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Ballet in Cleveland presents Allison DeBona on March 2, 2013.

Never underestimate the power of a seemingly uneventful night in front of the TV…

Last summer after a tiring day, all I wanted to do was come home and and just  relax. There was a lot of work to be done, so I decided to strike a happy medium and indulge in the summer’s hottest ballet treat, The CW’s Breaking Pointe, as I worked on my laptop. While I waited for an article to download on my computer, I turned to my good friend Twitter and began to craft a 140- character masterpiece, “Finally watching @breakingpointe“, or something to that effect. Hardly my most creative tweet, which made what happened next about blow me out of my chair. Allison DeBona, who I was simultaneously looking at on the television in her costume for Emeralds, tweeted back immediately. There’s nothing I like better than instant gratification — we were onto something.

Allison and I continued our virtual communication and, by the end of the summer, Ballet in Cleveland had presented her with an informal proposal for an engagement in our city to teach master ballet classes downtown in our theater district, Playhouse Square. She reviewed the proposal and almost immediately accepted. She was enthusiastic to share and positively promote the art of ballet. It became very clear that Allison did not want to solely promote herself, but truly wished to excite the next generation of dancers in our city. The staff at Ballet in Cleveland has quickly come to realize that we’ve hit the jackpot with her; it’s clear that her heart (and her feet) are always in the right place.

Allison DeBona inspires a group of young dancers backstage at a performance of The Nutcracker.

Although Allison and I have only emailed and not yet met in person, there are many things I already admire about her. There’s nothing glamorous about what we’ve offered her; simply a weekend in a city that is notorious for bad weather and even worse sports teams (Cleveland, you are my city and I love you without fail, but you know what I write is true).  It’s clear that Allison hasn’t agreed to do this because it was an opportunity for recognition or a hefty paycheck. She has agreed to do it for the same reason she agreed to do Breaking Pointe, to share ballet with the public and encourage aspiring dancers.

Another reason to like Allie is because not only is she quite the “mover and shaker” herself, as fellow Dd-ers Stephanie Wolf and Matthew Donnell discovered during their interview with her over the summer, but she is a down-to-earth, real person. After Jim Sebastian, Ballet in Cleveland’s Business Manager, talked to her on the phone, he said, “Jess, just call her. If you need to ask her anything just call. She’s so cool.” As inconsequential as that may sound, hearing him say that reaffirmed all of my thoughts about Allison.

It is easy to judge someone when they are a television personality or famous for any other reason, and are subsequently in the public eye. It is easy to criticize and comment about them, when conversely we have no idea about how we might act or be perceived under the same circumstances. Allison is a genuine individual, not making herself out to be a prima donna.

The lovely Allison DeBona as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

A final point worth mentioning is the role of enthusiasm in all of this. As I mentioned in my previous blog about how I chose to walk away from my former career and become the founder of my own nonprofit, going for something and doing so full-steam ahead is critically important. What I saw in Allison straight away was her enthusiasm about what she stands for. She is a dedicated dancer who is committed to her company, Ballet West, and to Breaking Pointe. She didn’t bail when she received negative comments about the perception of her personality on the show nor did she respond by lashing back. Even through the tweets she was posting the night she and I connected, I could tell she is committed to sharing ballet with the public, and she is demonstrating unyielding enthusiasm for that to be achieved. It is of my opinion that her hashtag “#breakingpointeseason2” is in part why the show was renewed for another season. Allison’s energy is contagious, and she has used it positively to garner support around the all-too-worthy cause of ballet.

LET’S DO IT FOR REAL. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

We are both honored and excited to bring Allison to Cleveland. She will teach two master ballet classes and following each class, will host a question and answer period with the participants about what it is like to dance in a professional ballet company and be on a reality television show. As an added bonus, fellow Dd contributors Julia Erickson and Aaron Ingley, founders of Real Food Barre will be with us for the event to share in the ballet fun and provide each dancer with a Barre bar. We feel that this is such an exciting way to engage aspiring dancers. I can’t wait to share how it unfolds!

Written by Jessica Wallis

Jessica Wallis has enjoyed a life in the arts. Jessica was an original company member of Children’s Ballet Theatre (now Ballet Theatre of Ohio) and was a scholarship recipient of The Dance Institute of The University of Akron where she was granted a solo role in its premier production of The Snow Maiden. As a teacher at Martell School of Dance, she taught pre-school though adult level classes and choreographed over forty pieces of original choreography for public performance. She is an honors graduate with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education from The University of Akron, and is also a former third grade teacher. Jessica is a Zumba Fitness instructor and an adjunct professor of dance at Kent State University. In March of 2012, Jessica founded “Revitalization of Dance In Cleveland” to re-establish a presence of classical ballet in Cleveland, which is now known as Ballet in Cleveland, under its parent organization, The Cleveland Classical Ballet Association. In July 2012 Jessica was appointed as co-chair of the Cleveland Young Arts Professionals Network. She is also a member of PlayhouseSquare Partners, The Cleveland Professional 20-30 Club, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Cleveland, Engage!Cleveland and Cleveland Connexion.