VOL. 116 | NO. 33 | Monday, February 18, 2002
By JENNIFER MURLEY
Classical ballet dances into design district
By JENNIFER MURLEY
The Daily News
The eclectic commercial area near Cooper Street and Central Avenue, known for its collage of antique markets and design shops, is weaving yet another business in the artsy fabric of the district.
Retired professional dancer Katie Smythe Thinnes begins the first day of ballet classes today at her new performing arts venue called the Icehouse at 2166 Central Ave.
"I really love to teach. Im about training excellent students," Thinnes said, referring to her young ballet company, New Ballet Ensemble.
"I want to do what was done for me. We had the opportunity to be trained so well that we got jobs, became professional dancers."
Thinnes, 39, trained with Memphis Ballet early on before embarking on a professional dance career that has taken her to Minneapolis, New York City and Los Angeles, and now, back to Midtown Memphis.
Her 17-member dance company, formerly known as the Buckman Ballet program, previously operated out of the Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center at St. Marys Episcopal Cathedral in East Memphis before outgrowing the space last year.
In September, she secured the Central Avenue building, owned by Stephen and Susan Schwartz, and has since installed a wood dance floor and mirrored walls.
Schwartz is undertaking all other renovations to building, which was home to an ice manufacturing company in decades past hence the new name of the studio.
As director of the dance company, Thinnes will be the principal instructor leading beginning/intermediate and advanced classical ballet classes for dancers ages 10 and up. Although students interested in her classes are required to audition for the intermediate and advanced programs, Thinnes said she will soon offer ballet classes for children, ages 5 and 6, and adults that will be open to anyone.
Individual classes will cost about $10 each, she said, but package rates also are available.
In addition to her ballet classes, Thinnes also will offer Pilates classes and host other instructors who will teach jazz, ballroom and salsa all of which will be open to the public.
But, dance isnt the only art form Thinnes hopes to cultivate in her new digs. The urban feel of the studio, which is accented by soft lighting, exposed brick and cathedral windows, lends the Icehouse to most any type of performing art, Thinnes said, including theatre performances and art exhibitions.
The space will be made available for various artistic endeavors, she said.
"I think its a wonderful idea," said Nicole Vander Zwaag, administrative assistant at Palladio, a nearby antique market. "This district has already established itself as the best place to come for decorative arts and hopefully were going to be adding performing arts. Were glad to see it."