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Tiny Dancers

Students at Bataille Academie of the Danse prepare for spring show

Girls in Stephanie Nowak's ballet class work hard during their last session before Spring Break.
Girls in Stephanie Nowak's ballet class work hard during their last session before Spring Break.

BARRINGTON — Every room is full inside Bataille Academie of the Danse in Barrington.
Girls in tights and ballet shoes dash up and down the stairs and extravagant costumes in bags hang off every available surface — sure signs it is spring and time to prepare for the Spring Show.

Since opening in 1969, Bataille has been in the heart of Barrington's downtown and has a special place in the hearts of generations of Barrington-area dancers. D.D. Gallagher-Johnson was there when Leona Bataille first opened her doors.

Now, as owner of the school, she is seeing the daughters, sons and even grandchildren of the dancers who were there in the beginning.

"I grew up in this buildling," Gallagher said.

This year is the school's 44th Spring Show. Every year follows a theme and this year's is "Go For the Gold."

Planning for each show is a complicated process that often starts more than a year ahead of time, with choosing the theme.

"I already have next year's theme picked out," said Gallagher, despite being just a little more than a month away from her 2013 show.

"However, I do not do it alone," she said.

Including herself, Bataille has 11 instructors, many of whom also started coming to Bataille as little girls.
Each teacher is responsible for finding music that fits the theme and that they can create a dance to.

"We have to tell a story through movement, so we really have to get our point across without words," said Brittany Mileski, who has been teaching at Bataille for four years.

Mileski's husband is a musician and she said he will sometimes compose music for her classes to make sure its a song no other dance school would have used.

Choreography is one of the next steps. Many instructors compose their dances on the spot while in the studio with their students. In Stephanie Nowak's ballet class, her students will work through their steps but when they are out of moves, Nowak is still dancing, coming up with the next part of her dance.

The instructors start teaching choreography to the dancers at the beginning of the year. Nowak said she started in January and while she used to stress about planning ahead with choreography, as her confidence has grown, she realized it's better to go with the flow.

"That used to be my biggest fear," she said. "I would get home from college and spend 30 to 45 minutes working on dances and have it all planned out when I came into studio. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't."

By planning the moves in class, she can immediately see what works best with the students.
Another huge part of the show is the costuming. As Gallagher walks through the school, she talks about the organizational system they have to keep for all of the costumes. Most of it lies in a giant white binder that holds the names, measurements and which class each student is in. That information matches the labels on each costume.

Since the costume is part of the storytelling, Mileski said she and the other instructors pour over catalogs in the early fall, searching for what will best fit their music and the theme, then make sure no other dance school in the area will be wearing the same thing.

Now that spring break is over, the dancers and their instructors will work hard to perfect every step in each dance. Even though it can be stressful, Gallagher and the instructors said they all look forward to this time and wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

"It's a beautiful career," Gallagher said. "You still have a lot to offer through teaching."

Nowak, who has been dancing at Bataille since age 10, decided she would be a dance teacher by eighth grade. "Now I've just been here so long it's like home. I can't imagine going anywhere else."

Jill Readel, another instructor who started at Bataille at age 3, said this time of year is exciting because she gets to see her students' achievements, but also gets to interact with the people she calls family.

"I like watching the kids progress," Readel said. "When it gets to showtime, the improvement and the journey that they've taken to get there is really amazing."

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