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Parents guild helps unite ballet school

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  • | 4:00 a.m. September 22, 2010
Education Director Sayward Grindley, right, backstage with the tiny dancers in Sarasota Ballet’s "The Nutcracker." Photo by Mollie Grady
Education Director Sayward Grindley, right, backstage with the tiny dancers in Sarasota Ballet’s "The Nutcracker." Photo by Mollie Grady
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Teresa Masterson is not a soccer mom. She’s a ballet mom.

Masterson has spent four years shuttling her four daughters from their Lakewood Ranch home to the Sarasota Ballet School, where her oldest daughter — 17-year-old Bianca — is now a pre-trainee.

For a while, her 12-year-old daughter, Sophia, played soccer and softball, but she hung up her cleats at the end of the school year and this fall joined the 130 students on the ballet school’s roster.

“I was always into gymnastics and cheerleading,” Masterson says. “I figured my girls would do the same thing, but they stuck with dance.”

Masterson saw the classes as an opportunity to instill self-discipline, poise and manners.

“And, gosh darn it, they love dancing,” she says.

Masterson is exactly how you’d image a ballet mom to be. The mother of five (her 18-year-old son goes to Florida State University) is so organized and motivated that last year she was anointed president of the Sarasota Ballet Parents Guild.

Two years ago, the guild didn’t exist. Parents felt disconnected from the school and from each other. Sarasota Ballet’s education program, albeit longstanding and successful, was lacking a sense of community.

The guild formed in 2009, one year after Sayward Grindley was promoted from a faculty dance instructor to education director.

Every parent of every student in the school, including the parents of students enrolled in Dance — The Next Generation (DNG), became a member of the guild.

In the year following its formation and Grindley’s promotion, enrollment jumped from 70 students to 130 students.

“We got the word out,” Masterson says. “We held a potluck luncheon during orientation that had standing room only. I’ve been to orientations in the past where like 10 people would show up. It was just phenomenal.”

Masterson credits the tireless Grindley and longtime DNG Program Director Lisa Townsend with the recent influx of students.

Of course, the Parents Guild has played its part, too.

Masterson was floored when she realized how many parents had jobs and skills that could benefit the school. From carpenters to graphic designers, the parents guild began tapping into its own talent pool.

One parent, who owns a printing business in Sarasota, volunteered to print all the programs. Another parent — a graphic designer — volunteered to write and design the school newsletter.

Masterson is co-chairing next week’s ballet birthday party at Payne Park with Sarasota Ballet Association member Lucia Alamquist.

The family-friendly party, scheduled for Sept. 26, will kick off the ballet’s 20th anniversary season and include performances by ballet students, a bounce house, face painting, games, music, and of course, cake and ice cream.

Masterson is hoping to raise enough money to install mirrors in Studio 5, which is used frequently by the school and company dancers.

“You used to sit in the parent lounge waiting for your children and no one would talk,” Masterson says. “Now, it’s totally different. There’s a sense of fellowship. There’s a comfort level that wasn’t there before. We’ve become much more of a family.”

if you go
The Sarasota Ballet will host its 20th birthday party from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26 in the Payne Park Auditorium.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students. Children two and under are free. To purchase tickets, call Teresa Masterson at 739-5971. Proceeds benefit the Sarasota Ballet Education Department.