Longtime ballet instructor opens her own dance studio

Jessica Crook grew up dancing at Nancy Whyte's School of Ballet and even taught classes there for 14 years. Now...

By Isaac Bonnell

Ballet Bellingham
Owner: Jessica Crook
Start date: Oct. 1
Address: 1405 Fraser St. Suite 103
Square feet: 3,300
Phone: (360) 746-8508

Everything at Ballet Bellingham is new. Everything, that is, except the ballet bars, which are used for warm-up exercises.

Owner Jessica Crook got the bars from Nancy Whyte’s School of Ballet, where she first learned to dance and taught ballet for 15 years. Nancy Whyte closed the studio in 2009 after 40 years in Bellingham.

“They’re the same bars I’ve used since I was 3,” Crook said with a hint of nostalgia.

Crook began teaching dance classes with Nancy Whyte when she just 14, not knowing that it would someday turn into her career. When Whyte decided to move to New York, she offered Crook the opportunity to take over the studio, located downtown on Cornwall Avenue. It was short notice, though, and Crook eventually turned down the offer.

“At the time it just wasn’t right for me,” she said. “It was too much to take on at the time.”

After a year and a half, though, Crook decided to get back into the world of ballet. Both of her daughters dance and they had a difficult time finding another studio that felt quite like what they were used to at Nancy Whyte’s. And Crook really missed teaching.

“I love seeing the little kids have so much fun,” she said. “And with the older girls, I like seeing them master the skills and build confidence.”

The new space, at 1405 Fraser St. Suite 103, is a converted warehouse with a 1,200-square-foot, custom-built dance floor with foam padding underneath and non-skid matting on top — the same material used on professional stages.

Ballet Bellingham offers classes for dancers of all ages, from age 3 to adult. Crook teaches strictly ballet in all its various styles, with an emphasis on classic Russian and Italian ballet. That way, when students attend summer dance camps or move on to other studios, they will be well-versed in the major forms of ballet, Crook said.

Starting a new dance studio hasn’t been easy, Crook said. Though some of her previous students have followed her, getting the word out to new students has been a slow process.

“We don’t have plans for any productions right now with the limited number of girls,” Crook said. “Our plan is to get up to doing two full-scale productions a year, probably in the winter and spring.”

Crook now has 15 students and is getting more enrollees every season. The next set of classes begin Jan. 3.

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