Aging gracefully

The Guilderland Ballet turns forty years old

GUILDERLAND — Jane De Rook didn’t learn to love dance in Europe.

“There wasn’t much dancing there at the time,” she said of her post-World War II childhood.  When she came to the states in 1954 as a physician, she settled in the area and went to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where she saw her first ballet.  Ten years after her arrival stateside, she saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream and in 1968 she began the Guilderland Ballet.  This year, the studio is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

“This specific area is sports oriented,” she said of what prompted her to bring dance into the schools here, which is where the Guilderland ballet originated.  There were only a few dance schools at the time, she said, and she, with a group of eager parents, started a program to teach dance in the gymnasiums of local schools. 

“I don’t see as many broken bones… in the ballet school as in the sports,” said the long-time doctor.

In recent years, De Rook has noticed a drop in interest from girls, who are tending towards soccer.  “The interest has declined, definitely,” she said, but the studio has evolved over the years to reflect the vogue.  The Guilderland Ballet now offers yoga and pilates as well as ballet and jazz.  It has also grown into a larger studio, finished in 1999.

The program moved out of school gymnasiums when Armand Quadrini gave De Rook a barn on his Mill Hill property decades ago.  “It was in a deplorable state,” she said, but together with several mothers, she transformed the roughshod barn into a dance studio and now the Guilderland Ballet has a second studio that is twice the size of the first.

With discipline, De Rook said of dance, “it takes you to a whole different field.”  Dancing, she said, involves music and choreography in addition to the physical movement.  De Rook prefers it to gymnastics for young girls because it doesn’t pose the risk of injury and it doesn’t encourage competition.  “I’ve always hated the competition part in sports,” she said.

While she retired from her medical practice last July, De Rook is still very active with the ballet, she said, and plans to carry on with fostering children in dance, helping them to realize their potential.

“Children are artistic beings,” De Rook said.  “Little girls dance if they hear music.”

More Guilderland News

  • Beckmann also received reprieve from having to install a costly sprinkler system when, as part of its approval, the town’s zoning board of appeals granted him a variance from that portion of the law, instead allowing him to install a localized alarm system. 

  • The historic Dutch barn in what is now Guilderland was built before the American Revolution, Corey Nellis said, with hand-hewn chestnut beams. The American chestnut — once called the redwood of the East because of its huge size — was wiped out by blight more than a century ago.

  • The comments at Monday’s meeting were often supportive of library staff. Some expressed warm memories of the café and its owners while others questioned their allegations of racism. Several people of color spoke, saying they had not experienced racism at the library. The most common call was one for answers on whether racism and harassment had occurred — or not.

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