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Heartwood in the Hills is a school for the arts in Five Forks, Calhoun County. Founded in 1982 by Jude Binder and Frank Venezia as the Heartwood Dance Center, its name was changed to Heartwood in the Hills in 1996. Binder has been the school’s artistic director throughout its history. From the beginning, its stated mission has been to serve as a “school for the arts in the heart of the country celebrating the artist in every person,” including people from toddlers to seniors.

Central to the school’s teaching is Binder’s syllabus for dancing and holistic movement, “Movement for Health and Centering,” inspired by her own serious dance injury. Her projects often blend art with social justice, such as the theater-intensive 1995 Peace Festival in which students made and exchanged 1,000 origami cranes with survivors of the atomic blast at Hiroshima, Japan. The school introduces students to a wide variety of arts, emphasizing ballet and theater dance, acting, mask making and other aspects of costume making, puppetry, painting, and the use of colors.

Heartwood’s students frequently perform in local events, such as parades for the Wood Festival and at venues ranging from the Culture Center on the State Capitol Complex to Calhoun Middle/High School. Graduates praise the school for opening up a world of art, motion, and color to them, and consistently note how Binder personally inspired them.

Heartwood in the Hills provides central West Virginia with invaluable instruction in the arts. Binder continually develops new programs for students, including her 2023 roster: Creative Arts for Children, Classical Ballet, Movement for Actors and Performers, Poetry, Arts for Teens, Acting, and her Movement for Health and Centering program. Heartwood also gives students in Calhoun and surrounding counties opportunities to interact personally with West Virginia’s most-respected artisans, actors, poets, and dancers.

Visit Heartwood in the Hills’ website.

Last Revised on May 24, 2023


Heartwood in the Hills. Website. 40 Years and Counting: The History of Heartwood in the Hills, 2022.

Imbrogno, Douglas John. The Hills Are Alive: Jude Binder's Lifelong Dance of Artistry and Instruction. Goldenseal, 46, 4, Winter 2020.

Cite This Article

e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Heartwood in the Hills." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 24 May 2023. Web. 24 February 2024.


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