Jodie Penasa was eight years old when a friend told her about ballet. “It sparked an interest for me for some reason,” she remembers fondly. “And when I asked my mum if I could go to dance classes, she was shocked. I was a very shy child.”
Once Jodie put on her ballet shoes, she was hooked. “Even though I began dancing quite late, I had found my love. Time in the studio was always the best and so many of my happy childhood experiences and memories are involved in dance.”
To be a dancer, Jodie points out, you need many qualities – natural physicality, musicality and strength. “In my opinion, the most important in life is mental determination. Yes, you need the talent but, like in many sports, that’s not enough on its own. The strength, flexibility and discipline of the art are, to me, the reason that children should study dance.”
She adds, “For any child, the confidence of seeing hard work and focus paying off is the general life lesson we all want our kids to learn. And the physical side of dance offers children a great start in practicing a good physical healthy lifestyle. Obviously, there are the benefits of confidence and posture, too.”
Jodie started Petites Primas last year with a few students and is delighted to finally have her own dance school and bring the British-style of training to Monaco. “I am so happy to now be at the new MC Dance studios in Les Jardins d’Apolline where the school is growing. The studio is a hidden gem for Monaco, with ballet barres and full-length mirrors, it’s a little dancer’s dream.”
When Jodie first came to the Principality some fifteen years ago with her boyfriend-now-husband, she expected the stay to last a year or so. “We never went home! I soon wanted to get into teaching as I had been doing back in the UK.”
Jodie was “only nine or ten” when she took on a teaching role. “I was given my first pupil to teach my old competition dance to which, looking back, was pretty young, right? However, it never seemed strange to me. I never stopped teaching after that.”
Clearly to be a professional ballet dancer you need certain physical requirements and from a young age Jodie was told that she didn’t have enough turnout in her hips. “You may say that would be hard to manage but it only made me fight more to stay at the top. I think this gives me a benefit in teaching, I always had to work harder to find a way. I still do today.”
After loving the competitive side of dance, choreography and finishing professional dance college, Jodie knew she wanted to teach. “Like most arts, mastering something takes time and patience but when I see a child grow and improve, I can’t stop. I want more. It gives me such pleasure to be part of their journey.
“And the fantastic thing about dance as an art form is that there is always room for improvement, your work is never complete. Dance is forever moving forward and there are so many more techniques and we have ever-growing knowledge that can benefit children studying it.”
Petites Primas offers ballet and jazz classes for ages 2 (“with the help of mamas”) to teens and students can sign up for a year of training with payment made termly. “The studio is a positive place for children to learn and express themselves. Whether a child is looking for a weekly hobby or wants to study a few classes per week, I wish to help them reach their potential and teach them about their bodies and how to control them with positive feedback and encouragement,” Jodie emphasises.
“During class yesterday, a little five-year-old student told me, ‘I feel like a ballet dancer!’ She was so pleased, so proud of herself. She felt like she was centre stage in a dream. It was such a sweet and innocent comment but made me very happy.
The mother of two admits: “My aim is to share my love of dance and hope it rubs off on the students. In fact, so many mums have shared stories with me and you can see the same light in their eyes when they talk of their childhood dance memories. It’s the reason they bring their little ones to dancing. We want to pass it on.”
Article first published October 13, 2023.