April 2, 2005 – "I never feel a greater happiness or freedom in myself as I feel when I dance," says Charlita Schuster, founder of Music in Motion.
She and her five instructors try to pass some of that feeling along to about 130 students at the school she founded in 1983 near Frederiksted.
The school and Schuster have gotten more notice in recent years because of the traveling troupe, Music in Motion dancers. The group is made up of 17 girls who, according to Schuster, "are dedicated and love to dance." The troupe performs at cultural events and ceremonies all over St. Croix. Recently, the dancers, all students, performed at a couple of religious services during Holy Week.
Four years ago, when the troupe was trying to establish itself, performances were given free, but now everything is done on a professional basis, Schuster says. The troupe has become an integral part of the school and an integral part of teaching ballet on St. Croix.
"No one comes here. American Ballet doesn't come here. New York City Ballet doesn't come here. Joffrey Ballet doesn't come here,'" she says. "The only way the girls can learn about performing is to perform."
Schuster passes on to students some of what she learned performing herself. Her parents moved from St. Croix when she was young. She got into dancing in the States at an early age. She graduated from the New York High School for the Performing Arts. She also studied at Carnegie Hall's Children's Ballet. She later toured with Ballet Florida and the City Ballet of Honolulu. But at the age of 25, she was ready to settle down and return home to the place she spent her youngest years St. Croix.
"I liked the cities and the states, but I wanted to raise my family here," she says. "I don't like living where it gets cold."
When she got here, she found no dance schools on the island teaching strictly classical ballet. She thought the island needed such a school, so she founded Music In Motion, now located in Estate Whim.
Her three daughters and a son are now grown. She is happy that all lead active, healthy lives. "In our family, obesity was not a lifestyle option," Schuster says.
She is still active and sees bigger things in the future for Music in Motion. Up to this point, the troupe has only performed on the island, but she believes that might change this summer. The troupe might travel off island for performances.
The dancers get better every time they perform, she says. Some of her students go on to dance schools in the states after they graduate from her school, but some stop dancing.
As for herself, she has worked other jobs, but she has never quit dancing, she says. "I don't know what life would be like without dancing."
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