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With every new season comes new students who aren’t sure how they feel about dance.  They are usually first time students who are nervous about trying something new, especially between the ages of 3 – 7.  As a dance teacher, these students push me to be the absolute best teacher I can be.  That way if they don’t end up continuing with dance, I know that dance just wan’t their thing!

Last season my challenge was a cute little three year old.  She tip toed into the classroom, not because I had taught her to, because she was shy.  One of the magical things about teaching three year olds is that in most cases they immediately look at me with a love filled gaze.  To them, I am a real life ballerina!  This particular student wasn’t buying it.  She looked at me with doubt in her eyes. She gave me a “who are you?” look.  The “I don’t have to do what you say because you are a complete stranger” look.  At the end of the first class I told my assistant that I was determined to have this three year old fall in love with dance.

Weeks went by and I got the same look.  While other students were starting to share with me and talk to me, she still looked at me like I was crazy.  I pulled out all of my teaching tricks and personalities trying to get this little one to like me.  Things were getting personal!  (Just kidding, but seriously.)  At the start of December I was beginning to feel like maybe she just didn’t enjoy dancing.  Maybe she would be happier playing soccer in the spring!

Then the miracle of the holiday season kicked in.  Literally THE class before holiday break this student galloped into the classroom with a smile.  She shared during share time, she held my hand during our circle warm up.  Most importantly, she looked like she was having a blast during every little combination and exercise!  It warmed my heart to see that she had been in love with what she was doing the whole time, she was just afraid to share it.  Ever since that moment, she has come to class with a smile.

Another new student this year joined my class without having ever danced before.  This student is naturally talented, very coordinated, and when she has her mind set on something she gets it every time.  The problem is since this is her first year dancing, she isn’t very confident.  At the beginning of the year she came to most classes looking a little grumpy.  Most of the time I redirect students to something exciting so they will forget they are nervous, so I started doing that with her when she began in the fall.

With each class I tried to find a way to get her to feel more confident when working on new skills or combinations.  Some days I would even have her demonstrate or start by casually saying “you’re going to be really good at this!” before explaining the exercise.  I wasn’t lying, I knew she WOULD be good at it.  It’s taken a while, but this student’s attitude about dance has completely transformed throughout this season.  She comes to class excited, her gorgeous smile is contagious, and last week she even….wait for it… GAVE ME A HUG!  This may not seem like an accomplishment, but it was.

Some students take time to develop their sense of safety, confidence, and love for dance in the classroom.  When it all comes together and a student falls in love with dance (no matter what age they are) it makes everything we do as teachers worth it.  We will continue trying everything we can to connect with students and make dance accessible to them.  Each one of our students are unique and beautiful and it is amazing to watch them as they fall in love with dance throughout the season.

Some of the best parents in the world enter and exit through our studio doors each week.  Here are some examples of how awesome our parents are:

  1. One of our moms with 4 sons and 1 daughter came in during our costume sale to Halloween shop.  She sat her four sons down and gave them each a task while she and the daughter found a costume.  Everything went peacefully.  Maybe this was one of those magical moments that is as frequent as spotting a unicorn, but I was in admiration.
  2. After class a student (who was fine in class!) had a full on meltdown in the lobby.  She was tired.  It happens.  Mom took a deep breath and handled the tantrum in the calmest voice I’ve ever heard.
  3. A student in high school had to come straight from school a few days per week because she assisted in our classes.  On these days, her Dad would stop by the studio in the morning to drop off her dance bag and some dinner.
  4. One of our high school students left her homework in the company lounge.   This is a 2 for 1 because not only did this parent raise their high schooler to be responsible enough to be completing homework in the time in between classes at dance, but Mom also came by in the morning to retrieve the homework and take it to school so her daughter would be able to turn it in on time.
  5. A tiny kinder student was having a behavioral issue in class.  Not only did Mom trust us to handle it however we thought it worked best, (thank you!), but she also worked with us to develop a plan to help this student get back on track.

We know all of our parents have different teaching styles and we appreciate all of them.  Here are some more general reasons why we love our parents:

  1. You sit in the carpool line, pick up your children from school, feed them, and get them to class on time in the appropriate clothes.  Kudos to our ballet parents who also get their students here with their hair in a bun!
  2. You trust us to teach your children week after week, yet you only see their progress at the end of the year recital.
  3. The end of the year recital is a big enough reason in itself!  You follow the crazy schedules, change your kids into and out of their costumes, make sure they have the right make up, and more!  You do so many things to help make our recital successful that we’d have to write another blog about it.
  4. We have a team of recital volunteers that help make sure things run smoothly in the dressing rooms, work as ushers, and sell concessions.

Most importantly we appreciate you because you are the reason we have the best students in the world!  We know they didn’t teach themselves how to be responsible, respectful, work hard in class, be kind to their fellow classmates, and be dedicated to success.  It is all of our parent’s hard work that has shaped each child into the amazing person they are.  We cannot thank you enough for giving us the opportunity to share our passion with your children each week, and for working with us to help develop them into the best possible people they can be.

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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