By Jordana Klein

Through the past 38 years, the city of Roswell has seen updated housing, renovated roadways, additional dining options and so much more. In 1979, the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance created a unique dance experience and has since continued flourishing through 2016. Founded by Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz and Mary Lynn Taylor, the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance encompasses all avenues of dance from the heart of our precious, history-driven city.

As a native of Roswell, Tolbert Yilmaz grew up among the dancing scene and has since thrived by incorporating her passion into a full-time career.

“I have been dancing since I was three,” Tolbert Yilmaz said. “I love what I do. It really is my dream job.”

With such passion in place from the very beginning, the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance provides dancers of every age and skill level with a chance to excel at their desired rate. The school offers everything from summer camps for those testing the scene to a pathway to a professional dance career. From classes at their Roswell location to their pre-professional company through the Roswell Dance Theatre, 25 faculty members with proven results teach classes as some of the best in the business. Each class emphasizes that dance can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience and can even contribute to physical development, posture, confidence and discipline.

From its founding over three decades ago, the school now boasts 119 classes per week to over 1,000 students. Classes in the form of ballet, modern, jazz, acrobatics, contemporary, musical theatre, hip-hop, tap, aerial skills, and adult courses encompass a large portion of the School. Students who thrive in their classes also have the ability to accept entry into the renowned Roswell Dance Theatre, the resident performing company of the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance.

The Roswell Dance Theatre contributes top-level dancers through a rigorous schedule of classes and seasonal performances that offers the highest level of instruction and experience to those who excel in their field. By audition only, the Theatre selects dancers who portray an all-around knowledge and comfort in ballet, pointe, jazz, lyrical and modern dance. The Theatre’s students utilize their skills in their classes and throughout the year at wide-scale performances for city-wide and even national audiences.

In its 28th year, this year’s Nutcracker performance by the Roswell Dance Theatre will showcase updated props, costumes, backdrops and the like for its annual two-week premier. As the largest and oldest Nutcracker performance in North Atlanta, over 350 cast members contribute to a total of 12 shows at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center from November 25 through December 3. Ticket sales begin November 1 at 9 a.m. at RoswellNutcracker.com. Throughout the two-week period, schools will attend performances during the week, Girl Scouts anticipate their premier showing with backstage tours, and children enjoy activities like face painting and Santa greetings at their character breakfast and Sugar Plum Tea.

Beginning from one annual show in 1988 to its current 12, The Nutcracker is a staple-piece among Roswell’s dance scene. Children from five years old through professional adult dancers contribute their time and passions towards the show’s production. The convenience of free parking and ease-of-entry at the Arts Center allow guests to return year after year for an impressive and astounding holiday performance.

Other performances from the Roswell Dance Theatre include the upcoming Spring 2017 production of Sleeping Beauty, directed by Tracey Bayly, and eight public showings of the open school students’ End of the Year Recitals. Students also travel throughout the year, including during the first week of May when the Roswell Dance Theatre performs at the National Festival for Regional Dance America in Phoenix, AZ. The Roswell Dance Theatre has seen its time among many premier events, including the 1996 Olympics, the 2008 Super Bowl, and even some international dance endeavors to Spain, Australia and other incredible locations.

Benefit concerts, like this year’s “Hugs from Young Choreographers,” which allowed 100% of the proceeds to fund Camp Grace, a charity for underprivileged children to attend summer camp. “Hugs” is directed and founded by Associate Director Mary Lynn Taylor and is the fall showcase that highlights the talents of the senior dancers at Roswell Dance Theatre by creating original choreography to perform with their selection of costumes, lighting and cast. With a full-time schedule, the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance and the Roswell Dance Theatre absolutely utilizes the year-round curriculum to promote a professional atmosphere.

Looking ahead, the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance will be relocating to a new location in 2018 at the corner of House Rd. and House Way. The new space will double the size of the current site and host all that the current facility offers, plus more. With eight fully-equipped studios with custom- built sprung floors, high ceilings and state-of-the-art sound systems, along with a kitchen, dressing rooms, conference rooms, after-school rooms, costume room and internal viewing system for parents, the new building will offer all of these features and more.

“We just ran out of space here,” Tolbert Yilmaz said. “It’s a great problem to have!”

Tolbert Yilmaz credits the success of the school and the Roswell Dance Theatre to the Roswell community. She recognizes that the growth of the local performances and progress of the school could not have been possible without the city’s officials’ and residents’ continual support.

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