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Bountiful ballet school founded in 1973 still standing strong, helping to fulfill dreams

By Emily Mabey Swensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, May 14 2013 6:35 a.m. MDT

Ostroski and Swensen work hard to keep high teaching standards and a consistent staff. In fact, a fixture in the studio with Ostroski and Swensen is Susan Crosby, who has taught at the studio for more than 30 years.

Kellie Yeates, a Bountiful School of Ballet teacher who is also a former student, feels lucky to be teaching at the studio.

“When people ask me if I work, I find myself saying I get to teach at the studio I grew up in, with the women who taught me,” explains Yeates. “I can’t say it without getting choked up, because I feel it’s such a great privilege.”

Yeates also points out how hard Ostroski and Swensen work to keep ballet affordable.

“I wouldn’t have been able to dance throughout my adolescence without their relatively low tuition. I’m amazed at the quiet ways they go about providing opportunities for full participation.”

Swensen simply says, “We have always put the money back into the kids. We were always in it because we loved teaching ballet — never for the money.”

Ostroski and Swensen won’t tell you themselves about their good deeds for students, but 18-year-old Alyssa Bertelsen will.

Bertelsen will dance the part of the white rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland," Bountiful School of Ballet’s 40th anniversary recital this month. She has already been accepted to the University of Utah’s ballet program for the fall. Nine years ago, Bertelsen was a little girl obsessed with ballet, but without the money for lessons.

“My family is a missionary family. I always loved ballet, but we never had the money for lessons. When I was 9, I was a member of the First Presbyterian Church that Sandra and Kate also attended. The church had a silent auction, and Sandra and Kate offered six months of free ballet classes. I could only afford two tickets, but I put them both in for the ballet lessons. When my mom got the call that I had won, I cried.”

Her mom dutifully pulled her out after the six months of free lessons, but she immediately received a call from Swensen.

“Sandra said to my mom, ‘If Alyssa doesn’t like ballet, that’s OK. But if this is a financial thing, we would like to keep her here on scholarship as long as she would like to take lessons.’”

At one point, Bertelsen couldn’t afford a leotard for her growing body, so she wore one that was too small. One day Ware handed her a bag of new ballet clothes and told her to go change.

“She didn’t even wait for a thank you. That’s just how they are here.”

Bertelsen and her two younger sisters all dance at the studio now, and all on scholarship.

“Alyssa could not even come close to touching her toes when she started,” says Swensen. “But she had the most amazing attitude. She’s been a wonderful influence on our studio.”

Because Ostroski and Swensen believed in her, Bertelsen never gave up.

“I am basically the opposite of what a ballet dancer build should be. My hips turn in instead of out, and I have to focus constantly on turnout in every step I dance. I don’t know what they saw in me,” Bertelsen says. “But I figured if they believed in me I could do it. I think with ballet if you work hard, you will see progress. It doesn’t matter who you are.”

Bountiful School of Ballet’s 40th anniversary recital, "Alice in Wonderland," is May 17 and 18 at Woods Cross High School.

Emily Mabey Swensen has been a freelance writer and editor for the past 12 years. She has an MA in writing and publishing from Emerson College in Boston. email: emilymabeyswensen@me.com

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