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New moves at longtime ballet school

Former instructor becomes owner

POSTED: December 22, 2012 4:30 p.m.
Autumn Vetter/

Tiina Lugus, left, and Raul Canado dance with fellow performers for an upcoming "Nutcracker" performance at the Sawnee School of Ballet.

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A former Sawnee School of Ballet instructor is the facility’s new owner.

Courtney Bromwich took over the school, located on Canton Road, on Nov. 1.

Joanie Stewart, who founded the school more than 20 years ago, will continue to work as an instructor. She’ll also continue to serve as artistic director of Sawnee Ballet Theatre, the nonprofit dance company affiliated with the school.

“This has been [Stewart’s] life,” Bromwich said. “She owned Sawnee Ballet for 22 years, she had a school in Sandy Springs for, I believe, 14 years and she had been teaching before that … so neither of us wanted her to step away from it completely.”

The transition will allow for more productivity from both women, she added.

“With Joanie running the school and running the company, she was bogged down a lot,” Bromwich said. “So her taking that and me taking this allows both of us to do a lot of stuff that we haven’t done before.”

Bromwich said some of her ideas for the school include adding more variety to the curriculum.

“We will still be a ballet school, but I want to have ballet dancers who are well rounded and well versed in the other genres of dance as well,” she said. “My goal is to grow and over the next couple of years to probably double our enrollment.”

Bromwich brings a range of experience to her new role with the school.

A dancer since age 4, she became the first person to graduate from Kennesaw State University’s dance major program in 2010. That was her second bachelor’s degree.

She had studied dance at Brenau University for one year in the late 1990s before transferring to Kennesaw State to pursue her first degree in business management in 2000.

She’s also danced with companies in Gainesville and Kennesaw, and at 19 began teaching dance at the studio where she had been a student growing up in Marietta.

“The owner there was friends with Joanie and Joanie called her up one day and said, ‘I need a jazz teacher. Do you have anybody in mind,’” Bromwich said.

“So when I was 21, I started teaching for Joanie.”

Bromwich said she taught at the school’s previous location on Buford Dam Road for six years before marrying husband David in 2005.

Due to his job, the couple lived too far from Cumming for her to continue to teaching locally.

“So I was gone for five years,” she said. “But last year he got transferred to Gainesville and I was able to come back. And then Joanie was like, ‘I’m looking to cut back some stress in my life’ and it just kind of happened in conversation one day and later I ended up buying the school.”

This past Saturday, Bromwich held one new program called Parents’ Night Out, in which parents of Sawnee Ballet students dropped the children off from 6 to 10 p.m.

“We had 35 kids participate and it was a huge success,” she said. “We did a dance class and we ate pizza and filmed video clips that we’ll compile into our own music video.”

This week she also received word that North Carolina Dance Company, where one former Sawnee Ballet student works, selected the school as an audition site for its “summer intensive,” a kind of dance camp for high-level students.

“They’ll have auditions here on Jan. 26, so that prompted us to do some painting and sprucing up now,” she said.

In the future, some of her other plans call for adding adult classes such as Zumba and Pilates. She also hopes to begin a community performance group for younger students who aren’t ready to audition for Sawnee Ballet Theatre, and hold occasional “master’s classes” with instructors from outside the school’s regular teachers.

“Sawnee Ballet has always been a good staple in the community,” she said. “My main message is that it will remain a ballet school, but I want to grow everything else and just bring in some new, fresh ideas, things that haven’t been done before.”

 

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