It was late Friday afternoon after the first week of school at Helena, but Caitlin Mathews, Sasha Shkurigin and Aubrey Bode were just starting work at Queen City Ballet.
Campbell Midgley walked into the studio – a no-frills room with walls of mirrors and brick lined with black metal bars. Midgley rang the steps and the dancers followed without hesitation.
“That was one of my motivations for starting Queen City Ballet because I had to leave home,” she said. “There’s a wonderful boarding school experience, but it’s just as good if you can have a pretty normal family life and childhood and pursue a career dream.”
Midgley left her home in South Carolina at age 12 to attend a dance boarding school. His interest sparked as he does for many young children, watching a professional production at 3 or 4 years old and wanting to be this beautiful ballerina.
Becoming her meant years of hard work.
“The type of kid who wants to do something like this has to be extremely focused and have the willpower to focus on one thing and master it,” Midgley said. “The challenge now is to find kids who really want to commit with the work ethic and discipline involved and work as hard as it takes to get there.”
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Midgley knows the rigors of dance firsthand. She continued to dance professionally with the Houston Ballet Company before injury prevented her from continuing. She then took her dancing to college where she earned scholarships and a degree.
Midgley never thought she would teach professionally, but found it was something she loved. 15 years ago she opened Queen City, producing 10 professional dancers at that time and shaping many other young lives.
“Where the kids are now, there’s a much wider benefit to studying serious ballet that has nothing to do with whether you want to become a professional dancer or not,” she said. “With the number of hours and discipline, you ultimately create exceptional human beings who know how to work hard, know how to do it however long it takes and take personal responsibility.”
Midgley counts three valedictorians and a salutatorian among its recent students with the pursuit of excellence translating into all aspects of their lives. Others simply take life’s lessons and regain self-confidence as young adults.
A one-size-fits-all vision is unique in American society and opposed to the “everyone is a winner” mentality in many children’s activities, she said. Partly because of the demands ballet places on the body, girls must have had serious training by the age of 9 if they intend to reach the highest levels, she said. declared.
“My teaching style is very strict, but I’m a very charismatic person and very passionate about what I do,” Midgley said. “I demand excellence, but I have a pretty naughty sense of humor, so I think I do it with great kindness.”
Midgley still enjoys teaching ballet and challenging herself while evolving her training methods.
“For me, I really enjoy working with people who inspire me and have a passion for dance,” she said. “Leaving everything else aside, I hope to give every child something they can take with them for life.”
In addition to her studio, Midgley runs the non-profit Queen City Ballet Company, which puts on professional performances for the public. The company’s annual fundraiser, “Dancing with Helena’s Stars,” features first-time dancers turned performers on September 12. More information is available at www.queencityballet.com/.
Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 or [email protected]