For me, the Dance Centre of Ramona has been a wonderful outlet for the exploration of dance. I have had countless of opportunities to grow in my balletic and performing abilities, something that has been instrumental in realizing my passion for dance. My four years as a student at the Dance Centre has tremendously helped shape the dancer I am today, and I know the lessons I have learned will be of immense value as I continue my dance studies at Duke University. -Nali


My sister Nali Gillespie inspired me to begin ballet lessons at the Dance Centre of Ramona, shortly after I photographed her as a “ballerina” on the beach and such places for a school photography project. I began ballet at the beginning of high school. I have always stuck with the Dance Centre of Ramona, mainly because I feel we are all like a little family, dancing our hearts out together.

Everybody knows each other, helps one another grow and advance, etc., and I feel my experience here is a lot different than those aspiring dancers out there who partake in classes elsewhere–Miss Chi uses a variety of music choice(s); all that which she manages to incorporate ballet into, and there is always, always, a positive energy in the studio. It has been such a lovely experience here.

Because of all the memories I have here and the fact that my love for ballet has grown because of them, I am sad, but at the same time honored to say that I will be pursuing ballet in college at Humboldt State University in the fall.


I started dance because I wanted to try something new – something my family hadn’t done, something I hadn’t done, something that was an art not just an athletic pursuit. My dance experience taught me many things that I never expected to learn: that the effortless grace of experienced ballerinas is bought with long years of often painful practice, that I wasn’t going to be twirling around on pointe within my first year, and that dance is way way way way harder to perfect than I ever guessed.

These disillusionments, however, have not really marred my short by thoroughly enjoyable dance experience. From dance, I have learned that fellowship and effort can make something often frustrating into something beautiful – that our own inadequacies can be redeemed by the support and friendship of others who care about us. Sometimes after a dance class I would think with chagrin about how poorly I compared with some of the more advanced ballerinas, how my legs wouldn’t do what I told them to do, how ungainly and out of place I looked.

But when I remembered cracking a joke with someone, visiting the liquor store (of all places) for a mid-rehearsal snack, laughing at myself, or lying on the cool hard floor of the studio surrounded by friends, it made all of my inept attempts seem worth it. Dance taught me how humility is the key to true enjoyment and true progress.

Dance taught me how to break down big, seemingly unmanageable job into little pieces. It taught me to clear my head of everything else besides what I was doing. It taught me that when you look in the mirror, it is what you want to see that you ultimately perceive. Because of dance, I think that I will look in the mirror and see a more confident, graceful, affirmed woman.

In conclusion, I would just like to say how much I appreciate the cheerful expertise of Chi Varnado, my teacher, and the wonderful atmosphere she created at the Ramona Dance Centre. Chi is someone that I will always remember a friend first and a teacher second: by befriending her students, she eases tensions and opens their minds up to a better learning experience.

As for the Dance Centre, it will always hold a special place in my heart. It is a wonderful place where the grass grows into the screen door, an old fan spins faithfully in a corner, and the wooden floor creaks beautifully.  It is truly a place where dreams seem close at hand.  – Ellie


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