Oakland Ballet School finds new home as they prepare for 'The Nutcracker'

The Oakland Ballet School, owned by a couple who danced professionally, has a new lease on life. 

It lost its longtime home along MacArthur Boulevard last Christmas when the property owner decided to sell. After spending much of this year operating out of borrowed spaces, Joral and Denise Schmalle have found a new home for their beloved school on the second floor of a building on Piedmont Avenue.

On Wednesday night, students taking lessons appeared to be dancing with an extra spring in their step.

"It's comforting, to say the least,  to have a space that we know is ours and we won't be kicked out at least for the time being," said Jena Thorne, 16, a ballet student.

She says the Schmalle's are mentors who treat their students like family. 

A KTVU crew was there as the school held its last class the day after Christmas in 2018 in a building in the Fruitvale neighborhood. It had been their home for 40 years. 

The Schmalle's were unable to come to an agreement to buy the property. Since then, it's been a test of their resiliency as they operated the school at temporary locations.  

"We didn't have a place where we could be 100% of the time. We had about three different places we were going," said Joral Schmalle. He and his wife danced with the Oakland Ballet before taking over the school 10 years ago. 

The Schmalle's wanted to teach ballet and life lessons.

"It's about disciple, coming and showing up on time. When you dance in a group, you have to work in a community," said Joral Schmalle. 

One student travels from Union City to Oakland four to six times a week to take lessons. 

"Having the integrity, the work ethic to not to give up," said Mikayla Simpson, 14.    . 

The couple says they currently have 100 students enrolled. Their ages range from 4 to 18.  

"We're very proud to have a diverse school, to be able to have it be accessible, all body types. all colors," said Denise Schmalle. 

The students are now rehearsing for their annual holiday Nutcracker performances. They're excited to showcase their hard work and tell a holiday tale through dance.  

"Being able to express myself beyond words and being able to make other people feel something without having to say anything," said Sarina Osaba,19, a student.   

The Schmalle's say their dream is to expand their school and to find a forever home. But for now, their focus is on this weekend's Nutcracker performances to be held at Holy Names University in Oakland. 

For more information on Oakland Ballet School's Nutcracker performances December 14 & 15: 

Oakland Ballet School

Buy tickets