To celebrate Valentine’s Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!
ove over, high school sweethearts. We’ve found something far more darling—summer intensive sweethearts! Simon Ball and Frances Perez-Ball have been together since they were 15, when they met at the Point Park University summer dance program in Pittsburgh. For their first date, they watched fireworks together. Little did they know that it was the beginning of the rest of their lives.
After the summer intensive, Frances moved back home to Puerto Rico. The two dated long-distance for four years until they both landed jobs with Boston Ballet. They danced together with the company for the next eight years and got married. Then in 2003, they joined Houston Ballet. In 2005, Frances retired and had the couple’s first baby. After Simon retired in 2015, they moved with their two daughters to Pennsylvania to teach at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.
Photo by Joel Thomas (courtesy of CPYB)
Frances: I was lucky enough to see Simon at all of the different seasons of his career. Each time he performed, he would bring an element of honesty to his performance that was captivating. He becomes the character he is portraying every time he dances. The older he got, the more depth and maturity filled his movement. I was able to separate myself from our personal connection when I watched him dance, and let me tell you, he really was amazing.
Simon: As a man in ballet, I always looked to my male teachers as role models. From 14 years old and on, it was tough for me to feel accepted as a ballet dancer. It was confusing to know whether or not what I was pursuing was an appropriate thing for a young man to do. My teachers are what got me through that time, and I’ve always wanted to give back because of it. I know that I, too, can teach young men to follow their passion, no matter what the stereotypes are. We have an opportunity to make a difference in their lives.
Frances: We follow a syllabus set up by Marcia Dale Weary. It is very physical and involves the teacher working hard to help the child create the proper shapes. Then, once we have the syllabus in place, we focus on the words we use to accompany various techniques. For example, Marcia has taught us that saying “stiff knee,” rather than “straight knee,” will change the way a student takes a correction. We have also found that saying “knees back” is much more useful in plié than saying “knees over the toes.” When we use the correct language, and follow the syllabus, our students grow in amazing ways.
Simon: I think my philosophy would be to create an atmosphere that is challenging yet allows the students to make mistakes. It’s hard to find a balance, but I’m always striving for it. I just remember that I am working with human beings and not robots, and that their emotional well-being is just as important as their technique.