Dancing Like a Stuntman
ACADEMY: Centralia Ballet Hosts Classes to Help Students Learn New Skills
By Matt Baide
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a stuntman, the Centralia Ballet has the class for you.
The Centralia Ballet is hosting its Stuntman Academy this week, bringing in different forms of athletic abilities to teach students strength and coordination activities to help improve their ballet performance.
“You require a certain use of your body that most other sports don’t ask for. You need to have a certain control of your muscles,” Centralia Ballet owner Mick Gunter said. “It’s not just your legs and your arms, but mostly your core. If you have a good strong core, you’re going to be able to do a lot with it.”
The week features a different sport each day through Thursday, with Friday culminating in a performance combining all the skills learned throughout the week. Students were taught parkour on Monday, stage combat on Tuesday, acrobatics on Wednesday and MMA throws and rolls on Thursday.
“I’ve always wanted to do like a stuntman-type camp. It was the kind of thing I wanted to have when I was a kid,” Gunter said. “A lot of what we do in ballet is a lot of action-type things, big jumps, a lot of adventurous kinds of things.”
This is the first summer for the program, and Gunter noted how many of his ballet students also participate in sports.
“A lot of our students, they play basketball, they play football and volleyball and track, and you can tell they have a lot more body awareness,” Gunter said. “This time of their lives going through teenage years, when you’re not really the most in control of how your body is changing, a lot of these kids have a lot more control with what they are able to do and it’s great to see.”
The classes are about two hours of instruction and are taught by veteran instructors, including Noah Phoenix Fassell, the certified parkour instructor out of PK4all in Portland.
“Noah’s teaching parkour, which is great because we have these kids in classes that are in ballet throughout the year, so they’re kind of seeing how the stuff they do in ballet can be applied to other things,” Gunter said. “That’s always one thing we try to emphasize. Next month, we’re going to take some kids to the circus school in seattle where they can learn flying trapeze and tightrope and things like that. Every time we bring students up there, the circus instructors are impressed about how well our students take to it because they have that ballet base, and it can be applied to so many different things.”
Playing a sport like football or basketball is physically demanding, but it might pale in comparison to ballet.
“A lot of them say it’s harder than any other sport. It works your body constantly, and each group has their own things they have to deal with,” Gunter said. “For girls who are on point, they have to stand on their tiptoes in these shoes made out of basically paper and glue. It takes a lot of strength. For guys, you have to do the big jumps, the big leaps, but also there is partnering where you have to learn to lift the girls up and not look like it’s anything.
“It’s extremely athletic,” he added. “A lot of professional dancers have shorter careers than a lot of professional athletes just because it works your body so much harder.”
Ballet Theatre Washington is performing the Nutcracker this December at Bethel Church, and he hopes the fight scene in the play will be amplified with the training received through the Stuntman Academy.
“A lot of times, it’s a very simple thing, I want our fight scene to be an action packed brawl that’s very well choreographed and very exciting and amazingly put together,” Gunter said. “I’m going to be watching the people in these classes to see who can we bring on to be in this fight scene. I’m looking forward to using this to help us put that fight together. We’ll be using some parkour, some acrobatics, I want it to be like a Battle of Helm’s Deep level of excitement.”
With the success of the inaugural camp, Gunter is looking to expand on it next summer.
“We filled up both camps. There is a demand for this and we’ll be doing it again next year, by next year we’ll have a better idea of what we can offer,” Gunter said. “We’ll probably offer more advanced things, and maybe even a few different things. We’ll probably add a second week of it with this. I’m just looking forward to seeing it grow and bringing more people in.”