Category Archives: Dance

Muse on the move

A few of the nifty buttons in the collections that grows each time I hit a museum gift shop

A few nifty buttons from the collection that grows each time I hit a museum gift shop

After years of daily blogging in “Stage Mom” mode, I’ve decided it’s time to pack up and move to a new writing home — a bigger house, if you will, filled with all things theater but also something more.

Think musings on film, dance, music, visual arts and assorted creative adventures in museum and library lands. Plus more guest posts, photos and news of other projects.

Just a few days ago, I made the move to

Like physically packing up possessions and carting them off to a new home, moving from one bit of cyberspace to another rarely goes as planned.

My tech team consists of hubby James, who was game last year when I suggested that a website would make a lovely birthday gift, and a cat who naps through most of her duties.

Armed with only “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to WordPress,” James went to work. It’s a learn by doing enterprise, and so far he’s not only built my new cyberhome, but also flipped the switch on a new blog.

Like the last boxes to get unpacked after a move, new social media components have yet to be put in their proper place. But consider this your invitation to a housewarming party in progess.

You’ll find blogs and/or photos posted each day at

Maybe once the cat gets more involved, we’ll master the finer points of adding buttons for liking Art Musings on Facebook and following Art Musings on Twitter. Seems I’m better at buying buttons than installing them.

Thanks for visiting my new home. I’ll save a seat on the cybercouch for you.

— Lynn

Arizona honors arts & culture volunteerism

Step Raptis and fellow dancers integrate vintage luggage into movement art. Photo: Lynn Trimble

Step Raptis (front/center) and fellow dancers playfully integrated vintage luggage into movement art for last year’s festivities. Photo: Lynn Trimble

Since 1981, 152 artists, individuals, arts and cultural organizations, educators and businesses have received Governor’s Arts Awards in Arizona. The list will grow again come March, as this year’s winners are recognized by peers, patrons and arts professionals attending the 2013 awards ceremony.

Sixty-two nominations from 18 Arizona communities were submitted in six categories for the 32nd annual Governor’s Arts Awards for individuals and businesses who’ve made “substantial and outstanding contributions to arts and culture statewide.”

The Governor’s Arts Awards are presented by Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts in partnership with the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Office of the Governor. Winners are selected by an independent panel of judges and will be announced on Wednesday, March 6 at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.

Balcony view of folks enjoying last year's pre-ceremony auction. Photo: Lynn Trimble

Balcony view of folks enjoying last year’s pre-ceremony auction. Photo: Lynn Trimble

Nominees are noted below by category and hometown…

Artist: Lee Berger, Phoenix; Charles Bruffy, Phoenix; Daniel Buckely, Tucson; Michael Christie, Phoenix; Bobb Cooper, Phoenix; Barbara Dahlstedt, Glendale;  Maria Isabel Delgado, Chandler; Shawn Franks, Phoenix; Deb Gessner, Mayer; Kristine Kollasch, Phoenix; Bruce Marion, Chandler; Fredric Myers, Apache Junction; Monica Saldana, Goodyear; Mike Vax, Dewey; Jim Waid, Tucson.

Arts in Education – Individual: Annica Benning, Scottsdale; Kathryn Blake, Phoenix; Dennis Bourret, Tucson; Simon Donovan, Tucson; Patti Hannon, Phoenix; Marion Kirk Jones, Phoenix; Sherry Koopot, Paradise Valley; Barbara Nueske Perez, Gilbert; Charles St. Clair, Glendale; Joshua Thye, Phoenix.

Arts In Education – Organization: Arizona Dance Education Organization, Phoenix; Copperstar Repertory Company, Chandler; The Glendale Arts Council, Glendale; Lovena Ohl Foundation, Scottsdale; Marshall Magnet Elementary School, Flagstaff; OpendanceAZ, Phoenix; Phoenix Conservatory of Music, Phoenix; The Phoenix Symphony, Phoenix; Sonoran Glass School, Tucson; UAPresents, Tucson; West Valley Conservatory of Ballet, Surprise.

Business: BMO Harris Bank, Phoenix; LDVinci Art Studio, Chandler; Southwest Ambulance, Mesa.

Community: Alwun House Foundation, Phoenix; Contemporary Forum, Phoenix; Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts, Wickenburg; Flagstaff Cultural Partners, Flagstaff; James E. Garcia, Phoenix; KXCI Community Radio, Tucson; Mesa Arts Center, Mesa; Release the Fear, Phoenix; Scottsdale International Film Festival, Scottsdale; Virginia G. Piper Charitable Foundation, Phoenix; Warehouse Arts Management Organization, Tucson; Young Arts Arizona Ltd., Phoenix.

Individual: Marco Albaran, Tempe; James K. Ballinger, Phoenix; Richard A. Bowers, Phoenix; Ted G. Decker, Phoenix; Faith Hibbs-Clark, Phoenix; Kaitlyn Mackay, Glendale; Constance W. McMillin, Sun City; Nichole Newman-Colter, Litchfield; Hope Ozer, Paradise Valley; Rebecca Taylor, Yuma.

Artists and art lovers gathered during last year's awards ceremony. Photo: Lynn Trimble

Artists and art lovers gathered during last year’s awards ceremony. Photo: Lynn Trimble

In addition, the eighth annual Shelley Award will be presented to an Arizona individual who has advanced the arts through strategic and innovative work in creating or supporting public policy beneficial to the arts in Arizona. The award is named for Shelley Cohn, who spent more than 25 years as executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Last year’s shindig was a glorious affair — featuring pre-show performance amidst John Waddell sculptures gracing the Herberger Theater Center outdoor pavilion, and a lovely assortment of on-stage performances during the official ceremony. I’m eager to enjoy another creative take on volunteer recognition and celebrating the arts.

Ticket prices are $135 for members of Arizona Citizens for the Arts and $150 for non-members. Sponsorships are available. Click here for event and reservation details.

— Lynn

Note: Americans for the Arts is accepting applications through Feb. 15 for its “BCA 10” awards honoring businesses what support the arts. Click here for details.

Coming up: Unplugged, Foreign fim four-pack

Childhood meets nanotechnology?

A pair of Project Humanities events taking place today and tomorrow reflect the range of ASU Project Humanities collaborations across disciplines and with the surrounding communities.

Tonight’s “Vital Voices” gathering on “Exploring Childhood” examines how childhood and childhood experiences make us who and what we are. “It’s also an opportunity,” says Project Humanities director Neal A. Lester, Ph.D., “to look at the ways in which children are always in the midst of adult politics.”

What’s particularly interesting about this “Vital Voices” series, adds Lester, is the fact that attendees are being asked to bring something to share. Every voice, says Lester, is vital in talking, listening and connecting.

Vital-Voices-Project-HumaniSo take along a favorite quote, photo, poem or music “that changed or inspired you as a child to become who you are today” — then join the bilingual evening of discussion, performance and sharing featuring the Maryvale High School Classical Guitar Quintet and the Tradiciones Dance Company.

Tonight’s “Vital Voices” dialogue is being facilitated by Xanthia Walker, who co-founded Rising Youth Theatre in Phoenix with fellow artistic director Sarah Sullivan.

Friday’s event is a science/humanities partnership at the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix — home to “Science Café” gatherings that pair a humanist or artist with a scientist to “discuss the implications and imaginations of the future city.”

Lester notes that tomorrow’s discussion, sponsored by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU, addresses “Learning in the Nano City.” Featured speakers are Adriene Janik and Dee Dee Falls.

Presenters note that learning platforms such as gaming, interactive global classrooms and other technology-enabled systems are allowing people to learn and share information in new ways — while most formal classrooms continue to relay information using one-way delivery systems.

Friday’s discussion will explore this discrepancy and its implications. Attending both Project Humanities events will leave you feeling a bit like something we lovingly refer to around our house as a “smarticle particle.”

— Lynn

Note: If I was hitting tonight’s event, my “show and tell” might be a favorite saying — It’s better to travel than to arrive. I’m scheduled to review a concert instead, but perhaps I’ll come home with new inspirations.

Coming up: I’m a little bit country

Nominate an arts volunteer

Governor Brewer (center) will recipients of the 11th annual service and volunteerism awards (Photo: Office of the Arizona Governor)

Governor Brewer (left of center) with recipients of the 11th annual Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards (Photo: Office of the Arizona Governor)

Nominations are being accepted through Tuesday, Jan. 15 for the Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards, which are designed to promote an ethic of service and volunteerism — plus recognize volunteer efforts that strengthen communities and improve quality of life for Arizonans.

Nominating your favorite arts and culture volunteer and/or organization is a nifty way to remind folks of the tremendous contributions arts and culture make to vibrant communities and thriving economies, and to show volunteers their work is genuinely valued and appreciated.

Nominations are invited in eight categories — four individual (adult, lifetime achievement, national service and youth) and four group (large, nonprofit, small organization and youth group).

A statewide panel of judges will recommend the award recipients, and nominators can give the panel permission to share their nomination with the Hon Kachina council, which also honors Arizona volunteers.

The Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism will host a reception to honor the 12th Annual Award recipients in April.

Click here for all the lovely fine print — and please consider making time in your busy day to nominate a worthy individual and/or group.

A bit of time spent on paperwork is a small sacrifice compared to countless hours contributed by Arizona’s amazing community of arts and culture volunteers.

— Lynn

Coming up: Fun with fabric art

Dance meets crayon

Jamal Rashann Callender (Harold) in "Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure" (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Jamal Rashann Callender (Harold) in “Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure” performed by Hubbard Street 2 (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

We remember the year 1955 for many things. Rosa Park refused to sit at the back of the bus. Elvis Presley first performed on the Ed Sullivan show. Disneyland opened in Southern California. The first microwave oven was sold. Tennessee Williams won a Pulitzer Prize for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

And a curious 4-year-old came to life in author Crockett Johnson’s “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” which kids are reading nearly 60 years later in Kindle, paperback and hardcover editions. There’s even an hour-long interactive adaptation, which comes to the University of Arizona in Tucson at 4pm on Sunday, Jan. 27.

Hubbard Street 2 performs "Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure" (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Hubbard Street 2 performs “Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure” (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure,” choreographed by Terence Marling and Robyn Mineko Williams, is being performed by Hubbard Street 2 — part of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, which perfoms Jan. 25 & 26 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The contemporary dance work is directed by Taryn Kashock Russell and features music by Andrew Bird.

A “Performance Study Guide” for families and educators details each of the work’s 15 scenes, and offers suggestions for watching, listening, guessing and imagining throughout the performance. Bios for eight dancers (including favorite animals, pies, colors, sports and such) are featured as well.

Jamal Rashann Callender (Harold) in "Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure" performed by Hubbard Street 2 (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Jamal Rashann Callender (Harold) in “Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure” performed by Hubbard Street 2 (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

The guide offers tips for before, during and after the performance — plus ways to “think like a choreographer.” There’s a page filled with dance-related vocabulary and another explaining various jobs within a dance company (artistic director, stage manager, wardrobe supervisor and more). Even pages for children who enjoy coloring or word find puzzles.

I learned of Hubbard’s “Harold” time in Arizona through the January 2013 issue of “Arizona Dance e-Star,” a publication of the Arizona Dance Coalition — which features a comprehensive calendar of dance events, master classes, workshops, auditions and more. Click here to explore it for yourself, then grab your purple crayon so you can print that baby and circle all your favorite offerings.

— Lynn

Note: Hubbard Street’s Scottsdale performances features 2012 “Winter Series” works, including “Untouched” (2010) by Canadian choreographer Aszure Burton and “Casi-Casa” (2009) by Swedish choreographer Mats Ek.  Also  “Blanco” (2010) and “PACOPEPEPLUTO” (2011) — a pair of works by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo.

Coming up: Sister tales

Gershwin beats Gangnam

Granted, “Gangnam Style” has more views on YouTube than Gershwin brothers George and Ira. But that’s only because iThings weren’t invented during the Gershwins’ reign as masters of musical theater.

Being an Internet sensation is nice work if you can get it, but such fame is fickle. The Gershwins’ work, which dominated Broadway during the 1920s and 1930s, is still with us today in the current Broadway musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

Seems that iThings everywhere are filled with Gershwin songs from “An American in Paris” to “Someone to Watch Over Me.” But you’ll never see Audra McDonald going Gangnam style on Broadway.

If you’re feeling a certain nostalgia for songs that feel fresh and innocent, for lyrics that tackle quaint topics like true love, it’s time to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the music of George and Ira Gershwin.

Kyle Erickson Hewitt and Kaitlynn Kleinman. Photo courtesy of Phoenix Theatre.

Kyle Erickson Hewitt and Kaitlynn Kleinman. Photo courtesy of Phoenix Theatre.

A nifty new musical revue called “ ‘S Wonderful” is being performed by Phoenix Theatre through Sunday, Jan. 6. It features five vignettes with charming themes that span five spaces and places — NYC in 1916, Paris in the ‘30s, Hollywood in the ‘40s, New Orleans in the ‘50s and today.

Together they include 42 Gershwin songs, all beautifully sung by a cast of five who rock the reminiscence vibe.

‘S Wonderful” stars Kaitlynn Kleinman, Kyle Erickson Hewitt, Jenny Hintze, Jenn Taber and Toby Yatso — who couple enormous energy and talent that brings Gershwin to life for even the Gangnam generation.

‘S Wonderful” was conceived and written by Ray Roderick with musical arrangements by Rick Hip-Flores, the only man who could make a set list longer than Springsteen‘s seem to fly by far too quickly.

The show is a lovely choice for youth hoping to up their musical theater quotient, couples eager to enjoy a bit of retro romance (bring a red rose) and those who grew up with the Gershwins’ music.

In addition to the marvelous song and dance fest, I enjoyed seeing how Gershwin lyrics reflect earlier views held by and about women.

‘S Wonderful” is directed and choreographed by Robert Kolby Harper. Think slow dancing, jitterbug, tap and more (complete with tips for three dance styles in the program for those of you who like to try such things at home).

Music direction is by Alan Ruchs, who did conducting/piano duty the night I saw the show with daughter Lizabeth (who tells me it gave her a new appreciation for Gershwin works). Mark Stolper played drums and Chris Rose the bass.

Lighting (Mike Eddy), scenic (Carey Wong) and costume (CeCe Sickler) design are all exceptional. Think giant bass and treble clefs, graceful swirls of musical staffs and rich shades of colors like violet and teal.

Sure, Psy is a snappy dresser. But he’s got nothing on Phoenix Theatre.

— Lynn

Note: “Of Thee I Sing,” the first musical to earn a Pulitzer Prize in drama, featured book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and music by George Gershwin. Click here to explore The Library of Congress “Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.”

Coming up: Art your veggies, The many faces of memory

Do you Junkanoo?

MIM exhibit featuring The Bahamas' Junkanoo Festival. Photo courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum.

MIM exhibit featuring The Bahamas’ Junkanoo Festival. Photo courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum.

The closest most of us have been to The Bahamas’ famed Junkanoo Festival is time spent with films featuring snippets of the musical street parade. A little ditty called “After the Sunset” — with a cast including Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson and Don Cheadle — gave filmgoers a taste of Junkanoo in 2004, as did “Jaws: The Revenge” in 1987.

I’m told some fine folks in The Bahamas helped create an off-season version for filming purposes when a James Bond film called “Thunderball” came to town, since movie types weren’t there during the actual festival — which typically takes place between Boxing Day (Dec. 26) and New Year’s Day (Jan. 1). And that the Musical Instrument Museum is bringing a taste of Junkanoo to Phoenix next weekend.

Featured MIM story time book. Photo courtesy of Matthew Gollub.

Featured MIM story time book. Photo courtesy of Matthew Gollub.

The MIM’s got all sorts of things planned for families on Saturday, Jan. 5 — and all are free with paid museum admission. Kids can use recycled materials to make drums and masks ala Junkanoo during a 10am-3pm costume & instrument craft session. From 10am-4pm that day, the MIM is doing jazz and masquerade-theme mini-tours.

Docents will be leading tours with a jazz and Junkanoo theme — featuring instruments from the Smithsonian Institution and other collections. Tours will highlight instruments from American jazz history. There’s even time set aside for kids to parade around the museum with the ASU Dixie Devils, and story times dedicated to reading Matthew Gollub’s “The Jazz Fly.”

“It’s a great way to do activities as a family together and learn about something different,” notes Carly Shaw, MIM education manager. Though the origins of Junkanoo, and today’s Boxing Day holiday (still celebrated in Canada, England, Wales and Ireland) aren’t completely clear, they’re perfectly good excuses for those of you still eager to do a holiday happy dance.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for more information on MIM’s Jan. 5 Family Day

Coming up: All that jazz, Art your vegetables

Gala meets pajamas

KVKI was barely seven years old when “The Graduate,” the film that first made Dustin Hoffman famous, was released. It’s not the sort of film you show your grade schooler, so I’d be another decade or so before I discovered the power of Hoffman’s performance art.

“Kramer vs. Kramer” was among the first films to truly affect me. Perhaps because I was a child of divorce and an unfortunate series of stepfathers. I still remember tears flowing down my face while watching Hoffman and co-star Meryl Streep battle for custody of their young son. They’re far and away my favorite American actors.

Rain Man film posterBut it’s “Rain Man” that tops my list of favorite films, in part because Hoffman captured so exquisitely the innocence and charm of a grown man deemed by others a mere oddity and annoyance. Mothers of special needs children readily see their radiance, but others rarely look hard enough to find it. Hoffman’s Raymond is a rare pearl.

Hoffman was selected by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts — along with Buddy Guy, David Letterman, Natalia Makarova and Led Zeppelin — as a 2012 Kennedy Center Honoree. Medallions were awarded during a Dec. 1 ceremony, but the gala held Dec. 2 is being broadcast tonight on CBS so folks who appreciate the work can experience the celebration.

Material gifts exchanged during the holiday season are all good and fine, but I’m grateful to these artists for gifts shared with millions over the course of many years. Where diverse arts and culture thrive, so too do democratic societies that inspire us all to greater flights of imagination and creativity. And nothing beats a gala you can enjoy in your pajamas.

— Lynn

Note: “Quartet,” which marks Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, opens next month. It’s based on the stage play by Ronald Harwood.

Coming up: “Last chance” art exhibits

Mayor honors Phoenix artists

Scorpius Dance Theatre must be doing their happy dance after receiving one of five Mayor's Arts Awards from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton during Phoenix Festival of the Arts

Scorpius Dance Theatre must be doing their happy dance after receiving one of five Mayor’s Arts Awards presented at Phoenix Festival of the Arts

I’m what you might call a late convert. Though I moved three decades ago from California to Arizona with my husband James, I never felt truly connected to the state until I began exploring Arizona arts and culture, which is distinguished in both its breadth and depth of offerings.

For those truly passionate about arts and culture, no justification of their existence is needed. But we’re living in a time dominated by national conversations about the relative merits of austerity and investment. So folks who favor arts for arts sake need to do more than simply love art. They need to demonstrate its merits.

I’ve heard Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton speak several times about the role of arts and culture in building vibrant communities, citing concrete examples of the economic impact arts in Phoenix has on the city’s growth and development — including construction inspired by revitalization along Roosevelt Row.

Investments in arts and culture increase tourism revenue, create jobs in creative industries and attract businesses eager to settle in communities that provide a rich quality of life for employees. And they create more opportunities for youth to develop skills like critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration through the arts.

When thoughts of leaving Arizona cross my mind, I call two families to mind. My husband’s parents, whose roots in Arizona go back much farther than my own, and my arts family — all the amazing artists I’ve met while exploring Arizona museums, galleries, theaters and other venues from coffee shops to concert halls.

Folks eager to get a feel for Phoenix arts and culture can head to Margaret T. Hance Park near the Burton Barr Library in central Phoenix today for Phoenix Festival of the Arts, which runs through 5pm. It’s a free event featuring live entertainment, art exhibits and more — even the chance to help paint a community mural.

Mayor Stanton attended the 3-day festival yesterday afternoon, and presented five recipients with Mayor’s Arts Awards Scorpius Dance Theatre (dance organization award), Downtown Chamber Series (music organization award), Rising Youth Theatre (theater award), Hugo Medina (public art award) and Eugene Grigsby (visual artist award).

I’m delighted that Mayor Stanton appreciates the role of arts and culture in fostering strong communities, but none of us should imagine for an instant that his support alone can move the cause of greater investments in arts and culture forward. We’ve all got to advocate each and every day within our own spheres of influence.

Learn more about championing the cause of Arizona arts and culture from  Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts, and save the date for the next Arizona Arts Congress taking place Monday, Feb. 4 at the Arizona State Capitol.

— Lynn

Note: The next Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony takes place March 6, 2013 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. Nominations are being accepted in six categories through 5pm on Friday, Dec. 14. Click here for details.

Coming up: Musings on mural art

Starbound dancers

Starbound National Dance Competition flew out to Arizona for a regional competition in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Pictures: Two of many participating dancers from Desert Star Dance in Gilbert.

Dancers from Desert Star Dance in Gilbert. Photo courtesy of Desert Star Dance.

The competition that cares about kids and never cancels. That’s the tagline for Starbound National Talent Competition based in Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey. I’m clueless when it comes to New Jersey geography, but figured having “Harbor” in the name didn’t bode well in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. If ever there was good reason to cancel, that was it.

I called the Starbound folks to confirm they’d still be traveling our way in November for a regional competition at Higley Center for the Performing Arts. To their credit, the event was still a go. When I got to HCPA, where I try to attend each year’s school tour of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, I found the center filled with dancers in sparkly costumes and parents helping them get to and fro.

Come Fly With Me by Desert Star Dance.

Come Fly With Me by Desert Star Dance.

Everyone we met from Starbound was gracious and welcoming — sharing a copy of their program and inviting us to watch the dancers perform. The atmosphere in the lobby felt casual and friendly as folks shopped at a dance-theme boutique, reviewed pictures taken during earlier segments of the competition and talked about their plans for the day.

I hit the competition with Betsy Kammerle, a friend and dance teacher who’s drafted much of a dance book I’m still struggling to find time to edit, and we settled in to enjoy a couple hours of performance. Some parents, including many donning their own version of bling, talked and roamed freely while dancers were on stage. They were no less fascinating to watch.

With the popularity of shows like “Dance Moms,” we’re working to get a feel for the world of youth dance competitions. Seems everyday dance moms are tired of being typecast as something between a diva and a demon. Almost every conversation we’ve had with dance parents begins with some variation on this sentence — It’s nothing like Dance Moms. In plenty of cases, I’d have to agree.

Still, we did encounter some costumes, music and choreography we found troubling. Too much skin showing. Too much booty shaking. Too many suggestive song lyrics. And too many girls going for sex appeal. We’re over fifty. We’re fans of black leotards. We’re big on age-appropriate performance and proper technique — which we also found during the competition.

Dancers from Come Fly With Me by Desert Star Dance.

Dancers from Come Fly With Me by Desert Star Dance.

Our favorite performance by far was “Come Fly With Me” performed by students from Desert Star Dance in Gilbert. We loved the choreography, technique, choice of theme/music and overall vibe of the dancers. They worked well together as a group, and we got the feeling they knew it was a team effort rather than a staged opportunity for simultaneously showing off. The suitcases they used were well-integrated into the piece rather than mere props for pretty’s sake.

Betsy checked the Starbound website after the fact and learned they had an 8th place finish in their category. Other studios were named more often as winners, but I was intrigued by this school’s performance and wanted to learn more. Turns out the director shared much of her dance philosophy in a blog post published soon after the competition, and graciously agreed that I could share my favorite portions with you.

I don’t take my students to competition to “win,” writes Ann Bode. “I go to showcase our work, give the kids a chance to enjoy performing, and perhaps get some valuable feedback. I usually come away with that, and I also get a chance to see what other dance studios in the area are doing.”

“I definitely experience some positive things  — getting to be with the families I serve and seeing my students dance,” continues Bode. “However, on occasion I  leave feeling like an outcast or the red headed stepchild. That’s fine because I get a renewed sense of who I am, what my studio philosophies are, and why I teach dance in the first place.”

Come Fly With Me by Desert Star Dance.

Come Fly With Me by Desert Star Dance.

“I don’t come from a pageant background,” she explains, “and did not grow up when studios were teaching the stuff I see at competitions today. Some of this stuff looks to me like a cross between acrobats, contortionist movement, pageantry, and over the top facial expressions mixed with a few turns and jumps.” Bode reflects that “there doesn’t appear to be a lot of dance.”

When first enrolling my own daughters in dance classes, I was looking for experiences filled with joy, creative movement and camaraderie. I expected they’d have fun with dance, make friends with similar interests and develop skills they could use for a lifetime. Competition was the last thing on my mind.

One danced just a few years, felled by flat feet. The other for a decade. I didn’t choose studios with a competition track. But it’s not my place to judge parents who go there.

I appreciate the fact that families, dancers, studios and dance teachers differ — and I’m grateful, along with Betsy, for the competitions that welcome us to come and learn more about what they do.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about helping families in New Jersey and other regions still facing post-Sandy challenges

Coming up: Ready, set, paint!