Former professional dancer brings ballet classes to Sedona

By Michael Dixon

February 12, 2021

After spending much of her life in ballet as a dancer, Jessica Phillips retired in 2018 and began teaching. Upon moving to Sedona from Phoenix in August of 2020, she saw that Sedona didn’t really have any ballet classes and sought to change that.

So, for the last several months, she’s been teaching ballet classes at Sedona’s Sun Moon Studio.

“We’ve had a really nice turnout,” Phillips said. “I have 35 and counting students. What I am about is offering quality dance and quality performing arts to the community here — to the kids and I have a few adult classes, as well.”

In December, Phillips’ students performed at the Sedona Creative Life Center. She is planning on having another performance in the spring and hopes to make those a tradition. Phillips hopes that future shows might take place in times when COVID-19 isn’t so prevalent. With that, they can be seen by more people in the community.

Phillips has been pleasantly surprised by the reception she’s received, which began immediately after she decided to move to Sedona. The support has come from people in the community as well as from the enthusiasm of her students.

“Even in these times, I haven’t gotten any pushback,” Phillips said. “There’s been nothing but support. If people haven’t been comfortable, they’ve expressed to me, or their parents have expressed, that when vaccines come out that they’d like to take the class.”

“A lot of these students are new — so we’re starting from the ground up,” Phillips said. “And I can say, wholeheartedly, that Sedona kids — or maybe it’s just small town kids — they are so receptive.”

That’s an opinion shared by Dyllan Innes, who teaches ballet with Phillips and also instructs the hip hop and jazz dance classes. Like Phillips, Innes has a lot of experience in the world of professional dance. Innes said that when she and Phillips first talked, they both noted that they had previous experiences in the dance world that were “toxic” and wanted to avoid creating that setting.

That’s worked well.

“It’s been really nice working with these new students,” Innes said. “I was kind of expecting something different. But they’re all super focused and attentive. It’s been super fun. It feels like normal again — a little bit. It’s great. It’s been so nice and I’m grateful for it.”

And the students have been just as grateful.

One of the newer students, 6-year-old Arantza Esquer, said that she’s happy to have the chance to do ballet because “she’s always wanted to be a ballerina.”

Other more advanced students compare this experience favorably to ones they’ve had in the past.

“I have a younger teacher who can show me how to do certain moves,” said 12-year-old Sofia Wolf, who’s been in ballet for six years. “And it’s more advanced and more enjoyable. There are many visual explanations. It’s easy to learn and the teacher is very easy to work with.”

“The other classes that I’ve taken have been really stressful,” added her classmate, 10-year-old Gianna Wilson. “It’s really fun. It brings out your inner self and gets your mind off of stressful things.”

Phillips noted that COVID-19 hasn’t presented many significant obstacles. She has had to be more conscientious of limiting class sizes to allow for adequate social distancing, as ballet is not suited well for wearing masks. But Phillips added that the class sizes in the COVID era — roughly 13 to 15 students — are about the same size as they would be if COVID-19 didn’t exist, as anything bigger would not allow for proper attention for each student.

Anyone interested in signing up for a class — either for themselves or their children — should contact Phillips via email at jessica@sedonadanceacademy.org.

“Ballet is the foundation to all forms of other dance,” Phillips said. “So it’s really important if you want to be a dancer to have a strong foundation in ballet first and foremost.”

RED ROCK NEWS

SEDONA DANCE ACADEMY