If you enter a typical dance class in the NRV you might see Ballet Barres, tight buns, and
teachers wagging their fingers for students to straighten their knees. For many young
dancers the wonderful fantasy of starting Ballet is quickly replaced by discipline and
uncomfortable positions. While dance can be quite hard work and requires much dedication
and yes-discipline, Heather Leeper has a different approach.
“After seeing many studio’s teach children’s ballet classes with varying curriculum, I
was always saddened when I would hear that students decided they ‘hated’ dance, at age 5.
‘Hated?” I would think. How could you hate something so theatrical, filled with tiaras and
tutus at age 5? As a young dancer begins to advance, sure, dance can be quite trying and
every dancer will see tears at some point in their training. But not at age 5.”
Heather’s love for ballet and dance started at a very young age, and was even performing
with New York City Ballet as a young girl. Despite her disciplined level of ballet training,
she believes that the first important thing for any young dancer to have is a solid foundation
of love for dance. It was this foundation that sparked the Little Leapers
“I wanted to bring back the magic and fantasy of ballet to class. To let children embrace the
spirit of dance that most have before they ever even put on their first pair of ballet shoes.”
In a Little Leapers class, students learn fun stretches in a playful way - picking flowers,
drawing pictures and playing games. They learn all of their proper french pre-ballet terms
while fantasying of drawing, creating, or acting out scenarios, such as going to the beach and
drawing in the sand with their pointed toes. They also learn how ballet is a way to
communicate without using words; and so they learn things like, how and what it means
when a dancer curtseys (to say hello/goodbye/thank you), or how to show emotions or tell a
story with simply using their body.
One parent even said, “I’ve taken [her] to the different dance classes around town, and she
simply didn’t have the attention span for any of them. For the first time, she came home
begging to go back to ballet class. The best part is, I was able to watch the class from the
window - so I felt like I was enjoying the class with her.”
One of the most popular parts of the class, is story time. Each week the students sit as the
teacher reads a fairytale. As the teacher is animated and interacts with the children, they are
mesmerized by these treasured classic stories. They then get dressed up in lovely tutus and
costumes and follow the teacher as they reinact the story to beautiful and theatrical music.
Using their newly learned dance moves, and fun props children are quickly whisked away to
a world of magic and play all while learning.
While Little Leapers currently runs out classes out of after school programs, and
community centers like the Blacksburg YMCA, Heather says that because of the amazing
response she’s received so far, she hopes to open a studio in Blacksburg in order to offer
classes for all ages and levels.
Ms. Leeper is no novice when it comes to opening a dance studio. In fact, at age 23 she
opened the McLean Dance Company in Northern Virginia, offering quality professional
dance training. Whether it’s McLean Dance Company or the Little Leapers, she says
“It is our goal to provide a safe and inviting atmosphere for all students to express
themselves through the artistry and technique of dance. Each dance class incorporates
structured class curriculum fostering creativity and individuality in a fun learning
environment. I am so grateful to have been blessed with great teachers and mentors
throughout my dance career. Sharing what they have taught me, and my passion for dance is
such a joy! My hope is that our students will find a similar or even greater joy for Dance.”
If you would like to check out a Little Leapers class you can try a FREE trial this Thursday June 28th at the Blacksburg YMCA or email firstname.lastname@example.org to
schedule your free trial.
Fairytale Ballet is for ages: 3-5, Wednesdays or Thursday, 4:15-5pm at the Blacksburg YMCA