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Laura Anne Rodriguez is having a great year here at ADC!  This is her fifth season dancing with us and she is currently a member of the Mini Company.  In addition to her Mini Company classes she takes class in the youth program.  We’ve noticed a real change in Laura Anne’s dancing this year.  Her hard work is certainly paying off, her technique is strengthening, and she continually applies corrections with enthusiasm.  She has also been very helpful to her classmates, especially in the youth program classes.  Congratulations, Laura Anne!  We are very proud of you.

How old are you? 10

What grade are you in? 3rd grade

What is your favorite dance style? Ballet because I like how pretty it is.

Tell us a fun fact about you?  I’m bilingual and I like to sing!

 

Ms. Mary Ann is the only faculty member other than Ms. Charlotte who has been at Atlanta Dance Central since it’s opening in 2009.  Most of our families and students know her best through ballet and contemporary classes.  Her traditional approach to the classical technique and her eye for detail is what gives the students such great training!  Teaching dance isn’t Ms. Mary Ann’s only specialty, she’s also an incredible seamstress.

For the past several seasons, Ms. Mary Ann has been ordering very basic ballet costumes for the ART company productions.  Once the base comes in, she transforms the costumes by adding flowers, rhinestones, and more. The costumes really come to life on stage and become amazing masterpieces.  Dancers end up wearing professional level costumes that look simply amazing!

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Last year’s youth program recital ballet production had an “under the sea” theme.  If you saw it, you may remember that one of the groups danced as jellyfish, holding umbrellas decorated with tentacles.  The LED lights made the jellyfish glow!  Who was responsible for transforming some simple umbrellas into magical underwater jellyfish?  Ms. Mary Ann of course!

This year’s new creation that you’ve seen at the front desk is crocheted bun covers.  All of the bun covers are hand crocheted and designed by Ms. Mary Ann.  She has fun naming each exclusive design, and creating new designs depending on the season.  We love seeing the new designs, especially when they show up in the dance studio.

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Ms. Mary Ann makes costumes, props, and hair accessories more fun for all of us with her unique embellishments.  When it comes to creativity, she is the queen!  We can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

FullSizeRender (24)As I was beginning to choreograph my recital dances last week I started thinking of all of the things that go into choreographing.  Recital is one of my favorite days of the year because the students have their one shot to show what they have been working for the past 9 months.  Team activities often have weekly games where parents can regularly see their student’s hard work, but in dance we get one weekend.  There is so much more that happens behind the scenes than what parents get to see on recital day.  Here are some things that go into recital choreography.

  1. Finding the balance between challenges and confidence.  Often times the choreography you see on stage in the spring doesn’t accurately represent all of the things the students have been working on in the classroom.  The reason is because students can accomplish difficult skills in the classroom, but it can be challenging to remember those skills within choreography.  When I choreograph my recital dances in January, I try to think of steps that will challenge the dancers so they continue to grow.  I mix that up with moves I know they are already comfortable with because I want them to perform with confidence!
  2. Making sure every child has their chance in the spotlight.  Starting from a young age I can feel the air leave the room when I start setting formations.  Every student wants to be front and center.  In all honesty, I don’t think much about how I set the formations.  Usually I do it according to height.  When dancers get older sometimes I think about their strengths and put them in groups according to their strengths.  Overall, I believe that every dancer deserves a chance in the spotlight.  It makes them assume responsibility for the choreography, but most importantly it makes them feel valued.
  3. Putting together movement that is fun and creative!  The students perform better when they are inspired by the dance.  Whether it’s the overall idea for the dance or that they really enjoy the movement, I try to make the dance as fun or inspiring for them as possible.  I love watching students fall in love with what they are doing.  People like watching dancers that look like they love what they are doing.  This means I may not choreograph a dance filled with the hardest tricks set to a fun song.  I don’t want my dancers looking stressed out when they are performing, I want them dancing from their hearts.

Choreography isn’t an easy task.  Dances have to be creative, enjoyable to perform, and performed with confidence.  The process of learning and performing choreography teaches students so many different lessons, and we value each one of those lessons as teachers.  We can’t wait to share our choreography with you this spring!

Behind the Scenes Recital Themes!We love recital planning.  In fact, we love it so much that we start planning our recital in October!  We start by picking a theme for the recital, followed by costumes and music.  Once everything is picked out we are ready to begin choreography with our classes in January.

The youth recital has an overall theme which this year is: “Beyond Belief: Imagine the Possibilities.”  Based on conversations we’re having in the staff meeting it sounds like we’re having the most creative recital ever.  Ideas are flying and our teachers are having a blast collaborating.

Additionally, each style of dance (jazz, tap, ballet, etc…) has it’s own theme.  All of the levels within that style do a dance within the theme to create a bunch of mini productions!  It’s always cool to see different levels dance next to each other to see the progression of our students.  Here are some of the themes for our recital productions this year:

  • Jazz classes are all superheroes: Each jazz class will have a super power that inspires the theme of the class dance.
  • Contemporary classes are all fairy tales: The fairy tales and characters we picked for the contemporary classes are Jack and the Bean Stalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Each class is taught by a different faculty member, and we already have ideas about how our dances will tie together.
  • The Tap theme is out of this world: As in, we’re having a space themed tap production.  Our tap dances will take you into outer space to check out the galaxy.
  • Mythical Creatures will grace the stage: You read that correctly.  Ballet is our largest program and by far our largest production.  Each of the ballet classes will represent a different mythical creature.  Think fairies, ghosts, dragons, and more!  The musical selection is sure to keep our audience on their toes.

Our imaginations are soaring with this year’s recital planning and we know the creativity will come across on the stage in May.  We also plan on sharing more behind the scenes looks on recital, why we love recital, and even what goes into choreographing a routine.

All that being said, mark your calendars for our most exciting recital yet:  ADC’s youth recital is Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13 at Blessed Trinity High School.

Congratulations to Evie Rasco, our December Student of the Month!

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We first met Evie last fall when her family moved to the Roswell area.  She started out taking a couple of classes per week in our youth program and her bright personality stood out immediately.  In May Evie auditioned for the Atlanta Rising Talent company and was accepted into the Mini Company.  Her transition into the mini company has been extremely smooth and she makes friends with her classmates easily.  Despite being a young dancer, Evie works extremely hard in class and pushes herself to be better than the class before.  We are proud of Evie’s hard work and determination.

Fun facts about Evie:

  • Her favorite style of dance is ballet.
  • At school her favorite subject is English, and she loves to read books from the Narnia series.
  • Evie’s favorite holiday is Christmas! (Which is perfect since she is our December Student of the month).
  • Her favorite food is grilled cheese.

Congratulations again, Evie!

 

Fun fact about Ms. Charlotte (that you probably already know): Ms. Charlotte loves the holidays!  You can probably tell by the way she decorates the studio, but we have some other holiday traditions that make the season bright each year!

  1. Once Upon A Holiday! This fun filled show has been a tradition since before the studio opened!  Since brining the show to Roswell a few years ago, we’ve made Once Upon A Holiday the kick off to the holiday season.  This year we had over 150 Atlanta Dance Central cast members that worked together to pull off the largest show we have ever had.  The best part was it made us feel more connected as a dance family.  This tradition will be around for years to come.
  2. ADC Holiday Cards! Each year ADC mails out hundreds of holiday cards to the Roswell community, including current ADC families and alumni!  A couple of years ago we added to the tradition by having each of the faculty members take a photo with their students to make them into a collage on our holiday card.  It’s so much fun taking the pictures and putting them all together!  Then the faculty races to see who can sign the cards first (Ms. Charlotte won this year!) before they go out to you in the mail.img_7630
  3. Atlanta Rising Talent Holiday Performances! Each year the Junior, Teen, and Senior members of Atlanta Rising Talent re-learn holiday dances to perform around the community.  The cool thing is that the dances were first created by the original company members and have been passed down through the generations.  Company members spread cheer throughout the Roswell community at local elementary schools and retirement homes.  The students always have fun putting smiles on their audience members, young and old!
  4. fullsizerender-22Dancer ornaments! Each of our students gets to take home an ADC ornament with their name on it as a holiday gift.  What you may not know is that Ms. Charlotte hand paints each of their names on the ornaments before they go up on the trees in the lobby!  She absolutely loves making the ornaments and decorating the trees.  It is always fun to lets the young students out of class to find their ornament, and their little faces light up with joy when they find them!
  5. Adopt A Family:  Our dancers and families have been helping us sponsor a family for the holidays for years!  This year we were able to adopt and fully sponsor a family of 8.  The coolest thing about adopt a family is that the ADC community always goes above and beyond when bringing in gifts for the family.  People end up dropping off what they signed up for, and a little bit extra.  Gifts fill up our back offices until it is time to get dropped off.  This tradition is one that always fills our hearts.
  6.  New this year: 12 Days of Giveaways!  This year we decided to start a new tradition by having 12 days of giveaways.  We put all of our student’s names into a pool and each day we randomly select the names of the winners!  We’re only in our second week of doing it but we have already seen students excited to check to see if they are a winner.  We will definitely be keeping this tradition in the future.

We love remembering the reason for the season and spreading joy, love, and cheer through all of our holiday traditions!  Happy holidays from all of us here at ADC!

11580_10101464897725261_4890509753816452041_nThe other night I sat down in the theater, took my Mrs. Claus costume off of the hanger and sighed as I put on my pointe shoes.  This is my seventh year performing in Once Upon A Holiday, which means I’ve performed as Mrs. Claus 24 times.  There have been several times where I’ve thought to myself, “Aren’t you too old to be skipping around the stage waving a wand around?”  Then I put my tiara on and grace the stage with my smile anyway.

I walked to the stage in my Mrs. Claus leotard paired with sweatpants and topped by my skirt.  As I approached to help with a class preparing for rehearsal, they gasped, “Are you Mrs. Claus?!”  I replied, “I sure am!”  One of the little girls who is performing in the show for the very first time this year looked up at me and smiled, “Ms. Andrea, you’re going to be a REALLY great Mrs. Claus.”  I laughed to myself because my student was pumping me up as if it was my first year performing the show.  That little girl is holding the magic of this entire experience.

Here’s the thing: I enjoy being Mrs. Claus.  I enjoy finding new ways to bring the character to life, and it’s nice to perform in a non-serious role as a professional dancer.  Every year I have the opportunity to share the stage with my students and watch them grow through the various roles of the show.  I experience the magic of their first performances and create memories with them that will hopefully last a lifetime.

As a cast we all pull together to bring the excitement of Once Upon A Holiday to everyone in the audience.  We become a team of performers who have all worked hard to bring joy to parents, friends, teachers, and the community.  The students get to see the value of hard work, they get to build their confidence, see teamwork in action, and take pride in their accomplishments.  We don’t just put this show on by ourselves.  The show is put on by the entire ADC family: teachers, students, husbands, friends, and all of the parents that volunteer their time to help everything come together smoothly.

My little student reminded me of that magic the other night.  She reminded that this isn’t just another box to check or tech week to get through.  This is a time to take a deep breath and enjoy that we get to take a break from the routine.  It’s a time to feel the love and excitement of the season and grow together as a performance family.  How thankful I am that I get to be part of creating that magic each season.

Happy opening night everyone!  Judging by how amazing this week has been, it’s going to be a wonderful show.

img_7254In this year’s ART Company ballet, the Micro Mini Company is performing what we have been calling “The Goat Dance.”  The dance is an upbeat celebratory ballet that is perfect for their age group.  In effort to make ballet more accessible to our younger students, Ms. Mary Ann decided that each Micro Mini would be accompanied by a goat friend.

Once the goats arrived in the studio, Ms. Mary Ann wanted to find a way for each of the students to be happy with the goat they received.  We didn’t want goat envy or disappointment.  The wheels in her brain started turning and she came up with a genius idea.  The dancers wouldn’t choose the goats, the goats would choose the dancer!

Next, Ms. Mary Ann came up with a name and a story for each goat.  She thought about their individual characteristics and carefully paired them up with one of the students.  Each goat wrote a note to the student they chose to be their partner introducing themselves and telling their story.

The day of the goat ceremony arrived and the goats were packed into a holding pen.  Ms. Mary Ann and Ms. Charlotte escorted the goats into the dance studio while the Micro Minis waited patiently.  The goat sorting ceremony was complete with a song, “Ohhh, who’s billy goat is this?”  One by one, Ms. Mary Ann read the cards the goats had written to their future partner.  As each partner was revealed, the room erupted in celebration!

We’d like to give Ms. Mary Ann some major credit for creating a special way to keep the students excited about their ballet dance.  She went above and beyond with creating the names, stories, and the enthusiasm behind the entire event.  The ceremony was a special event for the Micro Minis, and we can’t wait to see how well they perform with their goats this spring.

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20161025_164554We are proud to announce Cailyn Brown as the October student of the month. This is Cailyn’s first year at Atlanta Dance Central and she is already making a great first impression in her Hip Hop Basics class. Since the first day of class Cailyn has had a great positive “can-do” attitude and a has been an excellent role model to her fellow students. Cailyn is a hard working student and we are so ecstatic to have the pleasure of seeing her each week.

A few weeks ago while learning Hip Hop Basics’ Once Upon a Holiday dance, Cailyn got stomach ache and sadly had to sit down the rest of class. Cailyn wanted to be prepared for the next week and said she would watch and learn the dance to be ready for the next week. When Cailyn came into class the following week she knew all the choreography that had been reviewed and was ready to go!

Cailyn’s dedication to dance is amazing and we are so glad to have her a part of the ADC family this year. Keep up the marvels work Cailyn!
Q: What is your Favorite Food?
A: Strawberry Ice Cream

Q: Why do you Like to dance?
A: I like to move my body to the music and come in and learn new dance moves

Q: What are you going to be for Halloween?
A: Shopkins Cupcake Queen

Q: What is your favorite fall activity?
A: Trick or Treating

img_0824What began as a “sure I can do that” weekend workshop has developed into something much bigger than I ever imagined. The Foster-Schmidt Dance Academy (now named Physio-Jazz) has become my passion, my drive, my puzzle, my challenge, and my inspiration. I never expected that classes for students with Down syndrome would be so rewarding and yet, it’s the most wonderful surprise of my life.

Why did I decide to develop the program? Though I’d love to have a grand story, I don’t: It just found me unexpectedly. I have a family friend (Vince) with a son (Jonas) who has Down syndrome. I met Jonas in 2006 when I helped with a tennis workshop that Vince had launched for students with Down syndrome. I really enjoyed the experience and when Vince asked me to do a dance workshop in Atlanta, I said “sure I can do that”, not thinking much about it. It would be fun.

We held three weekend workshops over the course of a 2 year period and then I opened Atlanta Dance Central.  At ADC, I had the opportunity to expand the program to provide a weekly class and so I decided to offer an art, dance, and music therapy 6-week class because . . . it would be fun.

(Fun Fact: I had 6 students in the 6-week class. Several of them are now members of the Foster-Schmidt Dance Company 7 years later.)

The “fun” class was not what the parents wanted. They wanted a “real dance class” with a recital dance and technique. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I knew NOTHING about that. I offered this program because it would be fun but now this was getting serious. They believed that I could do it but I was unsure. I’m out of my league, I thought. I don’t want to mess this up.

So I did what I always do when I am unsure about something. I began an obsessive search to find books or materials that would tell me how to do it: An instruction manual, a syllabus, a program, a person – anything or anyone who could tell me what to do? These students and parents were counting on me and I wanted to provide the class that they wanted.

Unfortunately, my quest for information came up short. Boston Ballet (who had a strong developed program) was working on a resource but it wasn’t available yet. There were books with the characteristics and learning styles of students with Down syndrome, but there wasn’t a clear cut, this-is-how-you-do-it, syllabus. It was up to me to figure out how to apply the information that I did have to the dance classroom.

This became one of the biggest challenges I ever faced as a teacher and my love-affair with puzzles and problem solving was ignited. I was going to figure this out and create a dance class for students with Down syndrome using my own intuition and the limited information that I had as a guide. I was going to try my best because that was really all that their parents were asking of me . . . to give it a try . . . to say Yes.

My classroom became somewhat of a science lab, where we would try something new (an experiment) and see what happens. Note the results and evaluate. Continue doing it or scrap it and try something new. There were just as many failed experiments as successful ones. Each one taught me something new and made me grow into a much better, more attuned teacher than I ever thought I would be. I found this process fun, invigorating, exciting, and inspiring and most importantly, I found that I was making a difference. Our once-a-week dance class was giving these students stronger muscles and coordination while also developing their focus, social skills, and appropriate behaviors.

Ten years later, I’m so thankful that I said yes to the weekend workshop and that I accepted the challenge to develop a “real dance class” at ADC.  At that time, I had no idea that parents of children with Down syndrome were hearing NO all the time. My “Yes” to trying was all they needed. They didn’t need me to be perfect and to have all the answers.

And now that is my number one rule for my students in class: Try your best.

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