Dancing to her own beat

She’s often referred to as energetic, bubbly and enthusiastic. But she insists she teaches with an iron fist, wrapped in a soft heart.

Jane Green, professor of Northern Kentucky University’s Theatre and Dance Department, has spent her life dedicated to the art of dancing, as well as teaching. Green began her dancing career in a small town dance studio in Bellevue, Ky., at the age of five.

“I started dancing like all the other little girls in the neighborhood because they all wanted to be the Sugar Plum Fairy,” Green said.

Green believed that character to be the epitome of a Prima Ballerina — the female dancer who occupies the top position among dancers — and that is what she wanted to be when she grew up. She continued to dance at the studio for many of her younger years until she transitioned to the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, one of the leading music conservatories in the nation. The school was a step up for Green, but the instructors noticed early on that she didn’t have as much training as she should have had.

“I was 10 years old and they put me in the ballet classes with seven- and eight-year-olds,” Green said. By the time she was 16-years-old Green’s dance technique had developed greatly. At this point in her life she had a very intense schedule, attending every ballet class during the week and weekends, while balancing high school and maintaining a bit of a social life.

“I had two sets of friends and sometimes I would take my friends with me to dance class,” Green said. “Dance time with Janie.”

While at CCM, Green received her first major dance role in “Pas De Quatre,” a ballet term that means a dance among four people. She was cast because the lead dancer was unable to perform, and as the understudy, Green was expected to step up. And although Green had not been to every rehearsal, she was asked by the choreographer to dance the part on the spot.

“I danced it better than the actual girl,” Green said smiling.

This performance opened the door for numerous roles to come for Green. At the age of 21, she began dancing with the Cincinnati Ballet Company, becoming its first and only principal dancer. It was around this time that she graduated from the CCM with a masters degree in dance, but she would perform for the Cincinnati Ballet Company for next 13 years.

“I enjoyed being a big fish in a small pond,” Green said.

Being the principal dancer, she danced the leads in classical ballets, bringing to life Odette in Swan Lake and Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. The feather in her cap came when she performed in two ballets by New York City Ballet co-founder, George Balanchine. Green also played the Sugar Plum Fairy many times, a character that had been a role model for her since she started dancing.

But of all her performances, it would be her roles in Swan Lake that would remain her favorite.

While living the life of dancer, a position that hundreds of girls dreamed of, she encountered her future husband.

“When I would go to the stage and take my bows, I would always notice this man in the orchestra winking at me,” Green said.

That harmless wink, delivered by the principal orchestra musician, eventually led to marriage.

“A principal dancer married a principal musician,” Green said.

Green continued her career until she became pregnant with her first son Zachary, then later her youngest son Adam. It was during this time that some things became difficult for her in the dancing world.

“Pieces began to be more demanding and sometimes the choreography didn’t work right or look right,” she said.

She began to wonder if her ability to dance was rooted in luck and not talent, and how long her luck could keep her going. It was at this crossroads that Green gave her final bow as a Prima Ballerina, hanging up the slippers, in exchange for being a mom. But it would be in 1984, just a few years later, that Green received a call from Northern Kentucky University.

“They called me in wondering if I wanted to be a part-time ballet teacher,” she said.

At this time, the dance department had a total of six people. Green took the job and watched the department grow into what it is today.
Every year Green notices that more students from various backgrounds are coming in with better technique.

“I see a handful of students that I think can make it, and some of them do,” she said. “I think that now you need to have that training, that is why we offer ballet classes.”

Now one of the leading choreographers for the department, Green also teaches choreography and ballet and is the adviser for the NKU Dance Troupe.

“She is there to encourage us and not to yell at us,” said Courtney Duncan, junior at NKU.

Story by Justin Mattingly