The world of ballet is more than just sugar plum fairies and pirouettes. With years of training and a deep passion for artistry, professional dancers like Pierceton Mazell revolve their lives around dance.
“A lot of people haven’t been exposed to this type of lifestyle,” Mazell said. “Dancers are professional athletes without the benefits of professional athletes. You know, it’s a passion project and it’s a lifestyle job.”
The skeletal remains of the Standard-Coosa-Thatcher mill complex glow as if they were on fire. Inside, the Pop-up Project is going through the final rehearsal for If These Walls Could Talk, an immersive dance performance that seeks to tell the history of the mill before it is lost to the collective memory of Chattanooga.
“It’s just such a beautiful space,” says Jules Downum, director and co-founder of the Pop-up Project. “It didn’t take a lot of work on our part to make the space impactful. And the stories were already here.”
People will spend a lifetime searching for that one thing that fuels their passion and lights a fire inside of them. For David Ayers and Farah Miller, founding members of the Ember Benders, fire was just that thing.
“The revelation that exists within art is, to tell the truth. You have to be able to be expressive, to be able to project but also to be vulnerable. Good artists can’t be cagey and have walls up. Being vulnerable is the revolutionary heart of every art form, says Melissa.”
Melissa Miller is a professional dancer, choreographer, and teacher at the dance studio located in Chattanooga Tennessee named “Ballet Esprit”. Growing up, Miller played soccer for some time, however, women do not have their own soccer league in Europe. That is when she decided to partake in something that women could have as their own, so she became a dancer at the age of 11. Miller danced all through middle and high school and traveled back to the states to earn her degree in dancing. She then moved to New York where she danced professionally for 5 years. After having her daughter, she came to the south where her husband’s family is from, thus landing her at Ballet Esprit.
“I grew up in a very artistic family.., so I always knew that my path would be in arts in some way,” says Miller. “ I think the reason I connect the most with dance is that it is an all-encompassing experience; it takes your mind, spirit, and body. It is also a relational experience, it requires an ability to project and communicate with people,” says Melissa. Miller says, “ I try less to share a message, but to ask a question, as honestly, humbly and with as much humanity as I can.”
History reveals that dance has always been a form of protest. “Dance is the only form of art that is directly tied to our bodies and physicality. This is important because as women, we can protest with our bodies against the social norms of how we are supposed to move and how our bodies are supposed to look,” says Miller. The studio Ballet Espirit’s, next appearance will be The ALTER- Nut, their annual winter benefit. All proceeds go to their “ Hold Our Space SPOT Venue Covid-19 relief campaign”. The event will be held on December 5, 2020, at 5:30 P.M. at Lookout Lake, 3408 Elder Mt. Rd.
In 2009, the Chattanooga Aerials opened the first aerial studio in the area. It was opened in order to put on performances and teach the art of aerial dancing to the community. Amy Powell is the founder of this studio, but passed it down to Jen Keehn after owning and operating it for about four years. The Chattanooga Aerials studio teaches classes on silks, trapeze, aerial cubes, aerial ladders, lyra aerial hoops, bungees and many other pieces. They teach beginner levels to pro levels at their studio nearly every single day of the week.
Dance, a culturally understood series of movements that unifies people regardless of where they come from. Many cultures around the world use dance to represent their people, share their history and bring their community together.