Patrons Leave Notes on Ballet School Window

Reflective windows make for shiny pictures, but you can see the sweet messages left where Dallas Metropolitan Ballet once stood. (Staff photo: Sarah Bennett)

Reflective windows make for shiny pictures, but you can see the sweet messages left where Dallas Metropolitan Ballet once stood. (Staff photo: Sarah Bennett)

Hearts across the Park Cities are undoubtedly breaking due to the retirement of Ann Etgen and Bill Atkinson, longtime directors of Dallas Metropolitan Ballet on Hillcrest Avenue. The school sat in its street-facing lot in Snider Plaza for decades. Though the lot is now vacated and the signs are down, patrons have decorated the windows with thank-you notes and pictures. Did you take classes at Metropolitan? Tell us some of your memories.

By Sarah Bennett Jul. 23, 2014 | 3:35 pm | 13 Comments | Comments RSS
  • Parkie

    I took classes twice a week at their Richardson studio from ages 6-12, starting in 1971, more than 40 years ago. They sure knew how to teach. When I turned 12, they made me choose–either commit to ballet 100% or quit. There was nothing in between.

  • really

    What’s going to take over the space? Hopefully, a bank.

  • Kejk

    I took from a&e for 5 years, my sister 7 years, my daughters 5 & 6 years. Mr Bill and Mrs Ann were the “real deal!” So respected in the ballet world. We were so lucky to have them in the park cities! Tootsie rolls, tutus and trophies – they are irreplaceable. So amazing what they accomplished in their long dance careers.

  • Kym Cecil

    Both of my daughters took ballet lessons from Mr. Bill and Miss Ann, for 5 years every Saturday I was up and down University dropping one off and picking up and dropping off the other. Happy Memories for me and my now grown daughters!

  • Howard

    They may have been excellent teachers, but they were miserable human beings, particularly “Mr. Bill”.

    If they had spent 1/10 the time trying to build the kids self esteem as they did humiliating them they may have been far more successful. As many great dancers as they turned out, they ruined ballet for exponentially more.

  • Joey

    Howard- You obviously know nothing about ballet and you don’t know Ann and Bill personally either. They were not baby sitters. They were in the business of identifying and training professional ballet dancers. The evidence of their phenomenal success can be seen in thousands of dancers working in major theaters all over the world. Yes, their teaching style is extremely tough and humiliating, but it is nothing compared to the brutal, cut throat atmosphere of a professional ballet company. Good ballet teachers understand that part of their job is to make their students mentally and emotionally tough enough to work in the theater where rejection and humiliation are a part of life.

  • NFW

    Joey, all good points, but, unfortunately, that theory doesn’t work with grade schoolers. They just want to dance. Cut-throat doesn’t start until middle school.

  • howard

    Joey,

    “thousands of dancers working in major theaters”, please. Name ten. Have they turned out some fabulous dancers, absolutely. But that doesn’t justify their behavior. Their is a great range of teaching styles that fall between humiliation and coddling that can be highly successful.

    Many professional football coaches are verbally abusive. Does that mean that the same methods should be used on children who are 5 or 10 or 15?

    Their teaching methods soured many on ballet, including some who were exceptionally talented. I’ve seen many of their recitals and several versions of “Night Before Christmas; the New York City Ballet, they are not.

  • Joey

    NFW- In the ballet world, cut throat starts at age 5. As a baby you are measured, weighed, evaluated for proportion, flexibility, range of motion, musicality and performance ability, then you are pushed to the limit from day one. You have to start early when the bones are still soft so that they grow and form around the ballet positions and technique. You have to learn how to deal with rejection, take corrections and be disciplined enough to work your ass off when you are a baby so that your body is capable of performing the technique when you are older. If the kids just want to dance then they are at the wrong school. If they don’t get real training, physical, mental and emotional in grade school or earlier, they will never become pros when they turn 16. The parents should know that and Ann and Bill are responsible and ethical enough to let them and the student know early on if they don’t have what it takes. They won’t sit there and milk the tuition money like all the other mills in town.

  • scarred for life

    I danced at this studio on an off from the time I was 3 years old in 1984 until 14. I FINALLY found a REAL Studio and went on to dance professionally in NYC. The ONLY thing I ever took away from “Mr. Bill and Miss Ann” was self loathing, humiliation and shame. I STILL have nightmares (20 years later) about class with “Mr. Bill” or “Miss Ann”. No person of ANY age should EVER suffer the trauma I experienced at that place. To this day, I have to turn my head in the opposite direction every time I drive by the studio.

  • NFW

    @Joe–good luck with that whole pushing the limits at 5 thing. I’m thinking that Ann and Bill aren’t the upper crust of ballet schools so subjecting your kids to their ridicule is probably not going to get you that far in the ballet world. If I have to subject my kids to judgement at 5, I guess they can miss out on the benefits of the lowly paid ballet world. They can hate me later.

  • Joey

    Howard & NFW: Enjoy eating your crow:
    Sterling Hyltin Principal New York City Ballet
    Christine Dunham Principal American Ballet Theater
    Michelle Gifford Soloist New York City Ballet
    Jennifer Davis Soloist New York City Ballet
    Suzette Mariaux Soloist New York City Ballet
    David Holmes Principal Royal Birmingham Ballet
    Max Fuqua Principal Zurich Ballet
    Dallas Blagg Principal Zurich Ballet
    Edward Morgan Principal Joffrey Ballet
    Randall Graham Soloist Joffrey Ballet

    There are many many more. Notice this list includes not just girls, but also five male dancers who trained with Ann and Bill and made it to the big time. That is absolutely exceptional.

  • XT

    I’m with Howard and NFW, SO glad my kids weren’t interested in ballet! Nobody at 5 knows what they want to do, and is willing to accept that kind of treatment, and certainly not in a position to resist. I don’t know if these two are par for the course or bad, but who cares? What a miserable existence.

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