SAKS, Ala. — The only thing fluffy about ballet is the tutu.
That's the message Linze McRae left a group of students at Saks High School during a recent presentation to prepare them for a performance of the Russian National Ballet sponsored by the Knox Concert Series.
After a short lesson on the history of the classical art form and demonstrations by members of her Downtown Dance Conservatory in Gadsden, McRae invited students to give ballet's five main positions a try.
"Ballet is much more detailed and difficult than it actually looks," added Nick Ogle, a senior. Ogle, who took a year of yoga to help him train for football, said he was familiar with the way his body had to stretch for some of the positions.
For junior William Medley, ballet basics were a little more challenging.
"Not being physically fit, it was like hurting the muscles, trying to twist and turn," he said.
McRae told the students that people often have a perception of ballet as a weak, fluffy activity.
"It's an athletic sport and an art put together," she said. "It's blood, sweat and tears; it's toenails falling off."
McRae's presentation gave many of the students a new appreciation for the demanding art form.
"Before you never really thought that much about ballet, but she gave us a new perspective of it, more thought," Medley said.
"I learned you have to be really, really smart because you have to understand a whole other language for it," added senior Gabby Turner.
Millie Harris, chairwoman of Knox's education outreach committee, took the presentation to Wellborn, Oxford and Anniston high schools and said she received a good reception from the students.
Harris explained to the students that the performance Russian National Ballet is not a single ballet, but rather a collection of 11 famous dances from ballets such as Don Quixote and Swan Lake.
Laura Cornwell, an instructor at the conservatory, and Morgan Henegar, a conservatory artist, performed two variations — solo dances — from Don Quixote to give the students an idea of what they might see from members of the Russian National Ballet.
"It's an excellent opportunity for our students to get the chance to see the arts like this," said Lindsay Ford, a 12th-grade English teacher at Saks.
"Knox Concert Series leadership feels very strongly that these things are so valuable," said Patricia Smith, Knox's executive director, of the classical art form. "It would be sad if it were lost, so we keep bringing them."
She encouraged the community to give the ballet a try. "You don't know if you don't like it," she said, "until you see it."