Tag Archives: Dance Moms

Dance meets competition

Jessica Phillips dances in “Paquita” with Ballet Arizona (Photo: Rosalie O’Conner)

For most folks, the film “First Position” will be a rare glimpse into the world of competitive youth ballet. “First Position,” scheduled to open late May in Scottsdale and early June in Tucson, follows the adventures of six dancers as they compete in the Youth America Grand Prix – the “largest  competition that awards full scholarships to top ballet schools.”

But Jessica Phillips, who has danced professionally with Ballet Arizona as an apprentice since 2009, has already gone behind the scenes of the prestigious competition — competing several times as a soloist and as part of an ensemble from the Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theatre in Texas.

Phillips began dance lessons when she was eight years old, but says she “didn’t take it seriously” until she was 12. That’s when a teacher suggested Phillips enter the Youth America Grand Prix, and Phillips was game. “I remember being so nervous,” she recalls, “knowing that I’d been working for months and months and months.” It all turns on a single dance, and anything can happen.

“Dancers have good days and bad days like any job or day in life,” muses Phillips. “The day of the competition there’s so much stress thinking about all the sacrifices you’ve made.” No matter how well you do, she says, you never feel like it was exactly how you wanted it to be. “You can always be better,” insists Phillips.

Phillips participated in the Youth America Grand Prix when Rebecca Houseknecht, one of the film’s six featured dancers, was competing as well — and the two became friends while housed together during their competition days. Phillips recalls admiring Houseknecht because she “really puts herself out there” as a competitor.

Still, Phillips says it isn’t all about winning. “It’s a learning process,” she adds. Though recognized for being in the top 12 during her third year of competition, Phillips went home feeling something more — the inspiration of seeing other beautiful dancers and they ways they work. Also a new sense of her own unique strengths and style.

The world of competitive dance isn’t for everyone — but Phillips recommends it for dancers who are are passionate and like performing. Especially those who dream of being a ballerina. Phillips recalls running across some not-so-nice dancers and stage moms, but says she met plenty of folks who were “sweet and kind.” Her best advice? “Don’t compare yourself with others.”

“Stay focused on yourself,” suggests Phillips. “Everyone has their own journey.” It’s self-destructive, she says, to start “freaking out” over people you have no control over. Phillips recalls listening to music before taking the stage because it “helps to get the stress out.” Whatever the outcome, competing “gets your name out there.” And the travel is another plus.

“First Position” promises to take audiences on a “yearlong journey around the world” — following both the struggles and successes of its central characters. Another dance film, opening May 18 in NYC, offers a behind-the-scenes look at one of the country’s longest-running dance festival. It’s called “Never Stand Still: Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow.”

Those who’ve tired of “Dance Moms” divas can get a glimpse into the world of competitive ballet when the CW Network (in cooperation with the BBC) premieres a reality TV show titled “Breaking Pointe” on May 31 — which features Ballet West in Utah, headed by artistic director Adam Sklute.

I’m eager to see both films, and the new series — but hope folks who enjoy them will take dance appreciation a step further by enjoying live dance performance in their communities. Dance on the big or small screen is lovely. Dance on stage is magnificent.

– Lynn

Coming up: Tackling bigotry with plays, poems and songs

Diving into dance

My favorite dance dad snapped this baby several years ago

Seems the dance teacher duo of “Dance Moms Miami” has decided to delve into the psyches of its charges — coupling choreography sessions with pseudo-therapeutic meanderings into the minds of young dancers. But taking fifth place with an homage to letting go of insecurities seems to have refocused their resolve to destroy all imperfections.

I can’t help wishing, as I watch young Lucas dance each week, that some benevolent ballet teacher would snatch him up — crisply pointed toes and all — and take him away from all that Bieberesque behavior. There’s more to dance than bright lights and bootie shaking — and it appears we’ll soon get a glimpse of it thanks to The CW Network’s new “Breaking Pointe,” which promises a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of competitive dance.

I learned of the show from a dancer and ballet teacher who once called Utah home. Turns out Ballet West in Utah, led by artistic director Adam Sklute, will be featured in the new BBC production — conceived as a sort of antidote to the 201o film “Black Swan.”

We’ve been working on a book inspired by burgeoning interest in the dance world, eager to offer dance parents a resource for guiding their own family’s journey with dance. The next step in our own journey will be securing a publisher and getting that baby into bookstores.

We know there’s plenty of interest. Posts I’ve written on the “Dance Moms” phenomenon continue to get a high number of hits, and she’s often approached by dance parents hungry for information and guidance. I was a dance mom for more than a decade, and know there’s more to dance education than schlepping from one two-bit competition to another.

We’re all plenty entertained by shows like “Dance Moms” — but our own children, who don’t live inside a little box ruled by remote control, need more. They need parents appreciative of the true art and athleticism of dance. And families who support their creative journeys with more than sequins and spandex.

– Lynn

Coming up: Ballet Arizona premieres Ib Andersen’s “Topia” at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

Note: We’d love to hear from parents with dance-related questions, dance professionals with pearls to share and folks with publishing connections. You can share comments below or reach us at poisedpen@cox.net until our new website takes wings.

Ode to the Oliviers

Scene from "Matilda the Musical" featuring characters Matilda and Mrs. Phelps (Image: Quirk Books). The show earned seven 2012 Olivier Awards.

I spent a lovely afternoon at Sunday’s Lawrence Olivier Awards in London thanks to a live online broadcast that’s got me appreciating all the modern technology I’ve typically scoffed at until now.

I was just a teen when the awards, first dubbed The Society of West End Theatre Awards, originated in 1976, but married and in graduate school when they became the Lawrence Olivier Awards in 1984.

In between, I studied for a year in Europe — but spent most trips to London exploring museums and architectural wonders rather than theater offerings. One of many oversights committed during my youth.

The awards are run by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), which commissioned sculptor Harry Franchette to create the award that’s an elegant take on the young Lawrence Olivier as Henry V at the Old Vic in 1937.

I was struck by several aspects of the ceremony and its broadcast. Though the SOLT’s partnership with MasterCard is evident, there were no tacky commercials or other interruptions we accept too readily as American television viewers.

Instead, breaks during various portions of the ceremony were filled with live performances — of works nominated for an audience award — on a beautiful outdoor stage surrounded by theater fans.

The BBC Radio 2 Olivier Audience Award, voted for by the public, went to “Les Miserables” — a musical Arizona audiences can enjoy at ASU Gammage come September.

I was struck as well by the tasteful fashions worn by presenters, nominees and recipients – despite the ceremony’s lovely lack of obsession over such things. Way to rock the flats, “Matilda” girls. You’ll need those ankles for future roles.

“Matilda the Musical” led the list with ten nominations, and waltzed away with seven awards. The Royal Shakespeare Company production is based on Roald Dahl’s charming tale.

The musical’s director noted early in the ceremony that “productions are like children” — sharing that he’d still love both if one of two nominees he directed was chosen best new musical. Later, the award went to “Matilda the Musical.”

There’s a point in the musical, he explains, when Matilda pummels three times into her pillow — then looks up and shares the final bit of the story. Seems it’s “a metaphor for the healing power of imagination.”

“Matilda the Musical” director Matthew Warchus then delivered my favorite remarks of the evening — All kids have it. We all have it. Our educational system should promote it more. That was the gist of it — but there’s more.

Creative imagination, says Warchus, is the key to surviving life and improving it for all of us. It’s more important, he reflects, than science, math and testing — perhaps even literacy.

His riff made me wonder — Might more children achieve the literacy we so value if reading and writing were pressed more often into the service of creative imagination rather than the mere consumption of content?

They’re heady things, these British award shows. Words and ideas loom larger than the flashy sorts of sets and such we seem to favor for award shows on this side of the pond. Dry wit and genuine humility trump the faux and flashy.

Sunday’s ceremony included special recognition of the 60th anniversary of “Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap” — which continues to enjoy the theater world’s longest continuous run.

Seems Christie grandson Matthew Prichard, who shared remarks during the presentation, was given rights to the show for his ninth birthday — but admits to feeling fonder at the time of the gift with two wheels. Prichard notes that he gives income earned on the show to lots of charities.

I learned of the Mousetrap Theatre Projects, which serves more than 12,000 students each year, during remarks from its founder — which inspired me to explore other outreach efforts like the SOLT’s own “Autism and Theatre” program.

The Society of London Theatre presented two special awards during this year’s ceremony — one to Dame Monica Mason, honoring her career with the Royal Ballet, and another to lyricist Sir Tim Rice.

Rice shared reflections on the journey of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” from school show to musical theater sensation, and his reluctance to make the original “Jesus Christ Superstar” album — also noting that NYC audiences are fonder by far of current “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita” revivals than NYC theater critics.

My own budding theater critic, Lizabeth, had perfectly lovely things to say about both shows — but did share that seeing Ricky Martin shake his bum during “Evita” was rather the low point of it all. I’ll have to add seeing a slew of West End theatre productions together to my bucket list.

While I adored every performance during Sunday’s Olivier Awards show, a few will likely live longest in my memory — a stunning pas de deux that should be required viewing for all those “Dance Moms” settling for sickening alternatives to actual artistry, the vocal performance of a haunting song from “Whistle Down the Wind” that I first heard when Lizabeth performed it during a Greasepaint Youtheatre fundraiser, and the lavish “Circle of Life” from the cast of “The Lion King” — which made me remember the magic of seeing the musical with Lizabeth long before her NYC theater adventures.

I’ll be more mindful of the bridge between Broadway and the West End thanks to that one magical evening I felt honored to be part of the virtual audience for the 2012 Olivier Awards. London, anyone?

– Lynn

Note: Click here to see the full list of Olivier Award winners and highlights from the ceremony — plus here to enjoy West End news reported by Broadway World.

Coming up: Musings on “Smash” and “New York 22″

Musings on “Dance Moms Miami”

Thanks to artist Brett Sauce, folks who watch the latest "Dance Moms" series on Lifetime Television can enjoy a far prettier picture of Miami

After two seasons with destruct-o-matic dance moms and their delightful daughters, Abby Lee Miller has finally entered meltdown mode. Folks who’ve watched the show grow more venomous over time are surely wondering — What took so long?

Moms who delight in gossip learn that one of their own has hired an attorney to prevent talk of her romantic adventures. Children needing calm as they ready to take the stage are surrounded by squabbling mothers. And dancers who should be supporting one another’s successes exude the petty jealousy modeled by those charged with their care.

Abby’s no innocent, of course. She’s consumed by concern for her own reputation, subjects dancers to a weekly pyramid that pits dancer against dancer and does more screaming than teaching. And she’s easily baited by rival dance types from another studio who share her gift for pushing others’ buttons.

As one mom in particular appeared to unravel before our eyes this season, folks I’ve chatted with about the show have shared escalating concerns — even wondering whether some of the behaviors exhibited on the show might rise to the level of child abuse.

Palm tree meets pirouette on "Dance Moms Miami" on Lifetime Television

So naturally, the network that brought us “Dance Moms” decided they needed more of a good thing. Hence last night’s debut of “Dance Moms Miami,” featuring a new set of misguided moms, diva dancers and over-the-top teachers. It’s got everything you love to hate about “Dance Moms” — but with bright Miami colors and a hot mess of infantile emotions.

Dance Moms Miami” features dance teachers Victor Smalley and Angel DeArmas of Stars Dance Studio in Miami, who share two goals early on in episode one — raising stars (rather than merely raising dancers) and creating artists who can express themselves through movement. Crushing children’s spirits didn’t make their list, but it’s bound to happen.

While Miller seemed merely exasperated with her dance moms, Smalley and DeArmas ooze genuine disdain. “I don’t even think they’re good parents,” one says. And later — “Truth be told, I think I could be a better parent to them sometimes.” So much for positive parents/teacher partnerships.

There’s no shortage of dysfunction in the dance mom department. “Some people,” shares one mom, “may say that I’m psycho.” Mental health advocates will be rightfully disturbed by the show’s heavy use of “crazy” talk, and viewers will surely wonder why a mom would take such pride in her own shortcomings.

It’s easy to see where “Dance Moms Miami” is going. One teacher describes himself as “like one of the kids,” noting that his partner is “the strict one.” Both mistakenly assumed that hiring one of the moms to work the front desk would help calm the other parents. It’s all a recipe for conflict meant to whet the instatiable appetite of voyeuristic viewers.

So how does “Dance Moms Miami” compare to its forerunner? The moms, by their own account, are bitchier. Blah cold weather surroundings are replaced by loud Miami colors. There’s a boy dancer in the mix. And the dancewear is skimpier. Think black skin-tight numbers with red feathers and silver chains.

"Miami World" by Brett Sauce, whose work you can enjoy at http://www.brettsauceart.com

Both shows feature moms who live vicariously through their children, though the original dance moms seem subtle somehow once you’ve heard Miami dance moms opine about their own foiled dance dreams or family dancers of generations past whose shoes they expect a new generation to fill.

Like the original, “Dance Moms Miami” sometimes reveals remarkable insights by young dancers. When one Miami dancer doesn’t get a solo for the “Hollywood Vibe” competition, she realizes it’s an opportunity to hone her part for the group number.

And while teachers on both shows dispense heavy doses of criticism, the “Dance Moms Miami” guys sometimes manage to dish out real gems. While revealing this week’s list (the equivalent of Miller’s pyramid ranking dancers based on the previous week’s performance), one reminds dancer Lucas that “the stage isn’t a runway” — adding that “being cute is only going to take you so far.”

Sometimes, it seems the Miami dance moms enjoy rare moments of insight. One clearly recognizes that she’s much more competitive than her daughter, and another readily shares that she’s contributed to her daughter’s dance with perfectionism. All think their daughter dances like no other, though I’ve yet to witness an abundance of artistry or technique.

"Dance Moms" makes dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium seem the more advanced species

Still, there’s something to learn from watching these characters in play. Like its predecessor, “Dance Moms Miami” is a “how-to” for what not to do. Don’t interupt class time for impromptu parent/teacher talks. Don’t tell dance teachers how to cast or choreograph their works. Don’t send your child to class with sloppy hair or missing dancewear. Don’t greet fellow moms with a litany of your child’s awards and accolades.

Run fast and far when you see teachers teasing students, parents fighting in front of children or students risking injury with moves they’re not strong or skilled enough to execute. Beware of studios that sexualize children or encourage dancers to flash a “come hither” look while performing. (Cheers for the Joffrey Ballet School auditioner who told one of Miller’s dancers that the person who’d taught her to shake her bum bum was a dumb dumb.)

In the final minutes of the “Dance Moms Miami” premiere, which felt a bit like twisted tango meets “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” a teacher shared a lovely little rant that went something like this — “The moms, they behave like animals. Those moms are crazy, they’re mental. Their husbands can’t control them. Even God can’t control them.”

As “Dance Moms” cast members dream of setting the world on fire, the rest of us grapple with one burning question — Why would anyone let themselves be filmed in the midst of such bad behavior? The better question might be why we all continue tuning in.

Recently a friend described time spent watching “Dance Moms” as a cathartic experience. “A few minutes of one of the dance mom shows and my life seems so calm and ordered,” she told me. “It’s some sickness of mine that I’ve watched at all.”

– Lynn

Note: Click here to enjoy more works from Brett Sauce

Coming up: The fourth coming

Once upon a stage mom

The mother of all stage mothers, “Mama Rose,” has been portrayed by plenty of legendary actresses in stage and screen versions of the musical “Gypsy.” Ethel Merman. Angela Lansbury. Bette Midler. Patti Lupone.

When “Gypsy” opens at Phoenix Theatre next month, Kathy Fitzgerald will perform the role. I’m eager to see it after enjoying Fitzerald’s truly exceptional performance as Madame Morrible in “Wicked” on Broadway last October with my daughter Lizabeth.

Fitzgerald has also performed in “9 to 5,” “The Producers,” and “Swinging on a Star” on Broadway — plus plenty of Off-Broadway and regional theater productions.

Before moving to Manhattan, where she lives with her husband and 12-year-old daughter Hope, Fitzgerald spent seven years performing on Valley stages. So working with Michael Barnard, who’s directing “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre, is nothing new.

Phoenix Theatre presents the musical "Gypsy" March 7-April 1

“Mama Rose” is often vilified for pushing her daughters Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc into show business. But Fitzgerald says she admires her “incredible drive and passion,” noting that she “pushed and pushed her girls” hoping to give them options not open to most women during the 1920s and 1930s.

“In some ways,” reflects Fitzgerald, “I respect her stength and tenacity.” Fitzgerald notes that “Mama Rose” did everything for her girls and was, in some ways, a pioneer. “Her life,” says Fitzgerald, “was way more tragic and flawed than it’s depicted in this musical.”

Today’s best known stage moms are another story. Fitzgerald says she has a hard time understanding why the mothers of Lifetime’s “Dance Moms” put their girls through so much melodrama. Seems the pay is poor for cable shows, though plenty of scenes may live on in digital world forever.

Fitzgerald says she’d “never want to be like” the moms who star on “Dance Moms” — whose nasty neuroses and futile fights typically take place in front of their kids. Having issues is one thing. Airing them in front of your children is another. Sharing them with millions of viewers is just plain creepy.

Daughter Hope is plenty busy with her academically rigorous school, according to Fitzgerald, who adds that neither she nor her husband would let Hope do the theater thing at this point. “There’s plenty of time for that later,” quips Fitzgerald.

Her own childhood was a bit different, however. “My dad ran a theater in L.A.,” says Fitzgerland, “and my mom was pretty pushy too.” Though her own mother died when she was just 15, Fitzgerald says “she knew that I was supposed to be an actor.”

Whether you’re a stage mother (in the best or worst sense of the word), or simply someone who enjoys watching others do the stage mother thing, seeing the musical “Gypsy” is a must.

“Gypsy” debuted on Broadway in 1959 featuring book by Arthur Laurents, music by Stephen Sondheim and lyrics by Jule Styne. It was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. It’s based on a memoir by Gypsy Rose Lee.

“Gypsy” is regarded by Fitzgerald and many others as “one of the best musicals of all time.” Its best-known songs include “Let Me Entertain You,” “Together Wherever We Go” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” The music, says Fitzgerald, “is genius.”

– Lynn

Coming up: Trends in marketing Broadway

A dance dad on “Dance Moms”

Elye Olson, dancer with Ballet Arizona, with his daughter Nadia (age 4) and fellow students at the School of Ballet Arizona in Phoenix (Photo: Dan Friedman)

On rare occasions, a doting dad gets a sliver of airtime during Lifetime television’s “Dance Moms” — which broadcast the first show of its second season just last night.

Usually it’s the dancers’ moms — who sit for hours on-high, watching through a large window as their daughters get berated by a bristly dance teacher.

Sometimes they break to throw barbs at one another, but rarely do any of them seem to notice that the world their window opens onto is small, skewed and downright scary.

The most together of the misfit moms is a woman named Holly, a mother of three whose only daughter Nia dances with the Abby Lee Dance Company in Pittsburgh.

She favors modest dance attire, healthy lifestyle choices and putting school before stage. She attempts logical, civilized conversations when Abby Lee  pushes her buttons, and seems to have fewer buttons than other cast members to begin with.

Holly seems to spend a bit more time in the real world than others featured on the show. She’s a working mom who trusts her daughter to develop without all that nasty hovering that seems to fuel some of the other girls’ neuroses.

But last night’s episode got ugly when Holly told Abby Lee she’d be working over the weekend rather than joining the caravan for yet another dance competition.

Ballet Arizona dancer Elye Olson with daughter Nadia (Photo: Dan Friedman)

I chatted a while back with Elye Olson, a dancer with Ballet Arizona in Phoenix. His wife, Katrina Olson, also works for the ballet company — and they have two young children, including a daughter who takes classes with Betsy Bradley Kammerle.

I think of Kammerle each time I watch the “Dance Mom” series because she’s the polar opposite of Abby Lee Miller. Kammerle is disciplined and has high expectations for her young students. Her respect and fondness for them bears no resemblance to Miller’s brash barking out of orders and cascades of criticism.

Parents are welcome to wait for their children in the school’s lobby during classes, but they’re invited to watch their children’s classes just a few times each year — on special viewing days. It’s part of what separates recreational from pre-professional dance classes, according to dance dad Olson.

“The hobby dance moms seek out after-school activities in which they can play an active role,” observes Olson. “They want to have something to say, at all times, about what their kids are doing.”

It’s a problem, says Olson, because “this activity interferes with the ability of the child to take ownership of her accomplishments.” I was reminded of Olson’s comments after seeing Holly’s daughter Nia react to the news that her mother would be working rather than attending her dance competition.

Nia strikes me as a strong and confident young woman, a mirror of her mother in many ways, who doesn’t need constant praise or attention to feel valuable or empowered. Nia seemed perfectly fine with her mother’s choice until Miller proffered her pessimistic spin.

Olson hails the School of Ballet Arizona approach, saying the “closed door policy fundmentally incubates young artists.” Take note, dance moms — and pageant moms too.

Being in the room with your child, especially while performing your child’s routine from your chair, isn’t helping. And some of us just don’t have the stomach for it.

Betsy Kammerle teaching a pre-primary class at the School of Ballet Arizona in Phoenix (Photo: Dan Friedman)

“Parents should unquestionably play a role in the development of children,” says Olson. But “the successes and failures of the students belong only to the students and the hightly-qualified teachers.”

“When a young artist succeeds, it is because she did what she and her teacher pushed her to do,” says Olson. “When she fails it’s the same.” Either way, he says, “her mother or father plays a merely marginal role in the outcomes.”

“In the creation of an artist,” adds Olson, “every parent should respect the autonomy of her child.” Olson says he “puts a lot of energy” into raising his children — which means “being vastly tolerant of their activities.” From dance studio to kitchen.

He describes a scene from their own home – complete with toy castle coated in pancake mix, designs drawn into more mix surrounding it on the floor and the sound of children squealing and laughing.

“You know you’ve respected their autonomy and empowered them.” Sure, you taught them not to spill things because it’s a pain to clean them up. “But it looks good,” he says, “and it was fun to make.”

“From this,” quips Olson, “art is born.”

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “Dance Moms” on Lifetime television and here to learn more about Ballet Arizona (which presents “MOMIX: Botanica” with the Desert Botanical Garden in January and “Sleeping Beauty” in February).

Coming up: Ode to joy?,  Good chemistry, Playwright tales

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade auditions

Some of the kids who audition at ASU Gammage this Saturday might get to enjoy workshops, performing and sightseeing in New York City this November

I’ve got NYC on my heart and mind today as Hurricane Irene threatens to head up the East Coast, possibly affecting some of my favorite sites in New York City — the beautiful Battery Park waterfront, Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan and more.

Folks enjoying their weekday lunch hour along a waterway in Battery Park

But I’m also thinking ahead. More than 3 million people are expected to line the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route in NYC on Nov 24, and your child could be among those performing for the crowds. Macy’s expects another 50 million people to watch the 85th anniversary parade on NBC.

Auditions for this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are being held by the national Camp Broadway organization this Sat, Aug 27 at 9am at ASU Gammage. It’s an open call dance audition but no dance experience, headshot or resume is required — meaning any child who will be 12-16 at the time of the parade who might like to participate can try out.

Camp Broadway will be casting 120 children and teens from across the country (there are about ten auditions total) to perform an original number titled “There’s No Place Like Here” at the parade. They’ll be performing on and near a Zhu Zhu theme float — which will feature a performance by a “mystery teen pop star.” Tempe is stop number one for these auditions.

Those chosen will participate in a special Camp Broadway experience that includes six days of music, movement rehearsals and workshops — plus on-site rehearsals at Herald Square under the direction of Tony Parise, artistic director for Camp Broadway at the national level.

Parise will teach a dance combination on Saturday as part of the audition process. Auditions will be conducted in groups, and participants are expected to dress for dance. Think comfortable clothes and soft rubber-soled shoes. Sandals, flip-flops and hard-sole dress shoes are a no-no.

There are no time slots for auditioners, and the length of the audition process will depend on the number of kids who take part. Camp Broadway estimates that it could be a two to three hour process, but urges families to prepare for longer or shorter hours. Be sure you arrive at the audition no later than 9am.

I’m happy to report that the experience sounds a good deal more enjoyable than dancing with Abby Lee Miller at the Pittsburgh studio where Lifetime television films portions of its new “Dance Moms” reality series.

Those selected to dance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will pay an $895 program fee to participate. While in NYC, they’ll receive Camp Broadway giveaways — and they’ll even get to keep their parade costume. Participants also pay associated costs like travel, housing and such.

Perhaps some of the parade performers will get inspired to study one day at places like the Juilliard School in New York City

While in NYC, dancers will not only prepare for their parade performance, but enjoy time with dance captains from various Broadway shows — who will teach them actual choreography from these shows. Parise notes that there will also be time for sightseeing, since some rehearsals last just half a day.

While in NYC, parade performers will spot taxis sporting ads for all sorts of Broadway shows -- and maybe feel inspired to perform on Broadway one day

Those with an interest in all things Broadway might want to mark their calendars for next year’s Camp Broadway at ASU Gammage taking place Jun 4-8. Campers will see a touring production of the Tony Award-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet” and meet the show’s cast.

Participants from Camp Broadway at ASU Gammage in 2007

Come Saturday, I’ll have a heavy heart for those along the East Coast who might be experiencing or bracing for the storm. Especially folks at places like the 9/11 Memorial Preview Center and Poets House, which I so enjoyed visiting during my last trip to NYC.

But I’m glad to have something positive to think on as well — all those dancing feet and smiling faces as Camp Broadway gives oodles of young dancers at ASU Gammage a chance to live their own NYC dreams at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to read about special Macy’s discounts available through Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale

Coming up: Saturday event featuring family-friendly comedy

Resume tips for young actors

During a recent episode of Lifetime’s “Dance Moms,” lead dance instructor Abby Lee Miller of Abby Lee Dance Company in Pittsburgh invited a Broadway casting agent to her studio.

The agent held individual auditions with young “Dance Moms” cast members, inviting them to sing as well as dance. He also attended a showcase performance meant to spotlight student talents. (Never mind the solo by a mom with misguided mojo.)

While preparing dancers for the experience, Miller explained that three things are needed for auditions — a resume, a headshot and talent. But details were sorely lacking, perhaps because there’s little drama in offering sound resume advice.

A lovely headshot of Maren Maclean photographed by Larry Stone

So I turned to Valley director, actor, coach and instructor Maren Maclean for thoughts on a few of the finer points. Whether your child performs in theater, music or dance, you’ll want to keep track (from the beginning) of training and performance experiences.

It’s hard to construct a complete and accurate resume if you haven’t kept track of the data. Saving programs in a single location is your best bet on this one, and you should start with that very first show (even if it’s just a summer camp show for family and friends).

We went many years without compiling information about our daughter Lizabeth’s music, dance and theater experiences — making the process of crafting her first acting resume more tedious than it might have been otherwise.

When it came to time to finesse the finer points (and to choose the best head shot), we called on Maclean — who does private coaching — for expert advice. For those of you just now putting those resumes together, Maclean shares the following tips:

Tip #1: “Never lie, trust me.”

“Don’t make up the names of theatres to hide that it really was your high school production. Be proud of the high school credit and give credit where credit is due. The theatre world is too small and we talk too much.”

Tip #2: “Take lots of classes.”

‘Take lots of classes and add the details to the ‘training’ portion of your resume. Every class is important and the instructor is a direct facet to your profession[al] theatre network!”

Tip #3: “A one page resume means a one page resume.”

“Don’t go back more than 8-10 years. List pertinent info and learn to let go. It’s hard but a 12 year old credit that you are so proud of can be listed on your website, not on the third page of your five page resume.”

Maclean’s own resume is posted online, so you can visit her website to see a sample. Young actors seeking to polish their auditioning skills have several options. Valley director, actor and teacher Toby Yatso once told me that the best way for Lizabeth to boost her audition skills was to audition. In many ways, it’s about learning by doing.

Joe Kremer and Maren Maclean in a 2010 Phoenix Theatre production of Noises Off! (Photo by Laura Durant)

But there are plenty of places to study and practice auditioning — including acting studios and theater companies. Also private acting coaches who can offer one-on-one instruction and notes.

Recently I read through the 2011-12 class listings for Voices, a music and arts studio in Scottsdale. Their offerings include “Audition Techniques” for 9-12 year olds and “Auditioning Skills” for 13-18 years olds.

If your teen is auditioning for college theater programs, snag those audition requirements early. He’ll want plenty of time to select, learn and polish both monologues and musical selections, which may vary by college or conservatory.

Above all, model calm and collected behavior for your child. Even the super-talented young “Dance Moms” cast members buckled under the pressure after seeing both teacher and parents in nervous-wreck mode.

Your child’s first resumes and early auditions won’t be perfect. But trust your child to live and learn a bit of it on his own. Surround your child with supportive teachers and mentors, and do some of your own letting go.

– Lynn

Note: Plenty of actors post their resumes online too, making it easy to check out what sorts of formats and such are out there. Click here to see the resume for Kyle Harris, who holds a BFA in acting from the University of Arizona. Harris performs the role of Tony in a touring production of “West Side Story” coming to ASU Gammage next month.

Coming up: Finding audition opportunities for children and teens, Fall Glee camp, Tea parties without politics, Dance and disabilities

“Dance Moms” teen wants to quit?

These dancers are from Ballet Etudes in Gilbert

On last week’s episode of the new Lifetime Television series “Dance Moms,” a 13-year-old dancer named Brooke lamented missing opportunities to hang out with friends because of a rigorous dance schedule.

Seems friends had invited her to the mall during a week full of dance competition rehearsals. It didn’t help that Brooke had a painful hip injury or that most of her friends do cheerleading rather than dance.

If your son or daughter is a serious student of dance, competitive or otherwise, you’ve likely encountered a similar issue. I remember Lizabeth having several hours of dance classes or rehearsals up to six days a week when she trained with the School of Ballet Arizona in Phoenix.

Often there’s little time for friends outside the dance studio, unless you’re keen on skipping homework, family time or sleep. So I asked Sharon Seder Meko, founding artistic director of Ballet Etudes in Gilbert, for her take on letting young dancers quit lessons if they want to.

Sharon Seder Meko, founding artistic director of Ballet Etudes in Gilbert, enjoying time with some of her young dance students

Seems there’s something we parents can do long before it gets to this point. “Children,” says Meko, “should be brought slowly into the dance world.” She notes that most 7-year-olds who take five days of classes a week will “be burned out” by the time they are ten.

It was hard to tell last week whether Brooke was considering leaving dance altogether or merely wanting the freedom to miss a few rehearsals. In the end, her mom Kelly made her go — and the team performed well in competition. Certainly that helped Brooke feel better about showing up.

Meko notes that if a dancer makes a commitment that effects other dancers or a group of peers, the dancer must learn the hard way that commitments should not be made lightly. “In my company,” says Meko, “we only make these allowances for matters of life or death, sickness or school grades.”

In most dance studios, including Ballet Etudes, there is a lot more dance than drama

From my own experience with the “real dance moms of Maricopa County,” I can tell you that there are teachers out there who feel illness is a poor excuse to miss dance — and who aren’t inclined to excuse an absence when major exams or papers loom. I suppose it’s good to ask about such things when researching various dance options.

So what does Meko recommend for parents of children who want to take a break from the dance world? “See them as a child first,” she says. “And, possibly, a dancer second.” Meko adds that “very often a dancer needs time off to recuperate their mind and/or body.”

“If the child truly has the passion for dance,” reflects Meko, “then they will realize the void they have in their life without dance and will want to return.” She describes dance as “highly challenging both emotionally and physically” and notes that it effects not only the dancer’s time, but that of family members too.

Dancers auditioning at Ballet Etudes in Gilbert

“If your child does not have the passion for it,” says Meko, “then to make them continue to pursue it is unhealthy.” Meko believes “there is a select three percent who know in their heart that they want to be dancers” and says those who don’t know “need to experience other outlets before they can make a sound decision.”

So what does Meko think of “Dance Moms” on Lifetime? “All in all,” she says, “I enjoy the show.” She notes that “many of the children do have good technique” and says “Dance Moms” demonstrates “just how difficult dance is, and how much time is required for successful training and excellence.”

“I am thrilled,” says Meko, “that inappropriate dance moves and costuming is finally being brought into the limelight in a negative way.” She feels that children are too often “put into situations where they are required to dance and act like young women” when it’s their “youth and innocence that should be highlighted.”

Meko recalls an episode where some of the dance moms “stood up to the instructor” for choosing revealing costumes for young dancers. “Hopefully this will give mothers around the country the courage to stand up for their children in similar situations.”

There is little need for revealing costumes when it is all about the dance

Sadly, Meko shares that the sterotypical “stage mom” behavior seen on “Dance Moms” is “a common occurence throughout the dance world at all levels.” I suspect it doesn’t help that the moms featured on the show are rarely shown leaving the dance studio to pursue their own interests. It seems, during most episodes, that each desperately needs to “get a life.”

She’s not a fan of their negativity, childishness or cruelty — especially towards the parents of other children. Meko hopes that the “plain negative behavior displayed by these mothers will help act as something of a mirror” for similar “stage mothers” who watch the show. Then, perhaps, their “behavior patterns will change.”

Dancers do best when their parents play well with others

I’m less optimistic. Dance just happens to be the glue sticking these parents to their captive children. If they weren’t “dance moms” in the worst sense of the word, they’d be something equally awful. Clingy chess moms. Bossy basketball moms. Seething soccer moms.

Still, Meko’s point is well taken. Those of us who fancy ourselves “stage moms” do well to measure our own attitudes and behavior. In the end, most get passed along to our children. And a mean-spirited child is no joy to behold.

– Lynn

Note: All photos, which feature Ballet Etudes dancers, are courtesy of Sharon Seder Meko

Coming up: “Pay for play” theater, Summertime meets Shakespeare, Andrew Lloyd Webber alert!

Reflections on Lifetime TV’s “Dance Moms”

Plumb Performing Arts Center CITY LIGHTS Musical Theatre Mini Number performed April 2011 at the New York City Dance Academy Regional Competition in Dallas

Plumb Performing Arts Center CITY LIGHTS Musical Theatre Mini Number performed April 2011 at the New York City Dance Academy Regional Competition in Dallas

Lisa Plumb, owner of Plumb Performing Arts Center in Scottsdale, has plenty to share on the topic of Lifetime’s new “reality TV” series titled “Dance Moms,” which airs on Wednesday nights.

“Dance Moms” features a brash, bellicose dance teacher who has long owned and operated a dance studio in Pittsburgh. Also the dancers who train there — and their mothers. They like to watch. And snip.

Plumb Performing Arts Center dancer competing in Dallas in April 2011

Plumb says she runs “a tight ship,” but finds the “Dance Moms” studio “a bit extreme.” It’s rare in real life, for example, for girls to learn competition routines with as little time as they appear to be given in “Dance Moms.”

For Abby Lee Miller, owner of Abby Lee Dance Company, it’s all about winning. But Plumb says dance competitions offer plenty of benefits for those who don’t win. Gaining experience in performance and showmanship, setting and working toward goals, networking with professionals and peers — and more.

Plumb recognizes some moms do take dance competitions to an “extreme.” Still, she suggests a more balanced approach. It’s possible, reflects Plumb, to couple a “no-nonsense style” with a “loving and nurturing” environment.

It’s this approach, adds Plumb, that leads to “well-trained dancers that end up getting the most jobs,” because they’ve “learned to deal with not always winning and rejection — which can be applied to any other aspect of life.”

Dorie Reiter and Jordan Pelliteri of Plumb Performing Arts Center perform in Dallas in April 2011

“The moms that keep it in perspective,” observes Plumb, “have the kids that ultimately in the long run do the best whether they are professional dancers or doctors.” Makes sense when you picture your surgeon struggling to operate in the absense of an overbearing “doc mom.”

I was amazed, during a recent episode of “Dance Moms,” that a dancer whose headpiece fell over her eyes continued to dance as if nothing had happened. I felt certain both studio owner/teacher and parent would applaud her for staying focused and keeping her cool.

Instead, the dance teacher tore into the dancer’s mom for letting such a thing happen. Plumb notes that there’s little benefit to parents and teachers talking negatively to or about one another when dancers are present. It’s tacky, and entirely unproductive.

A Plumb Performing Arts Center dancer competing in Dallas in April 2011

Plumb insists that “a true winning team, whether they win the top trophy or not, is one that has a good, honest and open working relationship between student, parent and teacher.”

The young dancers on “Dance Moms” are trying, says Plumb, to please their parents and teachers. At times, they’re expected to choose between the two — something that makes Plumb feel “sorry and sad.”

In real life, observes Plumb, dance moms “support their children without being over the top.” And they “diversify” their children’s dance experiences — coupling dance competitions with non-competitive performance, summer intensives and such.

As the series unfolds, we’re all learning more about the dance moms featured on the show. The one who pushes her daughter to perform against medical advice. The one who insists her daughter stress the right syllable when saying “okay.” Were children not involved, all these grown-up neuroses might be somewhat amusing.

Dorie Reiter and Jordan Pelliteri of Plumb Performing Arts Center competing in the April 2011 New York City Dance Alliance Regional Finals in Dallas

Plumb admits that “Dance Moms” has “its very funny and real life moments” but still finds it “a bit sad and disturbing.” And she cautions parents that about 95% of competition owners, for both pageants and dance, are only there to make money.

Do your homework. Trust your instincts. Listen to your child. But don’t believe everything you see on TV.

– Lynn

Note: All photos, by PRO PIX, are courtesy of Plumb Performing Arts Center. Dance group pictured above includes Angelina Lewallen, Katelynn Lewallen, Eliana Shephard, Madison Schultz, Jessica Rizor, Sierra Aungst, Brooke Rozelle and Gracie Timms.

Coming up: More dance experts on “Dance Moms,” Coffee meets comics, Way of the “Wolves,” Origami & beyond

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12