Living her dream

Wed, 01/23/2008 - 11:04am
By: The Citizen

By Greta Watkins
Special to The Citizen

Living her dream

She had the gifts of a champion swimmer but was destined to become a professional dancer. Now, living her destiny and her dream, Yasmine Hassaan has joined the Southeastern Ballet Company, a new, non-profit professional company, as artistic director.

Yasmine Hassaan’s father, a native Egyptian, was a world-record marathon swimmer for Sweden. Mr. Hassaan holds two records for swimming the English Channel — one for being the youngest to complete the course and the other for being the oldest. Sweden was home to Yasmine’s mother, who was also a competitive swimmer. Mr. Hassaan planned to train daughter Yasmine to prepare her for a competitive swimming career and hopefully, the Olympics. Instead, Yasmine’s love for dance took her on a journey that resembled a “who’s who” of the dance world’s most renowned teachers, choreographers and performers.

Yasmine Hassaan began learning to dance before she learned to speak English. Born in Sweden, her primary language was Swedish. Yasmine’s secondary language was Arabic, since her family lived with her grandmother for a time in Alexandria, Egypt. Yasmine began her dance training at the age of 9 with a Russian teacher in Kuwait. Yasmine’s first dance teacher realized that her young student had a remarkable gift for dance. She also knew that Yasmine’s family would soon be moving to Toronto, Canada. The teacher recommended that she continue her dance studies with an exemplary dance school.

In Canada, Yasmine studied under Diana Jablokova-Vorps. At the age of 16, Yasmine was accepted into the School of American Ballet, the training ground for the New York City Ballet. There she developed her Balanchine style along with her Russian technique, training under such renowned teachers as Danilava, Tumkovsky, Doubrovska, Stuart, William, Schorer and Kramarevsky. During her years in New York, Yasmine also studied with notable teachers like Melissa Hayden, David Howard, Finis Jhung, Wilhelm Burmann, Nancy Bielski, Marjoree Mussman, Michael Vernon and Evee Lynn.

During her professional career, Yasmine toured extensively throughout Europe, the Far East and the United States. She performed in major roles choreographed by George Ballanchine, Edward Villella, Robert North, Frances Patrelle, Vincente Nebrate, Robert Vesak and Alan Tung, among many others.

Yasmine has performed professionally in countless productions including “Rite of Spring,” “Coppelia,” “Death and the Maiden,” “Scheherazade,” “Pas de Dix,” “Symphony in C,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” “An American in Paris,” “Piganini,” “Entre Dos Aguas,” “Invitation to Dance,” “The Nutcracker” and many more. She has performed with countless well-known artists including Anthony Dowell, Cynthia Gregory, Fernando Bujones, Lynn Seymour, Leonid Koslov, Bobby Blanchine and Robert North.

After instructing at some other studios in the Atlanta area, Yasmine opened the Classical Dance Theatre (CDT) studio in Coweta County in 2005. The studio, located at 1065 Sullivan Road in Newnan, is the training center for local dancers aspiring to join the ranks of the Southeastern Ballet Company (SBC), a non-profit, professional dance company also founded by Yasmine. The CDT studio offers training in classical ballet, jazz, modern and tap for those ages 3 to adult. Yasmine is the principal and senior teacher at CDT. Other instructors at the studio include Jennilia Taulbee, Lorraine Davis and Jennifer Hillman, who are also SBC dancers.

Today, Yasmine enjoys teaching classes and developing the artistry of young students. She also enjoys choreographing new ballets and dance pieces which showcase many forms of dance, including Irish, Flamenco, jazz, modern, contemporary, lyrical and musical theater. Her student dancers have at least two opportunities to perform each year with either CDT, SBC or both. Productions always include professional Southeastern Ballet Company performers.

SBC’s mission is, “To transform the local community through a nationally-acclaimed professional dance company focused on artistic excellence, strong professionalism and a varied repertoire.”

“We have a love and a passion for the classics,” explained Yasmine. “A dancer cannot fully explore other forms of dance without a solid base of classical ballet training, but at CDT and SBC we also spend a lot of creative energy on developing new and fresh approaches to dance that combine many genres.”

Nowhere was this meshing of dance styles more evident than in Southeastern Ballet Company’s 2007 production, “Holiday Concert with Le Petit Nutcracker.” The full-length show, featuring a cast of 45 dancers, opened with SBC principal dancer Lorraine Davis performing to Mannheim Steamroller’s version of “Silent Night” with 10 tiny angels sleeping peacefully in the background.

The production continued with jazz, contemporary and modern pieces — all with a definite holiday flair. SBC’s holiday concert then seamlessly transitioned into classical ballet as the Snowflurries transported the audience through a magical land of ice and snow, welcoming Clara and the Prince. Along with Clara and the Prince, the audience journeyed through the beloved Kingdom of Sweets ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy. Heralded by 10 angels, the Sugar Plum Fairy called upon her sweets from around the world to entertain young Clara and the Prince. Dancers represented Hot Chocolate from Spain, Tea from China, treats from Russia, Candy Canes from France and Coffee from Arabia. The Dew Drop Fairy and her flowers, the Marzipan and her sugared girls and Mother Ginger and her little Polichinelles also shared their magical gifts of dance until it was time for the entire Kingdom to bid farewell to Clara and the Prince.

The tradition of performing a varied repertoire containing the best dance has to offer in all of its forms from classical ballet, to Flamenco, lyrical, jazz, modern and contemporary will be continued in Classical Dance Theatre’s spring concert to be held in May. SBC dancers will guest in a special segment of the show entitled, “A Choreographer’s Showcase” which will feature original choreography designed by new and aspiring choreographers. “A Choreographer’s Showcase” is supported in part by the Grassroots Arts Program of the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly and in partnership with Arts Clayton.

“There will be something to suit just about anyone’s preference, whether they love classical ballet, a more contemporary style or both,” assured Yasmine.

SBC is hoping to increase the number of, and venues for, its unique performances in the near future. SBC has many new projects underway. The company is always looking for volunteers to work behind the scenes, individuals interested in serving on the SBC Board of Directors or Advisory Committee, and organizations interested in collaborating on different community projects. The organization envisions itself as a dance company with its roots planted firmly in the south side of Atlanta; receiving extensive national acclaim for its professionalism and varied repertoire; and giving local dancers the opportunity to dance professionally in their hometown.

Contributing to the vitality of the local community is very important to Southeastern Ballet Company. The company is in the process of developing various programs that will serve youth and other populations currently under-served by the arts, particularly residents of Coweta and Fayette counties. Any organization or individuals interested in becoming involved in SBC’s community collaborative projects or Board of Directors/Advisory Committee should contact Elisa Fay, the SBC board chair, at

For more information on the CDT studio or SBC, please call 770-252-5515 or visit and

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