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The History and Philosophy of California DanceArts

Learn about who we are and how we got started!

School History:


Established in 1987, by Aerin Holt, for the purpose of grooming and nurturing students in the traditions of artistic theatrical performance, classical and modern ballet. The school’s humble beginning near Hollywood California, offered private and semi-private lessons to Los Angeles area dancers who desired high caliber training under the name Dance Now Academy. The school also offered performance and stage presence training to Hollywood movie industry dance, acting and musical artists. In order to accommodate its growing student roster, the academy moved in 1998 first to Glendale, California and then to its current multi-classroom location in the beautiful Foothill community of La Cañada Flintridge, California and became California DanceArts.

School Philosophy:


Today, California DanceArts boasts the accomplishments of its many students and attributes its success in the following ways:

  • Providing certified instructors and training syllabus from the world’s top national ballet training organizations and expert dance institutions. 


  • California DanceArts is proud to include the AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE® National Training Curriculum, a breakthrough 9 level program that combines high quality artistic training with the basics of dancer health and child development. The ABT® National Training Curriculum consists of a comprehensive set of age-appropriate, outcome-based guidelines to provide the highest quality ballet training to dance students of all ages and skill levels.

  • Our curriculum is based on ABT’s National Curriculum for the development and training that embraces sound ballet principles and incorporates elements of the French school, Cecchetti Italian School and Russian Vaganova training methods.

"So often I see dancers 'taking class' and that is where I feel they are falling short. They are taking class and not studying dance. We must embrace the process of studying because frankly, our work will never be good enough. There will always be something to learn and there will always be something to improve. And that is the challenge, and that is the beauty."

- Bill Waldinger, Joffrey Ballet School


Additional Training Methods:


Due to the professional experience of our faculty we are able to offer and include instruction in keeping with those standards from the School of American Ballet, primarily beginning this instruction in the Core Career Prep Division.  In addition to our ballet program, students also enjoy a comprehensive program of Contemporary Ballet and Modern Dance methods, including instructions form the Martha Graham School, that prepare students for careers with professional companies or college programs.

Placing Limits On Class Size For Individual Attention

Our classes are small by design. At CDA, we firmly believe in limiting enrollment in each class, as this allows the instructor to devote more individualized attention on each participating student. Our small class sizes prevent students from developing poor habits, allows for greater understanding of the concepts and instructions and students have more fun!

Providing a progressive graduated program addressing the whole dancer; including basic health and development for all ages and skill level.

A progressive program of ballet works to develop coordination, strength and balance, concentration, creativity, problem-solving, goal setting, discipline, self awareness, accountability and much more.

CDA uniquely offers specialized instruction to address specific needs of students – cross training, injury prevention and rehab methods, stage presence, picking-up choreography, increased creativity, troubleshooting physical and technical difficulties. The following provides more details:

Cross Training and Injury Prevention

Students dance for a number of reasons, either recreationally or for professional aspirations. When involved in any challenging physical activity, injury can occur. Our program offers high-quality artistic training combined with cutting edge knowledge of biomechanics, kinesiology and training for injury prevention. We provide the very best methods for helping students understand their physical bodies and limitations so that they can take control of their own physical health and prevent serious injury. We do this by implementing the following:

  • Cross training conducted by our instructor who is certified in cutting edge methods such as MPT-Placement Technique (Placement technique) Posture Alignment from Egoscue Motion Therapy and Progressing Ballet Technique. (Starting at CORE level 2 ).

  • Building a foundation of ballet training that emphasize correct technique and proper body alignment.

  • Beginning each class with a warm up before increasing physical demands.

  • Offering a progressive program so that students are placed in classes that are appropriate to their age, development and abilities to meet physical demands and challenges.

  • Formal evaluations and preparation for Pointe work. We do not place children on Pointe until specific physical qualifications are met.


Ballet Terminology & Dance History

At CDA, we feel that a complete, well-rounded dance education should include instruction in, and a thorough understanding of, French ballet terminology (including the origin of ballet terms) and dance history. Since virtually ALL of ballet is taught, using French terminology and we would be remiss if we failed to engage our students in this study. By ensuring their understanding of these ballet terms, we find that our students have a more thorough understanding of the steps being taught in class. Indeed, there are fewer occasions for confusion and a far greater chance of advancement and fun! Through games and creative means, the youngest of students have the capacity to learn many basic French ballet terms. Advanced students become very confident in their depth of knowledge.  By increasing our students’ all-around proficiency in their dance training, we are giving them the means to remain fully engaged in their studies and the potential to achieve the highest standard.

Student Exams

Students at California DanceArts who are placed in our Core Program (designed for students who desire progressive training) receive the benefits of receiving syllabus evaluations and examinations. Periodic evaluations and examinations are the key to ensuring students progress through the curriculum at the rate that is consistent with their development. Students are rewarded for their increased knowledge and skill by graduation award and placed into the next highest level of training.  Confidence and pride is developed by knowing that you have truly worked for your place in a high standard program and is a reward at its highest!

Dance Artistry is Essential

The expectations and work ethic of our hard working students is often due to the inspiration provided by programs that reach beyond the daily grind of technical ballet class. 

Developed by our Artistic Director, Aerin Holt,  Dance Essentials ™ is an innovative program that was achieved after many hours working with Hollywood dancers, actresses and musicians to help them achieve stage presence and performance skills in preparation of major events in their careers. The method is used to help performers of all kind. The method is particularly beneficial to the dancer. Dance Essentials™ is a toolbox of skills required for gaining good stage presence, dramatic ability, rhythm, picking up choreography, the ability to easily improvise and more. Dance Essentials™ is taught within a variety of drills, games and application of specific concepts. It’s fun and students enjoy learning. The program is delivered to anyone at any age and is still offered on a private basis to all types of performers. The program is exclusively delivered for dancers only at California DanceArts during our Dance Essentials™ class and incorporated into our daily class schedule.


Specialized Supplementary Training

Ballet is fundamental but an artist must be allowed to explore dance and all its offerings. At CDA we are not interested in making one dimensional classists. A multi faceted approach to training is required to yield emotional, sentient and vibrant performances or to enhance the quality of student experience.  However, rather than offering a miss-mash of uncoordinated disciplines, our offerings enhance one another. A comprehensive study and training in Modern Dance and Contemporary Ballet is one of the best compliments to a serious study of classical training. It has also become increasingly vital in our new “Cirque” dominated world for dancers to be skilled acrobats and aerialists. Most dancers have found Aerial Ballet to be an exciting adjust to their regular ballet and dance classes  by increasing core and upper body strength. Dancers find new application for the fluidity, creativity and grace gained from their regular ballet classes.


We offer a unique Cirque Arts program, featuring Acrodance and Aerial Ballet. Additional supplementary classes include important instruction in Contemporary Dance, Jazz Dance, Modern Dance and Tap Dance.  On the occasion that a student wishes to move more rapidly through our program or just needs a boost to advance to the next level, our teachers are skilled troubleshooters during private coaching.

Quality Performance Experiences

CDA is a non-competitive school. Our performances are based in theatrical and artistic presentation. Performances provide students with an application of their studies but are required to consider such opportunity with serious value. We do not approach the stage or an audience without the respect provided by being confident and proficient in the material to be performed. Our students often receive invitations from our affiliate company, California Contemporary Ballet, to perform in one of our full-length original ballets, such as our famous production of The Snow Queen or The Legend of Jack Frost during the Winter season and Thumbelina in the Spring. Additional performance opportunities may include in house concerts, community performances and dance festivals. Students may eventually be invited to become company members. We never use valuable class time for rehearsals and the beautiful hand- made costumes never require purchase. In late spring, we offer families a view of student progress by showing classroom skills at our Spring Demonstrations.

What are the results?

At CDA we maintain that self esteem comes from accomplishing actual achievements. We believe that student achievements should be at the heart of any professional school or academy teaching learned skills. While we are sensitive to the motivating factors that have brought each student to our school, we stand firm in our commitment to provide quality dance education of the highest caliber to each student, thereby making a profound effect on his or her life.

California DanceArts has affiliations with ballet companies internationally. Students have successfully secured scholarship awards for dance and theater, gone onto television careers and Broadway style musicals as dancers, choreographers or directors. Students have entered performing arts schools and Universities to complete their credentials for careers in dance. California DanceArts' ballet students have been accepted and have secured opportunities or positions internationally.


Here is a short list of Companies and organizations that have provided our students with opportunity, career advancement or position:


  • Cirque du Soleil

  • Universal Ballet

  • American Ballet Theater

  • Pittsburgh Ballet

  • Atlanta Ballet

  • Pennsylvania Ballet

  • Kansas City Ballet

  • Kaatsbaan

  • Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet

  • Salzburg International Ballet-Austria

  • Ostrava Ballet-Czech Republic

  • University of Southern California

  • and more!

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