by Remi Escudie | Photography Dave Barfield
Pas de Vie is a year-round ballet company and school in Tallahassee. Botha believes in the value of straying away from the seasonal, recital focused schooling method. Many students of ballet do not reach the professional level, but Botha thinks they should be trained like professionals.
“With intensive year-round training, we try to replicate what we had been through on the professional level, while still giving the students performances to look forward to,” said Botha. “We wanted to give our students a chance to experience what a career in ballet would be like.”
Nathalia Botha was born in South Africa where her mother started her own ballet company. Her mother then moved to Canada as ballet mistress of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company, and ultimately to Pittsburg Ballet Theatre, where Botha and her husband Charles led their professional careers.
Botha and Charles have studied numerous ballet styles, including Italian cecchetti, Russian vaganova and the Royal Academy of Dance. Pas de Vie, however, doesn’t subscribe to one particular ballet style. Instead, they teach a unique mix of the various styles they have experience with, which allows them flexibility to emphasize the strengths of their students.
One strength, the large number of male dancers in its company, allows Pas de Vie to explore dances than many other schools aren’t able to showcase, like the all male piece Symian Line from their last show, or pas de deux (step of two), an intimate dance between two dancers that often highlights emotion and passion between male and female performers.
“The Pas de deux in our last show was called Spartacus, and it was especially high intensity because the dancers left so much of themselves vulnerable on stage,” said Botha. “The crowd can really feel the passion and chemistry when our students danced together.”
Botha thinks most people don’t realize that for a male dancer in a pas de deux, the athletic exertions has been compared to that of a football player in the entire first half of a game. Only dancers with incredible strength and balance, as well as timing and trust with their partner, are able to perform the piece well. Even if some dancers may not fit well in a pas de deux, Pas de Vie is committed to finding a piece where each student can succeed.
“We don’t discriminate with our students or tell them they need a certain body type,” said Botha. “Every one of them has something they can excel in. We try to find the little jewels in each person to help them come out and shine.”
This accepting nature helps Pas de Vie bring diversity to the ballet community of Tallahassee. This extends to the younger generations of students that may have not had extensive exposure to ballet or the arts.
“We do children’s shows with schools as well, and they are some of my favorite performances,” said Botha. “The excitement that comes from them is unbridled. They just let it go – they laugh, they scream, they clap – they have the best, most natural responses.”
To Natalia, letting children dance plays an important role in the community because it exposes kids to the arts at a young age. This exposure promotes appreciation for the arts later in life, an action that is crucial to keeping the arts alive.
“Ballet allows the audience to feel freed and experience into another world,” said Botha. “When I see a show, I feel like I have been given the gift of having my emotions stirred up – of being excited again. I can leave my worries outside the door and feel alive for a couple of hours.”
Pas de Vie’s next performance season will begin Nov. 24 with The Nutcracker at Florida A&M University. More information can be found at www.pasdevieballet.com.