Many young performers find their first steps into the spotlight during their first dance performance, and a select few continue that pursuit into adulthood. Even those who don’t wish to make a career in dance find creative outlet and stress relief from the feet up, exploring through ballet, tap, jazz, modern, lyrical and other forms of creative movement. In Seaside, young dancers have found an inspirational home in dance camp at the Seaside Neighborhood School, under the direction of Seleta Hayes Howard.
Hayes Howard began studying ballet early in her life, continuing the journey through college and even as an adult, all while navigating through a busy life as a television personality, an interior designer and busy mother of four. “Ballet has always been more than a passion,” she says. “It is a part of me.”
Although her career started on the small screen and later transitioned into interior design, the arrival of baby number four inspired Hayes Howard to yearn for a simpler life, one in which she could focus more on her family and her deepest passion — dance.
Shortly after moving from Atlanta to the Santa Rosa Beach area, she volunteered as a mentor to teach ballet at the Seaside Neighborhood School, and soon after co-founded the SNS Dance Education program, stepping in as the ballet teacher. Working closely with Seaside co-founder Daryl Davis, who “graciously supported dance education at school and in our Seaside community,” the program flourished, and soon the group found themselves auditioning local talent for the very first performance of what has now become a cherished holiday tradition, the Seaside Nutcracker,
directed by Hayes Howard’s own former ballet teacher, Rose Barile.
Now the program has grown to include a summer camp, offering passionate young dancers the chance to lace up their shoes, study intensively and experience an end-of-camp performance. In its fourth year in Seaside, the ballet camp incorporates a different theme each summer. This summer’s theme brought in the magical tale of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty,” spotlighting the seven enchanting fairies in the beloved story. “Each fairy brings princess Aurora a separate gift — wisdom, beauty, courage, love of music, love of dance, kindness and grace,” Hayes Howard says. “It’s wonderful to teach young dancers how to communicate these character traits through movement, as a ballet tells a story through mime and gestures. We had seven dancers participate in camp, and seven fairies in the story. So this was a perfect fit.”
Seaside has long been revered for its emphasis on culture and the arts, and the incorporation of ballet into the mix has been to a welcome reception. “Ballet training and performance opportunities truly enrich a child’s life,” Hayes Howard says. “It’s an art form that builds confidence, discipline, patience, creativity, and honors tradition. Ballet is moving, breathing history — a visual art we must keep alive in our modern, fast paced society.”
In addition to dance education for young performers, Seaside continues to offer new opportunities for everyone to experience the beauty of ballet. The Seaside Nutcracker will make your holidays merry and bright this winter. And in May, for the second year, Seaside will host the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group from New York City. Ballet is for everyone, and experiencing dance through education or performance will put your time in Seaside en pointe.
Visit Seaside Neighborhood School online.