ASU student Echo Laney recalls starting ballet, jazz and tap lessons around the age of five, while living in Prescott. Growing up, she sang in her church choir and performed in community theater productions including “Fame,” “West Side Story” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
But Laney credits an experience during the summer before her freshman year at Tri-City College Prep High School with changing her life. Her mother found Camp Broadway while “kind of roaming around on the Internet.” Laney attended the one week theater camp at ASU in 2005, and says it “set a little mini-dream for me.”
Laney says she didn’t realize the buildings surrounding ASU Gammage were dorms — but she decided during Camp Broadway that she wanted to live in them one day. Today, she’s a proud resident of the Arcadia Residential Community for Design and the Arts at ASU — and will start her junior year at ASU in the fall.
Though she started out as a musical theater major, dance classes that are part of that program helped Laney reconnect with her absolute love of dance. As a little girl, she’d dreamed of being a ballerina — but says the “curvy” shape she developed didn’t fit that mold. “I don’t have to be a certain size” for other types of dance, reflects Laney. “I can be myself.”
As an ASU dance major, Laney gets to work with various artists who perform at ASU Gammage. The venue presents several “Beyond Gammage” programs each year. Most recently, says Laney, she got to dance with Liz Lerman and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.
Camp Broadway participants get to see a touring Broadway production as part of their camp experience, and enjoy time with cast and crew from the show. When Laney did Camp Broadway in 2005, the show was “Phantom of the Opera.” They also got to see the sets and such up close (my favorites were always the falling chandelier and the musical monkey toy).
Laney recalls doing a “Gypsy Showcase” as a camper — performing selections from two shows, “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Oklahoma,” for family and friends at the end of the week. “It was my first experience with singing, dancing and acting all together.”
“I still have my pin” from camp, says Laney. “And a little folder.” Children and teens who attend Camp Broadway June 6-10 this year will attend a performance of “Les Miserables” and spend time with various artists and other professionals from the show.
For Laney, a little time at Camp Broadway grew into a big dream — becoming an ethnographer of dance or ethno-choreographer. In addition to majoring in dance, she’s doing an anthropology minor (and may add a journalism minor too). Laney plans to earn a Ph.D. in anthroplogy.
Laney says she’d like to dance her way around the world, learning local dance traditions in each country she explores — and recording every step of her journey. Irish step dance in Ireland. Belly dance in Egypt. I haven’t any doubt she’ll do all this and more, thanks in large measure to a theater camp that really did change her life.
Note: Watch for a companion post, with links to more than 30 Valley organizations offering summer theater camps, coming soon. And click here to explore Raising Arizona Kids’ 2011 “Summer Solutions,” a comprehensive directory of summer day camps with all sorts of themes — from arts and nature to science and sports.
Coming up: Countdown to the Tony Awards®