New Ballet School Launches in Whitefish

Whitefish School of Ballet offers classes on Mondays at O'Shaughnessy Cultural Arts Center with plans to grow into a full-time studio

By Maggie Dresser
A young student attends a class at the Whitefish School of Ballet in the O'Shaughnessy Cultural Arts Center in Whitefish on March 22, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Emily Morrow’s dreams came full circle on March 22 when she taught her first night of ballet classes at the O’Shaughnessy Cultural Arts Center in downtown Whitefish.

After retiring from a professional ballet career, during which she says performed for Cirque du Soleil, living and breathing the art of dance, she knew she wanted to start a ballet school.

Morrow recently launched the Whitefish School of Ballet, where she teaches classical ballet for both kids and adults.

“I just wanted to focus on the idea of bringing arts to the valley and classical ballet for children,” Morrow said.

Morrow started formal ballet training at age 6 in Dallas, where she danced until she was 18 before receiving dance scholarships to Southern Methodist University. She’s focused on Vaganova, a classical Russian style of ballet, which she says centers around strength and causes less impact and fewer injuries than any other form of ballet.

“The form of a Russian style of ballet is kind of a tightly kept secret,” Morrow said. “It’s a different style and it creates a dancer that’s versatile.”

With a focus on the Russian technique as a foundation, she will also implement other forms of dance like French, English, Danish, Cecchetti, and American ballet once her students have Vaganova as a baseline.

Morrow has been teaching and choreographing since she was 13 in Dallas and later at The Rock Center for Dance in Las Vegas. She’s currently the only dance teacher at the Whitefish school and is hoping to recruit more instructors so she can expand the program. Eventually, she plans to offer Irish step dancing, jazz, tap, hip-hop, and modern dance.

Emily Morrow, Artistic Director of The Whitefish School of Ballet teaches a class to young students at her studio in the O’Shaughnessy Cultural Arts Center in Whitefish on March 22, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

“Right now it’s just me,” she said. “That’s why we’re focused on classical ballet. Before I want to teach modern dance they have to have a foundation.”

Once Morrow has enough students, she hopes to host performances like Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and La Sylphide. Until she has enough students for a big production, she plans to do excerpts with smaller groups of students.

While Morrow also teaches adults of all ages, she wants to focus on kids and create an eight-level program with students ranging from ages 4 to 18, and potentially add a “mommy and me” class for toddlers.

Currently, Morrow teaches kids ages 4-6 at 3:50 p.m., ages 7-9 at 5 p.m. and teens and adults at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays.

“With the adults I really to try to make it fun and with the children it’s the same thing,” Morrow said. “I use a lot of imagination and visualizations and I really work on building children’s creativity and scope of imagination.”

The program currently is planned to run for nine months with a break over the holidays, but Morrow hopes to eventually expand the Whitefish School of Ballet to a full-time program where students are learning every day. She plans to have her own ballet studio and train dancers to work in big productions.

“I want this academy for children to grow and have (the dancers) be used by Alpine Theatre Project, the O’Shaughnessy and anyone who needs strong dancers,” Morrow said.

“I think art is a place for children to use their imagination and gain knowledge of music and movement that they can’t get anywhere else,” she added.

To register for classes, call Morrow at (818) 331-9288 or email her at [email protected].