Pirouettes and Tutus

Young dancers find their own beat in diverse programs
Students from Evansville Ballet.

Evansville Dance Theatre closed its doors in March 2011 after 30 years serving Evansville’s art community. Despite the loss of this institution, Evansville has no lack of opportunity for young dancers. Here’s a closer look at five local studios offering training for a variety of students. Whether a youth’s interest is recreational, fitness-oriented, arts-inspired, or professional, the city is well equipped to serve a host of eager feet.

Evansville Ballet
Standing on the Great Wall of China, a young Mark Bush had realized his dream. He was 22 years old, traveling the world far from his Evansville home as he danced for the royal family in England as well as for kings in Japan and Thailand. Standing on that wall, Bush vowed to become a professional dancer.

A dancer he became.

After training at Sylvia’s School of Dance in Evansville, Bush received a full scholarship to the National Academy of the Arts in Champaign, Ill., and continued his education at the Southwest Ballet Center in Arlington, Texas, and in New York City at the Joffrey Ballet School and the American Ballet Theatre School. He was then offered a contract with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, an opportunity that took him around the globe for four years.

Bush returned to his hometown in 2008 and started Evansville Ballet in 2009, a dance studio focused on classical ballet as well as modern dance. According to Bush, it’s the only school in the area with live accompaniment for dancers. “(That) makes the experience richer on so many levels,” he says. It also prepares his students for the performance of The Nutcracker, which debuts on Dec. 17, at the Victory Theatre, where they will not only perform to live music by the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, but with special guest stars such as local baseball legend Don Mattingly as Mother Ginger.

Bush says all students, regardless of their interest in a dance career, benefit from the education received at his studio. “You will be an art supporter, understanding how that experience changes a community and makes it better,” he says. “Evansville is starting to grow again and I am happy that Evansville Ballet will grow with it. It’s my ‘Field of Dreams’—‘build it, and they will come,’ and that’s what’s happening.” For more information on Evansville Ballet, visit

Ballet Indiana
Ballet Indiana, a division of ACROS Gymnastics and Dance, teaches “ballet, period,” says founder Keith Martin, recipient of the 2007 Outstanding Arts Educator Indiana Community Arts Leadership Award by the Indiana Coalition of the Arts. Martin’s dance journey has been a lengthy one, taking him from Yorkshire, England to London, where he spent several years with the Royal Ballet, to many positions all across the United States, including principal dancer at the famed San Francisco Ballet.

Martin and his wife Bj owned Ballet California and its associated school from 1992 to 2004, when Martin found an opening at Evansville Dance Theatre. “We thought this would be a good move for us,” he says, so they sold their business in California and spent four years with Evansville Dance Theatre before founding Ballet Indiana last year.

Martin says the school’s strength lies in its “sound technique” and “advanced curriculum.” Ballet Indiana combines the styles of the English Royal Ballet, Italian (Cecchetti), and Russian (Vaganova.) “All the children who come through us have been trained by my wife Bj and myself,” he says. “Our number one emphasis is on the teaching of the children. Performance is the reward for working hard.” Martin believes dance education gives the students a better perspective on working hard, as the majority earn straight A’s at school. “They can focus, they can concentrate,” he says. “It’s wonderful to see what the youth of today can do. It doesn’t get the publicity it should.”


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