With the official launch Monday of Moscow Movement Arts Center, instructor Rachel Dodson said she is offering local dancers or aspiring dancers of all ages a combination of approachable tutelage and world-class ballet training.

Dodson said she’s teaching out of two locations on White Avenue at the moment, and classes offer a range of options and schedules. She said her youngest student is 2 years old and her oldest is in her late 70s. She said the amount of time students spend in her studio depends on their age and level of commitment.

For those wishing to dance recreationally, Dodson said she offers programs that require a relatively light commitment, but those who want a more focused, regimented kind of training have the option of attending classes more frequently. Classes range from instruction in ballet technique and point-work, to more specialized training methodologies.

“We have a conservatory program for the more focused students, and those students take several days a week, sometimes multiple hours a day,” Dodson said. “They take classes in ballet technique and point work. They also take classes in these alternative training methods that I am certified in called ‘progressing ballet technique’ and ‘master stretch.’ ”

Dodson said both of these methods are known as “cross-training” techniques. She said master stretch is a kind of training that involves a specialized shoe that helps dancers to lengthen the back of their legs, relax their muscles, and helps to keep strain off the joints while encouraging fluidity of movement.

Dodson describes progressive ballet technique as a conditioning method that gradually trains the body to safely undergo the rigours of dance while minimizing the risk of injury.

“We’re not built for (ballet) as humans,” she said. “So cross-training in ways that can strengthen these really, abnormally used parts of the body for your average pedestrian … you can’t put a value on how this supplements in normal technique class.”

Dodson said she wants her classes to be approachable for anyone who has an urge to learn. While she offers a professional level of training to those who want it, she said dance can give people a valuable avenue of expression that can’t be found anywhere else — even if they don’t have plans to join a professional dance company.

Originally from California, Dodson has spent more than 30 years teaching and training in dance, with a particular emphasis on ballet, but students said her classes aren’t the typical, formidable fare.

“She has the ability to make the classroom feel safe, which is very, very strange for a dance environment,” said student Melissa Godfrey, whose daughter also trains with Dodson. “It is a very safe, loving environment to make mistakes and to grow — and in ballet, you’re kind of expected to be perfect.”

Carmel Minogue, another of Dodson’s adult students, said Dodson’s training methods, particularly progressing ballet technique, have helped her to advance her technique relatively quickly.

Minogue said for those who grew up doing it, dance becomes an irreplaceable part of life. She said for her, it’s both a hobby and a passion.

“It’s almost like a form of meditation in a way,” Minogue said. “You have to really concentrate with your body, with the music, and we still have to work as a group.”

Jackson can be reached by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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