Chicago’s Very Own: Iona Calhoun combines love for ballet, children in South Shore

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Ballet requires discipline, grace, and agility - but it's not all about plies and pirouettes - especially at one South Side ballet company where self-esteem takes center stage.

Iona Calhoun fuses her love for dance with her expertise in child psychology, to create a unique experience at her very own dance school, The Iona Calhoun School of Ballet.

Iona opened up her school in the South Shore neighborhood 14 years ago, and it has flourished ever since, thanks to her reputation as not only a top notch ballet teacher, but as a mentor and role model.

Iona first strapped on her dancing shoes at the tender age of 3. Her mother, Beverly, noticed the toddler had an exceptional amount of energy, and enrolled the-up-and-coming ballerina in dance classes.

“I use this as an outlet to express myself and my feelings,” Iona says. “So I am inspired by the fact that they saw something in me that I didn’t see at that time. So dance, it became natural.”

For some, the love of a hobby fades with time, but for Iona, that love just kept getting stronger and stronger.

At the age of 18, Iona faced a new challenge: College.  Iona eventually went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology.

“Through psychology, I thought that mentoring, and the psychotherapeutic work, and working with people through their problems to see better opportunities would be very stimulating to me. Plus my mother told me I couldn’t be a dancer and I had to go to school,” she says.

It was Iona’s training in psychology – mixed with her love for ballet, that inspired her to open her very own dance school, something she never dreamed possible. And even with its ups and downs, Iona just kept going.

“I feel compelled to work with the girls who want to be here, and work with the South Shore community,” Iona says.

Using  her 10 years’ experience as a child psychologist, Iona is able to take her dance classes to a new level creating a curriculum that is encourages her students, while urging them to reach their goals.

The girls may look at Iona as a role model, but Iona takes something from the girls, too.

“When no one is looking I shed a tear, but I don’t do it in front of them. I am really proud of them it gives me such, like I am giving back, this is my purpose in life, to give back and inspired others to do better. So it’s really very heartwarming.”

Iona Calhoun, she’s one of Chicago’s Very Own.

And ou can see Calhoun’s students in action at Chicago’s Shakespeare in the Parks at the South Shore Cultural center on August 13th  and 14th.

And for information on dance classes – you can go to her website:

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