for early-rising seniors,” said Michele) and Wednesday evenings at 6 pm, when she hopes to attract older teens and working adults – “But anyone is welcome at either class,” she added.
Music for the classes is a mix of classical ballet accompaniment plus show tunes and contemporary music adapted for ballet – “a fun mix,” said Michele.
Michele says things are going great so far.
“The folks at Treehouse Yoga and the Mockingbird have been so gracious to let me hold classes here,” she said, “and people are starting to come. I can’t imagine a better way to start – or end – my day, sharing something I love with my neighbors. It’s truly a blessing.”
If you are interested in taking part in one of Michele's dance classes, give her a call at (225) 252-8263, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.