Woman's passion drives successful ballet studio

Ballet Petit boasts longest-running 'Nutcracker' in East Bay

By Kristofer Noceda, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 01/13/2008 02:38:00 AM PST
Updated: 01/13/2008 08:43:03 AM PST

Peggy Peabody, fourth grade teacher in Hayward, conducts a ballet class at her Ballet Petit Dance...

HAYWARD - Mention anything ballet and Peggy Peabody will light up. Peabody, 47, has taken that same excitement for the performing arts and transformed her passion into a growing dance studio.

"Everyone has their off days, but Ms. Peggy always seems to be so happy when she teaches ballet, no matter what's going on in her life," said Sarah Martin, who has taken Peabody's ballet classes for 15 years. "That's just part of her passion, and when she starts dancing, her energy rubs off on all of us."

The Ballet Petit dance studio came about when Peabody began teaching children how todance at her mothers preschool. A senior in high school at the time, she started with four students. But once the students grew past preschool age, she had to find an alternative. So in 1983, she moved the program to a suite in Newark, with 25 students.

As the program continued to grow through word of mouth, she moved from different studios throughout Newark and Fremont to accommodate the influx of students. She eventually found a home for the program in Hayward just off Mission Boulevard.

Ballet Petit now boasts nearly 300 students and has the longest consistently running Nutcracker production in the East Bay, at 29 years and counting. I almost consider this my dream facility, she said. It reminds me of ballet studios that I attended as a kid. Darlene Brower, who serves as Ballet Petits assistant director and has known Peabody since Brower was a child, credits the programs success to a family atmosphere at the studio.

Students agree. Ms. Peggy is literally a second mother to me, Martin said. I've danced at different studios, but its not the same as Ballet Petit. There's just this family feel to it, and Ms. Peggy's passion for ballet is infectious.

Peabody also teaches fourth grade at Longwood Elementary. She began her teaching career in 1984 in the Hayward Unified School District. She spent three years with the district before leaving for Assumption School in San Leandro, where she served for eight years. "I found that there was just a piece missing," Peabody said. "I missed the diversity in Hayward, which is what I really like about Hayward." Peabody returned to the district and began teaching at Longwood in 1994.

I like knowing that Im having some sort of impact on someones life, she said. Even if I dont see the kids again, I know that if I do my job as best I can that these kids are developing something they can use later in life. Her teaching career has enabled her to keep the same daily routine shes had since she was a child: school during the day and ballet practice in the evening. People always ask when Im going to stop ballet, and I just look at them because I dont know what it would be like without it in my life, she said. Some people walk their dogs or go work out at the gym after school or work. Well, I do ballet.

Kristofer Noceda can be reached at 510-293-2479.