I Love My Dancing School

This past weekend, I participated in my dance school, The Dance Inn’s 30th annual recital, “S’wonderful.” 30 years is no small feat for anything, never mind successfully owning and operating a local dance school, and I could not have been prouder to participate as both an alumnus, special guest and faculty member.
One of the classic numbers in the show, a favorite at the studio, was “I Love My Dancing School,” a sweet little ditty that many young dancers over the year have performed. I decided to reflect on the weekend and write down a few thoughts about why I love my dancing school:
I love my dancing school because it is non-competitive. The director, my longtime teacher and mentor Thelma Goldberg, has always been adamant that the goal is to be the best dancer you can be; that dance should be affordable and accessible to anyone and everyone; and that every dancer, whether they come once a week or four times a week, should feel special. Rather than spend our time and money on competitions, company dancers get to study with some of the best master teachers in the country, from Jimmy Locust to Barbara Duffy, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project to Static Noyze, and perform almost every month at different venues in the community, from the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and Special Olympics opening ceremonies in Boston to Lexington’s own Patriot’s Day Parade and Discovery Day – not to mention trips to Disney World and the New York City Tap Festival.
I love my dancing school because my teachers always made me feel special. I was not born with the grace or physique or flexibility of a dancer. I struggled in styles outside of tap and never listened when they told me to stretch every day and work on my splits. But they didn’t give up. They gave me special solo parts and character roles, which I loved, even if I looked awkward doing them. They always encouraged me and featured me in certain dances and told me that they believed in me. What most young people need when they are pursuing a passion of theirs is just someone to tell them that they believe in them. I always had that at The Dance Inn.
I love my dancing school because I believe so firmly in what it stands for: “Share the joy of dance with others.” “Keep dance alive in the community.” “Be the best dancer that you can be.” I believe in a rhythm-based dance pedagogy – not just in tap class. I believe that you should always start dancing when the music comes on. I believe in upbeat performances with fun costumes and great music recitals that don’t drag on for four hours. I believe in giving everyone, including those with special needs, the chance to shine onstage. I believe in making dance classes affordable for whoever wants to take them. I believe in demanding excellence.
I love my dancing school because it has connected me with some of my best friends. Some of the kids I used to dance with in the company are my closest companions. My teachers are my most treasured mentors. My students are like my sisters. My 13 years at The Dance Inn launched my career and planted the seeds for some of my most valuable relationships. I have always felt it was kismet that I happened to live down the street from what I believe to be one of the best dance schools in New England, if not in the country. I may be an ashamedly voracious viewer of "Dance Moms," but I know what real studio life is like. Real, loving, productive, inspiring studio life with one of the best youth tap companies in America.

Pretty s'wonderful, if you ask me.

Ryan Casey & Thelma Goldberg. [
Photo credit: Liza Voll

Ryan's article on Thelma and The Dance Inn's 30th anniversary will be featured in an upcoming issue of DANCE STUDIO LIFE Magazine this summer!


Another March Master Class

by karen Krolak

Monkeyhouse's Nikki Sao Pedro has developed a fabulous dance department at Endicott College. (In fact, I am setting a new piece on her students for a concert in April. More on that in a future post) Performing in her Cambridge Connections Concert in 2010 was thrilling for a bevy of reasons. Personally, I truly enjoyed when one of my former students from Impulse Dance Center, Natalie Miccile, took the stage with Phunk Phenomenon (some of you may remember Phunk from Season 6 of America's Best Dance Crew).

Watching students grow up in my classes is humbling, inspiring, and frankly one of the best parts of teaching. Natalie's enthusiasm for dance was obvious to anyone who met her as a child and I am so proud that she has found a style that highlights her strengths and her fierceness. She is teaching a master class with two other Phunk dancers this weekend at Impulse Dance Center. It is open to anyone 8 and up, so if you have caught early spring fever and are itching for an excuse to bust a move, head over to Natick on Sunday.


Instructors: Natalie Miccile, Erin Mclaughlin, & Crystal Starkey

Sunday, March 18th

1 pm - 3 pm

Break’n…Pop’n…HIP HOP…

Open to ages 8+

$18 per person CASH ONLY


Dance Around the World: Candomblé Ritual

By Sarah Friswell

This month, we travel to Brazil where African roots influenced the rituals of the Candomblé religion.

In South America and the Caribbean, African drums were never censored as they were in the United States. This lead to dance being an important part of social and religious life for Africans and Afro-Brazilians. This drum and dance influence was strongest in Brazil because that was the center of the slave trade in South America. Slave owners in South America, as in the United States, were greatly outnumbered by their slaves. To prevent uprisings, South American slave owners decided to allow certain religious rituals instead of banning them in order to keep their slaves at bay. Candomblé was a popular Afro-Brazilian religion, much like Voudun, or Voodoo, of Haiti.

Photo Credit: Adam Monk Photography

In one ritual, women dressed in white hoop skirts dance in circles in a Candomblé temple. The women, "daughters of the saints" dance for orixas (or-EESH-ahs), or spirits that can influence an individual's life. The women have trained extensively for at least seven years to be able to perform these sacred dances.

Before the dancing begins, the women offer an animal sacrifice to the orixas. Then they begin to dance to different drum rhythms. Each rhythm is created for a specific spirit and each woman dances to invite a specific spirit to come into her body. The aim of this process is for the dancer to go into a trance, falling on the floor and becoming possessed by the orixa she is dancing for.

The orixas "join" the ceremony by entering the bodies of these women because they enjoy the dancing and festivities so much. Once the woman has become possessed, they are moved into a special room for their deity. Each room is decorated in clothing and symbols that will please the deity.

The dances are all spontaneous, yet they follow specific guidelines for each deity. For example, "vigorous, stamping steps for the male god associated with war; fluid, dreamy movements for the goddess of streams and rivers; and so on"(Jonas 183). The traditions associated with Candomblé and African traditional religion spread throughout South America. Their influence can be seen in present day Carnival celebrations in Brazil, a nationwide celebration of the merging of African and Portuguese tradition.

Read more about Candomblé rituals in Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement by Gerald Jonas.

Watch an example of Candomblé dancing here.


International Women's Day

by karen Krolak

International Women's Day first came to my attention four years ago when I arrived in Orvieto on March 8th for Simone Forti's Logomotion workshop. As the holiday has gained popularity in the US, I am reminded of the magnificent hours I spent walking, talking, and dancing with a kickass crew of choreographers/artists from all over the globe. So in the spirit of International Women's Day, I am delighted to introduce you to three of the women who wowed me with their creativity and kindness during that trip.

Marina Tsartsara's - Originally from Greece but now based in England, Marina's interdisciplanary creations "explore digital-live interactivity, kinaesthetic effect, the use of the senses in performance and the relationship between dance and film/video, amongst other areas of interest." As it turns out her visual art performance entitled Wherever I look opens today at the Avinyo Theatre in Catalonia. Please go if you happen to be in the area and send me a message with all the lush details.

Katherine Ferrier - Katherine simply amazes me. We actually met at an Improvisation Workshop on Bennington's campus in 2003 and it was purely coincidence that we reconnected in Italy. Her show, Textures: New Mixed-Media Collage Work by Katherine Ferrier, will open on March 16th at the Maia Papaya Cafe in Bethelhem, NH. (Again, please send me details if you are lucky enough to see it!) In between dancing, painting, quilting, teaching, and writing, she somehow found time to launch and curate Cultivate, a seasonal showing of contemporary dance works with support from the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire.  The call for applications to present workshops or perform at this fabulous fledgling festival just went up this week. I will post more on that later.

Ok, I have one more to tell you about but as the temperature in Boston breaks records, I find myself longing to wander around today soaking up inspiration. I have one more woman to write about after I return.  In the meantime, if you want to get to know even more feisty female choreographers, check out Dance Magazine's Growing List.


Summer Stages Dance Feast

Summer Stages Dance Feast.  ... for the curious and the passionateby karen Krolak

If you would like a taste of Summer Stages Dance, mark your calendar for March 25th. They have set up a smashing series of master classes and decadent dance related activities from 12- 6PM  at Concord Academy in Concord, MA.  Diverse flavors of dance, live music, and interactive activities will be on the menu, along with delicious edibles from local restaurants. The day will culminate with an all-star finale performance by Summer Stages master faculty (Psst...David Parker and the Bang Group will be performing their duet in the velcro suits!!! That alone is worth the ticket price.) and special guest artists. Best of all, you can sample as much as you wish from this smorgasbord for just $25!

Artists include:
Sean Curran
, contemporary dance
David Dorfman, modern dance, and disco funk line dancing
Margaret Tracy and Boston Ballet, Intro to ballet, and intermediate/advanced ballet
Nani Agbeli, dance/drumming from Ghana with 8 drummers
Darrah Carr, Irish step and ModERIN fusion
Brandon Albright, hip hop and break dance
Catherine Gallant, Duncan technique
Gina DeFreitas, DeAnna Pellecchia and Lynda Reiman, Aerial Dance
ABADA Capoeira Boston, Brazilian capoeira
Elaine Fong, Taketina and Trash Can Taiko
South Indian bharatanatyam, Navarasa Dance Theatre
Olivier Besson, Contact Improvisation
Leslie Salmon-Jones, Afro-Flow Yoga™
David Parker and the Bang Group, Making Dancesge based movement workshop
Edisa Weeks and Delirious Hair Designs, Hair Art
Alissa Cardone, Butoh/Ima
Christopher Janney, Soundstair
Lexington High School Jazz Combo, live music and Swing dance instruction
Nell Bryer's "After Disappearance," Media Lab Experience
And more!

Tickets to this family friendly all-ages festival are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, and include all classes and activities, and admission to the final performance. Children 12 and under are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, and group rates are available.

Sunday, March 25, from 12-6pm
Finale performance begins at 5:00
Purchase tickets online.

Richard Colton & David Parker Mentor SSD Choreographers' Project

by karen Krolak

Last week, we covered a few of the opportunities for choreographers in the Boston area. Here's another one that is open to folks all over the country, the Summer Stages Dance Choreographers' Project Fellowship.  Summer Stages Dance in Concord, MA, is celebrating their 15 season with a gaggle of amazing artists. Who wouldn't want to spend three weeks surrounded by David Leventhal,  Risa Steinberg, Dan Wagoner, David Parker, Richard Colton, and Sean Curran?

Choreographers’ Project Fellowship
Applicants must be at least 21 years old.
Applications Due: April 2, 2012
Notification of Awards: April 16, 2012

The Choreographers’ Project gives promising emerging choreographers the opportunity to develop new work in a supportive environment. Fellows select a cast of dancers from the Summer Stages Dance Workshop and have access to rehearsal space in the evenings and on weekends. David Parker and Richard Colton mentor the fellows daily, and the weekly Choreographers’ Project Seminar class provides an additional forum for feedback on developing work. The fellows’ work is presented in the Choreographers’ Project Showcase, a professionally produced evening performance that is open to the public.

Fellowship awards include the following opportunities:
  • Mentorship by workshop faculty and resident artists
  • Access to all Summer Stages Dance classes and select performances
  • The opportunity to bring one dancer/collaborator
  • Studio space and rehearsal time with dancers drawn from the Workshop
  • Weekly seminar classes that include informal showings of the new work, and culminate in a dialogue about the developing work with faculty and guest artists
  • Open rehearsal and a fully produced public performance of work created during the residency
  • Subsidy for housing and meals
Since the program’s inception thirteen years ago, fellows have been drawn from the professional dance community or are graduates from leading dance programs at colleges and universities, including Barnard, Bennington, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Princeton, Sarah Lawrence, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Yale.

For more information on Choreographers’ Project fellowships, call 978.402.2339


Deadline Extension for GSS Emerging Artist Program

by karen Krolak

If you are in the process of rapidly finishing your application to Green Street Studio's Emerging Artist Program, take a deep breath and relax for a minute. They have extended the deadline to Monday, March 5 at 5:00PM. Be on the lookout for info on the Summer Stages Dance Choreographers' Program later on this weekend. Don't worry, that deadline isn't until April. Isn't it exciting to have so many options to develop your work?


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