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The Ballerina Way of Life

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Posted: Friday, April 10, 2009 10:00 pm

Lodi native Ronna Roberts has been involved in dance and ballet for most of her life. She was an active child who found a creative outlet as a fine artist and even in things like sailing, diving, music and swimming. By pushing herself in dance, she learned what she is capable of, including pushing herself to dance after doctors said she might not ever walk after a bad car accident.

Now, Roberts helps run IBTI (International Ballet Theater Institute) Arch Studio for Integrated Arts in Downtown Lodi. The upstairs studio has two parts: IBTI and Studio A. Both have professional dance floors for practice and performances.

International Ballet Theater Institute is located at 4 1/2 W. Pine St. in Lodi. For information, call 334-1974 or visit or

Q: Your friends think your crazy for opening a ballet institute in Lodi, and said you need to be in New York. Why did you?

A: Because I see it as a tremendous need. When they started taking arts out of the schools, it did something to me. We felt that this area needed an opportunity for young people to access high-caliber arts. We're networked with instructors that are involved with human development - things that are becoming very important techniques.

We're developing an afterschool program to address arts and human development for young people. Some (classes) will be themed, and expressed in music, fine arts, theater and technical arts. We want to offer free classes and free performances.

Starting meditation art sessions. Healing mandalas. relax, release stress.

We want it to be an opportunity to work and play together and socialize with other families. I really hope we can build these afterschool programs.

Q: You grew up in Lodi and were familiar with this building. When the space became available, why did you want to turn it into a dance studio and performance hall?

A: It has a triple woven ballroom floor and (one room) is 3,000 square feet.

Q: How long have you been dancing?

A: I have been dancing since I was 5. I'm 57 now. If you continue stretching and dancing, you'll be able to do it. You're only as young as you feel.

Upcoming Events at The Arch Studio

April 24

Smith Dobson the III and Smith V with jazz guitarist Steve Homan
Featuring guest vocalists Norma Neal and Miles Cope
Time: 7-9 p.m.April 29
Free performance, lecture and demonstration performance
Time: 6 p.m.
May 3
Open House and fund-raiser during Downtown Lodi Street Faire. Enjoy food and beverages, plants, hand-painted accessories and art sale.
Time: 6 p.m.
May 9
The Delbert Bump Trio with guest vocalists Francesca Homan and Miles Cope
Time: 7-10 p.m.
Call for tickets
There are free children's ballet classes on April 26, 28 and 30. Call for information and to reserve a spot.

Q: Do you have regular performances here?

A: We have small performances. We invite other performing artists to perform. We're going to have performances for National Dance Week (April 24-May 3) and International Dance Day (April 29).

Q: Do you have a favorite dance or ballet movie?

A: I was a lot of performances. My favorite is "Don Quixote," which I watched at the Balshoi.

Q: Do you watch the reality show, "Dancing With the Stars?"

A: I watch that show. I think it's very good. It makes people understand just how hard dance artists work. Even though you think you can't do (the moves), it is in everybody's genetic code to express themselves through the art.

Q: Do you think they should feature ballerinas on the show?

A: (Pauses) To execute it (ballet) properly, it takes a tremendous amount of high caliber training. One of the big arguments in ballet training today is the conflict of ballet competition (which focuses on technical aspects and spectical) compared to (the art form that requires intense training).

Q: Is dancing for anyone, or just an elite group of people?

A: I think dancing is for anyone. Many cultures have proved (that). It's a direct expression of your genetic core, your DNA, that's what it really is.

Q: What kind of dance do you teach out of Lodi?

A: We teach contemporary and moder - which are different. We've had jazz. (We've done) research on the different forms of folk dance - that's the core of dance.

Q: Do you dance every day?

A: Pretty much.

Q: Do you have a ritual before dancing, such as putting on certain music or enjoying a special tea or wine?

A: I try to find a really quiet place inside myself and try to heighten my energy. I try to heighten my temper because there is a lot of adrenaline before I'm ready to perform. I don't eat any special thing.

Q: How important is nutrition for a ballerina?

A: Nutrition has come a long way in ballet. If you're not in good physical shape and don't have good nutrition, it's impossible to achieve the strength level these dancers have. Ballerinas used to lift their legs to 90 degrees, now it's 160 or 180 degrees. Ballerinas always weigh 10 pounds more than they look because of all the muscle. The only athlete that have more demands on their bodies are gymnasts.

Q: Do your toes bleed?

A: They always show that in movies. I've never had that. Anytime you do something new, you will get blisters that pop and bleed.

You start doing 15 minutes in the point shoes (and work your way up).

Bleeding feet is nothing compared to an aching body and constant state of exhaustion. Still, it doesn't change the fact that it's worth it.



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