Tag Archives: dance lessons

Dance recital roundup

In dance world, December conjures images of “The Nutcracker.” But June is the month for dance recitals, and we’ve got plenty of them here in the Valley. If you’re looking for dance lessons for your child, there’s much to learn from attending the recitals of various dance studios.

Recitals are windows into what studios value. Is the atmosphere warm and welcoming? Is the studio teaching styles of dance your child enjoys? Do event materials convey professionalism? Do participating students and those who teach them demonstrate a love for dance?

Recitals can help you get a feel for which studios might be the best fit for your family. Pick some studios with a compatible vibe and single them out for more study. Explore their websites. Tour their studios. Talk with their directors. You’ll soon get a read on what feels best for your child.

Here’s a sampling of dance recitals in the Phoenix metro area, including two taking place this evening…

All About Dance presents “The Art of Dance” Thurs, May 31 at 6pm. Tempe Center for the Arts. $12-$15. www.allaboutdance-az.com.

Ballet Etudes School of Dance presents “Recital 2012” Thurs, May 31 at 7pm. Mesa Arts Center. $11. www.balletetudes.net.

Dance Studio 111 presents “The Story” Fri, June 1 and Sat, June 2 at 7pm. Chandler Center for the Arts. $18-$30. www.dancestudio111.com.

The School of Ballet Arizona presents “Spring Performance 2012” Sun, June 3 at 7pm. Symphony Hall in Phoenix. $34-$74.  www.balletaz.org.

Paula Carr Dance Academy presents “Road Trip Across America!” Sat, June 9 at 3:30pm. Mesa Arts Center. $15. www.pcda.info.

Plumb Performing Arts Center presents “Move 2012” Sat, June 9 at 10am, 2pm and 6pm. Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale. www.plumbperformingartscenter.com.

Studio 3 Performing Arts Academy and Epik Dance present “Generation Pop” Sat, June 9 at 4pm. Mesa Arts Center. $15-$17. www.studio3arts.com and www.epikdanceco.org.

Dance West presents “Dancin’ in the Streets” Sun, June 10 at 4pm. Chandler Center to the Arts. $10-$16. www.tempedancewest.com.

Marilyn Bostic’s Ballet Centre presents “Marilyn Bostic’s Dance Centre Recital” Thurs, June 14 at 7pm. Chandler Center for the Arts. $16. balletcentre.tripod.com.

Classic Image Dance Co. presents “Greatest Hits Vol. 2” Fri, June 15 at 7pm. Mesa Arts Center. $20-$28. www.classicimagedance.com.

Dance Connection presents “The Dance Awards 2012” Sat, June 16 at 1pm, 4pm and 7pm. Mesa Arts Center. www.danceconnectionaz.com.

Tempe Dance Academy presents “Dancing Through the Years: Dance Factory” Sat, June 16 at 2pm. $10-$16. Chandler Center for the Arts. www.tempedance.com.

Tempe Dance Academy presents “Dance Recital” Sat, June 16 at 7pm. Chandler Center for the Arts. $10-$16. www.tempedance.com.

Wagner Dance & Music presents “Toy Box” Sat, June 23 at 7pm. $14-$16. Chandler Center for the Arts. www.wagnerdanceandmusic.com.

Attending dance recitals is an excellent way to support both young artists and the professionals who teach them. After weeks and months of learning and rehearsing recital pieces, young dancers appreciate having large, supportive audiences. So go. Applaud generously. And make a child’s day.

— Lynn

Note: If you’ve got a dance recital in the Phoenix metro area that’s not listed here, please comment below to let our readers know. Always check event details before attending.

Coming up: The CW network premieres its six-week “Breaking Pointe” series


From ukelele to clogging

Anderson Institute of Music and Performing Arts is preparing to open a new studio

A new studio offering music, dance, theater and other performing arts classes for children and adults is scheduled to open in the West Valley in August. The Anderson Institute of Music and Performing Arts will be located on Main Street in Verrado, a community located in the foothills of the White Tank Mountains.

The institute was founded in Pasadena in 2005 and moved to Verrado in 2008. Owners Edward and Angela Anderson say the new 1,200 square foot studio will help them meet growing demand for arts education in the West Valley, especially as school art programs continue to be cut.

Angela Anderson is a longtime music educator and vocal coach who holds a degree in vocal performance and a graduate degree in musical theater. Edward Anderson has nearly three decades experience in singing, songwriting and producing, and served as executive director of Algonquin Theatre Productions in NYC.

The Andersons stress the importance of collaboration within the arts community, noting that they work closely with Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria and the West Valley Arts Council. They oversee and direct the West Valley Children’s Choir.

The Anderson Studio offers music, dance and acting instruction

Their new space features four studios for private lessons and classes. Think piano, guitar, voice, drums, strings and woodwinds. A large rehearsal space will be used for dance, theater, choir, string orchestra and group work. Instruments will be available for purchase.

The Andersons plan to have a total of 14 teachers and staff. I’m told the institute will be home to various performance groups and offer training in some relatively uncommon disciplines. Think songwriting, clogging and ukelele (not all at the same time).

Other options include music theory, ear training, voice pedagogy, sight-reading, rhythm, music expression, music interpretation, music recording and live performance delivery.

The institute expects to present monthly community performances in various venues, two annual recitals, an annual musical production, theater readings, summer camps and more.

It seems the only thing they don’t (yet) offer is the class my children say I’m most in need of:  “How to sing less out of tune to oldies while driving the teen taxi with the windows rolled down.”

— Lynn

Coming up: More Valley performing arts studios, Resume tips for young actors, Fall theater camps

Art in motion

Stephen Petronio Dance Company performs Nov 18 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

When I learned that Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is offering all sorts of four-performance packages, including an “Art in Motion” dance option, I decided to go in search of Valley dance offerings for the 2011/12 season.

First I uncovered a couple of summer offerings — including “From Africa: Bate Nico Dancers” at Chandler Center for the Arts (July 29) and “Arizona’s Got Dance! National Dance Showcase” at Tempe Center for the Arts (July 31).

Tucson high school students will perform in the vaudevillian song-and-dance musical “Chicago” July 28 & 30 at the Temple of Art and Music in Tucson. It’s part of the Arizona Theatre Company’s “Summer On Stage” program (which also includes “A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

Come Labor Day, you can enjoy 2009 World Hoop Dancing Champion Brian Hammill (Ho Chuck) at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Ballet Forklorico Quetzalli-AZ performs during the “12th Annual Chandler C3HR Mariachi Festival” Sept. 24 at Chandler Center for the Performing Arts.

“Ballet Under the Stars” heads to various Valley venues, including Tempe Center for the Arts — where dancers from Ballet Arizona will perform a blend of classical and contemporary works Sept 23 in a casual amphitheater setting (bring your blankets and lawn chairs).

Desert Dance Theatre presents the “Arizona Dance Festival” Oct 11 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Stay tuned to calendars for this and other venues, which often host recitals featuring students from local dance academies.

Trisha Brown Dance Company performs at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts near Valentine's Day 2012

Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix presents their free Festival of the Arts Oct 1. Featured dance performers include Arizona Youth Ballet, Scorpius Dance Theatre, Dance Shoppe-Performance Company, EPIK Dance Company, Grand Canyon University Dance Ensemble, Kamalah Tribal Dance Company and Center Dance Ensemble.

Center Dance Ensemble is the resident modern dance company at Herberger Theater Center. Their vibrant 2011/12 season features “There is a Time for Dance” (Oct), “Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen” (Dec), “Dance AZ/100” (March) and “American Voices” (April). They’re also hosting a “Spirit of the Season” event in December.

Mesa Arts Center presents a diverse slate of dance works this season — including Chinese acrobatic dance, Native American song & dance, “Blast!” from Broadway, urban Latin dance theater, tango with Cheryl Burke and Irish cabaret. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a “must see” for the serious dance afficianado, performs at MAC in March.

While they’re in town, the Contra-Tiempo Urban Latin Dance Theater will conduct a two-week residency, teaching the basics of Salsa dancing to Valley students and selecting 20 elementary-age students to perform at their evening show on Feb 11. Alvin Ailey dancers will offer master classes as well as one-day workshops during a March 12-16 “Spring Break Dance Intensive,” then return to perform at MAC March 24 & 25.

Many of our local dance companies offer rich education and outreach programs as well — so be sure and contact folks like Center Dance Ensemble and Ballet Arizona to learn about their many offerings for Valley students and youth.

Batsheva Dance Company performs at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts next year

Batsheva Dance Company performs at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts next March

My youngest daughter Lizabeth, who starts college this fall, studied with both Dance Theater West (the academy of Center Dance Ensemble and Storybook Ballet Theater) and Ballet Arizona for a total of more than ten years.

Though she’s not pursuing dance as a career, I know all those years of studying, performing and watching creative movement honed her body, mind and spirit.

— Lynn

Note: Photos courtesy of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts (please note that the Stephen Petronia “Underland” performance “includes adult content”).

Coming up: Local dance studio owner on Lifetime’s controversial “Dance Moms” series

Don’t judge a diva by her cover

Patti Lupone's memoir makes for great Tony weekend reading

After opening a gift from my husband late last year, I exchanged a knowing glance with my daughter Lizabeth. Think smirking, and rolling our eyes. It was the one book I’d never imagined myself reading. A memoir by legendary actress Patti LuPone. We’ve always considered her more of a diva, as if that was some kind of crime.

But on the eve of the 2011 Tony Awards, I find myself turning to the memoir with a newfound admiration for LuPone, who tells her own story with fluid writing and thought — plus grace, gratitude and humor. I like it. I see a lot of LuPone in Lizabeth, though it’s unlikely she’ll appreciate my saying so before she’s braved some time with the book for herself.

LuPone enjoyed early dance and piano lessons, caught the performing bug at the tender age of four, and hated most academic study with a passion. She played cello, took the laissez-faire approach to Juilliard auditions, and counted on a small group of teachers and mentors who really “got her.”

LuPone first performed the role of Rose in Gypsy in 2006 at the Ravina Festival (Photo: Patti LuPone website)

“A Memoir” by Patti LuPone would be wise summer reading for theater students eager to learn more about the craft of acting, the path to self-discovery and the means for avoiding so much folly along the way. The book will also interest breast cancer survivors, and those of us labeled “stage mother” by self or others.

LuPone’s own mother spent much of her time driving daughter Patti and twin boys Billy and Bobby to and fro. “My mother was not a stage mother in any respect,” writes LuPone. “Mom’s life force was driving us from one lesson to the next. If she was a stage mother, it manifest itself in her pride in her three kids.”

The final three chapters of LuPone’s memoir are devoted to her time with the musical “Gypsy.” She begins as follows: “Rose Hovick–Madame Rose–is commonly stigmatized as the mother of all stage mothers, but that’s not the woman I see.”

LuPone earned a 2008 Tony Award for her Broadway performance of Rose (Photo: Patti LuPone website)

“I see a woman,” write LuPone, who loves her daughters. She’s ferociously driven, but she loves her kids.” LuPone performed the role of Louise (“Gypsy”) as a 15 year old but admits she “didn’t pay any attention to the character of Rose.”

LuPone first played Rose in 2006, and went on to sweep all sorts of 2008 theater awards — including the Tony Award for best actress — for her portrayal of Rose in “Gypsy” on Broadway. “I know,” writes LuPone, that Gypsy will remain one of if not the best experiences I’ve ever had in my career.”

She’ll bring “The Gypsy in My Soul,” a collection of story and song, to Arizona next year — Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on March 3 and UA’s Centennial Hall in Tucson on March 4.

Get your tickets now. Read the book right after. Then mark your calendar for the Phoenix Theatre production of “Gypsy” — which runs March 7-April 1, 2012. I’d love to see LuPone extend her Arizona stay long enough to enjoy opening night.

The only thing better would be having LuPone in the house on April Fool’s Day. By her own admission, LuPone can be a bit reckless. LuPone says she loves to laugh, and it’s clear from even a cursory reading of her memoir that “mischief” could have been her middle name.

— Lynn

Note: Both LuPone and Laura Benanti are nominated for a 2011 Tony Award for “best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical” for work in “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”

Coming up: Feeling blue, Stage meets suffragette, What a difference a move makes

Theater camp can change a life

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.”

Echo Laney (lower left, gold scarf) during a Camp Broadway performance of selections from Fiddler on the Roof (Photo courtesy of ASU Gammage)

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.”

Rehearsals for a former Camp Broadway performance (Photo courtesy of ASU Gammage)

“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.

— Lynn

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®

One singular sensation

Mesa and Phoenix welcome a touring production of "A Chorus Line" this week

Actor Michael Douglas reclaimed the headlines recently after sharing that his throat cancer has been successfuly treated. It’s a great relief to Douglas’ many fans, and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones — who won the 2010 Tony Award for best lead actress in a musical for her performance in “A Little Night Music.”

But did you know that Douglas, perhaps best known for roles in “Fatal Attraction” with Glenn Close and the television series “The Streets of San Francisco,” was in the 1985 “A Chorus Line” film?

“A Chorus Line” is the tale of diverse dancers auditioning for a role in a Broadway musical. Douglas played Kurt, the director auditioning these 17 dancers on a bare stage that leaves them feeling various degrees of vulnerability.

It’s a story with true staying power — as evidenced by its current national tour, produced by NETworks Presentations, which stops this week in the Valley. A final Mesa performance takes place Wed, Jan 12. “A Chorus Line” hits the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix Jan 13-16, thanks to the Theater League.

It’s a “mature audiences only” production with a single act that runs about two hours  — but I consider it perfectly fine for teens, and even some children who are experienced in musical theater. Individual parents are always the best at judging such things.

Lizabeth and I are excited about seeing the show while it’s here, especially since she’s readying to travel from coast to coast to audition for musical theater college programs.

A year or so ago we enjoyed the work of documentary film makers Adam Del Deo and James D. Stearn, who shot more than 500 hours of footage as auditions and casting were underway in New York for the 2006 Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line.”

The resulting film — titled “Every Little Step” — presents a singular glimpse into the rigors of musical theater training and performance. We enjoyed seeing it at the Harkins Camelview 5 near our home, which often features films you can’t easily find in mainstream movie theaters.

Karley Willocks plays "Maggie" in "A Chorus Line" in the Valley through Jan 16

“A Chorus Line” originally opened on Broadway in 1975, and was the longest-running musical in Broadway history until eclipsed by “Cats.” Personally, I favor dancers in leotards over cats who sing and dance — but that’s just me.

The book for “A Chorus Line” was written by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante. Edward Kleban wrote the lyrics and Marvin Hamlisch composed the music. It’s a “must see” musical for musical theater aficionados — and those who love them.

“It’s really a musical about us,” shares dancer and actress Karley Willocks — who performs the role of Maggie in the touring production now on Valley stages. She’s been dancing since her parents enrolled in her tap and ballet classes at the age of three.

Willocks auditioned for her first theater role when she was eight years old, following the lead of her best friend at the time. Her friend wasn’t cast, but Willocks landed the role of orphan “Duffy” in the musical “Annie.”

She spent many years performing with “The Talent Machine” in Annapolis, Maryland — where her favorite shows included “Brigadoon,” “Anything Goes,” and “Pippin.” Willocks also did high school theater before entering the musical theatre program at Shenandoah University in Virginia, where she earned a B.F.A.

Willocks first performed the role of Maggie in a Tennessee production of “A Chorus Line” the summer right after she graduated. “I grew up listening to the soundtrack,” she recalls — and had also seen the movie.

She recommends the musical for anyone whose life is touched by dance or theater — including families with budding performers in their midst. But “A Chorus Line” also appeals to a wider audience.

“It helps to know that these are real stories or real dancers in the ’70s,” reflects Willocks. For her, “A Chrous Line” is about “putting yourself out there — no matter what it takes.”

— Lynn

Note: Watch for a future post offering Willocks’ insights into the college theater program audition process — plus tips from Halley Shefler of The Arts Edge, which offers educational consulting for visual and performing arts students

Coming up: Art-related resources for bullying prevention

Update: Click here to read part two of my interview with Karley Willocks, and to read a “mini-review” of “A Chorus Line” by Mala Blomquist of Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

Standing ovation

Clapping can be serious business

We’ve been to many a show that earned standing ovations–from the touring production of “August: Osage County” at ASU Gammage to Arizona Theatre Company’s “The Glass Menagerie” at the Herberger Theater Center.

Sometimes shows that seem to deserve the honor fail to rouse the crowd. Other times patrons are on their feet for performances that feel uninspiring.

We rarely experience a standing ovation at the movie theater, unless it’s for something like the 1975 cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Rocco Fiorentino has performed with Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder and Elmo

But a “Standing Ovation” of sorts will be coming to movie theaters this week–in the form of a  movie featuring a song and dancefest of young performers ala “Glee” or “High School Musical.”

I’m a bit older than the average fan for this one, but can still appreciate the themes it tackles–including friendship, loyalty, competition, self-doubt and following one’s dreams.

I spoke recently with two of the young performers who appear in the film–both of whom shared with me that they got involved at the suggestion of their voice teacher, Sal Dupree, who plays “Mr. Wiggs” in the movie.

Elevating clapping to a fine art at a 2009 Kinetica Art Fair

It reminded me of the importance of performing arts teachers of all sorts in the lives of young singers, dancers and actors. Lizabeth’s own voice teacher, Michelle Hakala, will soon be off to pursue graduate study and stage work in NYC–and I marvel at all she’s done to enhance Lizabeth’s confidence and technique.

Soon Lizabeth, a senior theater major at Arizona School for the Arts, will be applying for college and conservatory study. Time passes so quickly, and I wonder what it must be like to have a piece of your child’s young life preserved on film.

Babies seem to prefer seated ovations

In most cases, our memories are captured purely, but no less powerfully, by heart.

I always learn something, feel something, discover something when I talk with young performing artists, whether they’re here in the Valley or performing elsewhere on stage or screen.

So it was when I chatted by phone with Alanna Palombo, who plays Alanna Wannabe in “Standing Ovation.”

Alanna Palombo stars in "Standing Ovation"

First, go for it! Alanna says she really didn’t expect to land a part when she auditioned at age six for a community theater production of “Annie,” but she tried out just for practice and was cast as orphan Molly.

From there the career of this 10-year-old triple threat has soared. (It probably didn’t hurt that mom put her in dance lessons at the ripe old age of two–something Palombo took to instantly).

Rocco Fiorentino is a musician and advocate

Second, believe in yourself! Pianist, composer and singer Rocco Fiorentino, a 13-year old “musician and humanitarian” who makes his film debut in “Standing Ovation,” praises the film’s “message of hope and inspiration.”

Fiorentino, who is blind due to premature birth, says the film mirrors his “really positive outlook on life.” His message to young movie-goers? “Do what you want to do,” urges Rocco. “And never give up on your dreams.”

Parents often say these sorts of things to their children, but teens too often meet them with rolling eyes and sighs of disgust. Picture taking your tweens to a movie that might actually help them get the picture.

Anita Blaytron's "Standing Ovation" at the DFW airport in Texas

The importance of family and friendship. The value of hard work and integrity. It’s all here–shining through in “20 original songs, 5 classic tunes and 13 spectacular dance numbers that feature over 100 talented dancers.”

A trip to see “Standing Ovation,” opening Friday, July 16, might be the very thing to inspire your child to find or pursue his or her passion.

In a media landscape riddled with mean girls and lean girls, with rough guys and tough guys–this movie sounds like a perfectly entertaining antidote.


Note: Check out The Little Rock Foundation, a New Jersey non-profit organization established in 1997 that grew out of the frustration Rocco Fiorentino’s parents felt in seeking resources to help children and families affected by blindness or visual impairment. Remember too that local organizations who work with visually-impaired youth and adults need ongoing community support.

Coming up: “Save the dates!” as Valley arts organizations announce upcoming fundraisers, News you can use from the Arizona Commission on the Arts