The Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre is like a family to me. I know this is a feeling that I share with many others. Just like my own family who raised and nurtured me from a young age, there is no way that I could ever repay this organization for what they have given me, because what they have given me is priceless.

I didn’t realize when I was 15 or 16, in ballet class or rehearsal instead of sleeping in on a Saturday morning or hanging out with friends on Friday night, that I was learning so much more than proper technique and choreography. I was learning the importance of showing up prepared and ready to work, how to push myself further when I was ready to give up and why “just not feeling like doing something” isn’t an excuse for not doing something that really needs to be done.

I learned teamwork — how to be a part of a corps. How to start from the bottom and work together to achieve something wonderful, and then maybe when the time comes, how to step up and lead the group as a soloist.

I learned how to cope with the anxiety and pressure of performing — how to hide all of that from the audience when stepping onto the stage. Over the course of so many ballet classes, I developed positive physical attributes like strength, poise, flexibility and grace while at the same time learning how to accept (and even seek) and apply constructive criticism. Because in ballet, there is a constant pursuit of perfection. One more pirouette, or lifting the leg one inch higher — I learned that there is always room for improvement.

I have no doubt that the skills I acquired from the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre have helped me to be successful today. And, when I think about my best friends (all of whom I met through ballet), I wonder if it isn’t a coincidence that they have also been successful in their pursuits — whether they are accountants, attorneys, physician assistants, national news editors, wonderful mothers or world travelers.

These are just a few reasons among many why I support this organization in every way that I can. Not only does it give the gift of dance, but it teaches young men and women how to work hard to achieve whatever it is in life they want, and how to do it with grace.

Renee Puyau Stelzer

Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre board member, dancer

Baton Rouge