Meet Kaila Lewis!
If you’ve followed Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School on social media over the past year, you’ve witnessed the evolution of dance instruction from studios to screens and back again. Here PBT School’s Children’s Division Coordinator Kaila Lewis talks about her history at PBT and what it’s been like to teach ballet fundamentals virtually.
Q: What ignited your passion for ballet?
A: My parents enrolled me in ballet classes when I was two years old, because I was not old enough for preschool at the time. I immediately fell in love with it and have fond memories of performing from a young age.
Q: Even with a mask on, your face is a familiar one at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. How has your journey unfolded here?
A: I’ve actually been involved with PBT School for almost 23 years, and it all started because of a scholarship. I began as a student in 1998 and started assisting younger classes while training in the Grad program. Every year, I gained more experience which led to more responsibilities. I’ve been a full-time faculty member since 2017.
Q: What do you teach now?
A: I teach the majority of the Children’s Division classes from Grown-Up and Me through our Pre-Ballet 6 and Ballet Foundations classes. I also teach the Preparatory level and Levels 1, 2 and 3 in the Student Division.
Q: You must love your job. What’s your favorite part?
A: My favorite part of teaching ballet, especially to the younger dancers is getting to create the magic. Ballet can be so magical, and the early years are so important to be able to put the love for the art form in motion.
Q: This time last year, the faculty and staff at PBT School were faced with major challenges. What was that like?
A: I started with making videos for all of the levels in March 2020, and by April we started Zoom classes. It was so refreshing to get to see my students’ faces. I think that during an uncertain time, keeping up with their ballet training gave the students a sense of normalcy as well as a movement and creative outlet. It certainly is not easy but I am proud of how the school has kept going and how the students have remained committed.
Q: It must have been so nice to see your students, but that comes at a cost that many can’t afford, especially during times like this. Gratefully, PBT offers donor-funded scholarships to students in Levels 6 and above so that they can continue to pursue their dreams. Why would you encourage someone to contribute to scholarships?
A: Ballet promotes structure, discipline and passion. And while not all of my students will have the same path as me, I believe that it sets children up for success in all areas. It is usually evident during their school years because of how they learn to manage their time between school and ballet. They also tend to do well in school because they have been trained to work hard, accept constructive criticism and be attentive. I think these skills carry with them into college and even into their future careers. From training to performance opportunities, PBT can make a significant impact on a young dancer’s life.