Christie Ginanni, a dance instructor for Elevation Dance Studio, teaches an intermediate dance class Tuesday. She will be choreographing a piece for the Steamboat Dance Theatre Annual Concert in March. Auditions are at 2 p.m. Sunday at the studio.
Steamboat Springs — Kailee Davis has been dancing since she was 2. Last fall, it looked as if she might have to put her dancing on hold.
“This was the first year that we had to pull the plug on a lot of things, and dance was one of them,” said Christina Davis, Kailee’s mother.
Like many families, the Davises had to take a hard look at their spending in recent months. Expenses such as dance classes and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club activities for 9-year-old Kailee had to be cut.
“I think she understood and she felt lucky that she’s been able to take dance all these years. I think if she was bummed out she didn’t show it in the beginning,” Christina Davis said.
Things turned for the better in December, when Davis learned Kailee had been awarded a scholarship to participate in local dance classes from the Steamboat Dance Theatre. Unsure about how much the scholarship would cover at first, Davis soon learned the Dance Theatre had sent a check to Kailee’s dance teacher to cover all classes through the studio’s spring recital.
“When I told her that I applied for the scholarship and I told her that she got it — I’ve never seen her so excited. She jumped for joy and just started screaming and was just telling everybody, ‘I’m going to be in dance, I’m going to be in dance again,’” Davis said.
Kailee is one of eight students ages 4 to 24 to benefit from the Dance Theatre scholarship this program year. In 2008-09, 29 students received help. The year before, 28 students benefited. In the past three years, the scholarship fund has provided more than $10,000 to students in Northwest Colorado to participate in a variety of dance pursuits, Dance Theatre board president Traci Cameron said.
“We just think that keeping dance and the arts in people’s lives — and especially in children’s lives — is very, very important, and with the way people are struggling now, we’re really happy we can help lots of people,” Cameron said.
Any area resident with an interest in taking a dance class or workshop, attending a summer program such as those offered at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp or pursuing other dance options may apply for a scholarship, Cameron said. Between 80 and 90 percent of scholarship recipients are children, but there is no age limit to apply, she said.
A scholarship committee reviews applications six times a year to coincide with classes offered locally and to “try to capture everyone who has a need,” Cameron said.
The scholarship fund is furnished in part by proceeds from the annual Dance Theatre concert. The 38th annual show starts Thursday at the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium. Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday.
Concert proceeds, sponsorships, grant writing and other revenue sources also fund other portions of the Dance Theatre’s mission, said former board president and local dance instructor Wendy Smith Mikelsons.
Through its community outreach programming, Steamboat Dance Theatre hopes to bring a professional dance company to Steamboat for a performance sometime in 2011, she said. A series of workshops with guest teachers in jazz, hip-hop and contemporary styles is in the works for May, she said.
“Our annual concert serves as a fundraising vehicle for all these programs,” Smith Mikelsons said.
The scholarship program has been going for about eight years, she said.
“We just felt this would be a great thing to offer to the community because we knew there were definitely people out there who would like to study dance but who just couldn’t afford to, and that was preventing them,” Smith Mikelsons said.
For young dancers like Kailee, the program offers a chance to keep pursuing the art that has been a source of confidence since a young age, Christina Davis said.
“That scholarship program is awesome because it helps families like ours who really want to keep their kids in dance,” Davis said.
“I just see the confidence that it gave my daughter growing up that we were able to pay for, and now that we can’t it just gives us so much hope to see that she’s doing something she loves.”
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During her more than 35 years living in Steamboat Springs and throughout her life, Polly Idol never has stopped dancing.
She went to big community dances with her parents as a child, taking in all their steps and energy. She majored in dance education in college, and after moving to Steamboat, she taught classes and helped found the Steamboat Dance Theatre.
As couples dance became popular here, she jumped at the chance to stay close to her passion while dancing with her friends and community members.
To go without dancing for even a few days would be a lifestyle “that I don’t really want anything to do with,” Idol said Thursday afternoon as she and dance partner Charles Horton prepared for a new set of classes at Northwest Ballet Studio that evening.
The two have been sharing their love of swing, foxtrot, salsa, cha-cha, two-step and other social dance forms with Steamboat Springs as a teaching duo for about five years.
It’s not the formal, competitive style of ballroom dance potential students might have seen on “Dancing With the Stars.” Instead, it’s a style that’s more social, meant for people to revel in dancing in someone else’s arms.
“More than that, it’s a conversation that happens nonverbally with people,” Horton said. Dancers form a connection, communicating an artistic notion with their interpretations, Idol said.
In an advanced-level class at Northwest Ballet Studio on Thursday night, Horton and Idol encouraged their students — four couples who had taken their classes before — to move their own way with the music, playing with the steps and having fun with their basic knowledge.
Their students come to lessons as a date night, as an outlet to practice the steps they already know or as a chance to check one more item off their “bucket list,” Idol said.
The pair’s social dance classes range in size, going as small as four or five couples and as large as almost 20 sets of dancers, Horton and Idol said.
Horton also teaches classes for people looking for help getting through their wedding dances. He and Idol offer private lessons or quick tutorials at community events on an on-demand basis.
Idol also occasionally teaches country styles, and goes out dancing socially as often as she can, finding open floors at community events such as Backcountry Ball or Ski Ball; public concerts by the Steamboat Swings community big band; or during country performances at Ghost Ranch Saloon.
“One of our greatest joys in a small community like this is that we see our students out dancing and enjoying each other,” Idol said.
Horton came to formal couples dancing years after Idol. He’d always loved to dance and started taking classes in the late 1990s after seeing a movie called “The Tango Lesson.” After seeing that movie, Horton decided he wanted to be able to dance into his 80s. The steps he learned in classes stuck, and he started teaching with Idol in fall 2004 after she asked him to put together a piece for the Steamboat Dance Theatre’s annual concert, he said.
Horton and Idol spend about as much time preparing dance routines and teaching techniques for their classes as they do leading them. After their advanced-level class wraps up in February, they’ll offer a similar set of steps to beginners in a six-week class from Feb. 18 to March 25. They expect the class to fill up and encourage anyone interested in participating to register early.
Horton, a massage therapist, and Idol, an educational materials developer for TIC, said they’d have trouble fitting more than one class a week into their already full schedules.
The highlight of their teaching pursuits so far has been leading a lesson to more people than they could see at a Steamboat Swings community concert and dance in March, Horton and Idol said.
By Margaret Hair
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Tiana Buschmann's biggest challenge as a choreographer: "The dancers."
Tiana Buschmann's favorite thing about being a choreographer: "Being with my dancers."
"It's a love-hate relationship," Buschmann said, explaining the challenges that come with creating and rehearsing a piece for the 37th annual Steamboat Dance Theatre Concert.
In the show - which opens at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium - Buschmann's hip-hop piece will join 17 others. For the past five-plus months, about 80 dancers and choreographers have rehearsed weekly to put together original pieces in styles including jazz, African, modern, hip-hop, lyrical, tap and swing.
The time commitment is huge - Buschmann said she spends at least an hour choreographing for each hour of rehearsal. By that measure, she's spent at least 24 hours planning "It Was All In Your Mind," a hip-hop piece set to music by Linkin Park and Wade Robson. Buschmann describes the style not as "music video, booty-shaking hip-hop," but as "cleaner and more theatrical in a way."
On Thursday evening at Northwest Ballet Studio, Buschmann was getting ready to lead her last group rehearsal for the piece, which she has choreographed in chunks since the Dance Theatre held open auditions in September. The group has made a lot of progress since then, said dancer Audrey Alessi.
"Seeing the final product of what we've done the entire time, it's like, 'Wow,'" Alessi said.
"I remember when we learned those first three moves, and you're like, 'What is my body doing?' Just going from that to the three minutes on stage" is gratifying, she said.
Dance Theatre choreographers meet in the early fall to propose pieces and get an idea of the diversity in the concert program. The company holds auditions in September, and each choreographer teaches a set of steps and chooses dancers.
Some - such as swing dance instructor Jenny Meier - come to auditions with most of their piece ready to go on stage.
Others - Buschmann included - need to see their dancers before the piece can come together.
"I'm an oddball choreographer," Buschmann said, explaining her concepts don't really happen until she has dancers to choreograph them on. If she has an amazing gymnast to work with, or a jazz dancer or a break-dancer, she's going to incorporate that into the piece. The goal is to make the dancers look as good as possible.
"The reason that I choreograph is so that I can see my vision on someone else," Buschmann said.
Each choreographer starts his or her process differently. Meier, who co-choreographed a swing piece and is dancing in Buschmann's hip-hop number, said she starts with the desired result.
"You start with what you want to leave the audience feeling or what mood you're going for and how you want people to be affected," Meier said.
Teaching a three-minute dance piece to eight people isn't without its difficulties.
"Everybody learns differently, and you have to accommodate all those different learning styles in one hour," Buschmann said. That can involve taking one dancer aside to teach them a section. Or, in Buschmann's case, doing a little yelling.
"You know my rehearsal won't be boring," she said.
But after all that, spending time with her dancers is what made Buschmann want to choreograph a piece for her second year in a row.
"You definitely can let loose, more than anyone would ever expect you to otherwise," Buschmann said. "Because that's what it is. It's a freedom of expression, a form of expression."
Saturday, February 14, 2009
The Steamboat Dance Theatre is seeking sponsors for the 37th annual March concert. Sponsorships help the nonprofit organization purchase costumes and offset performance costs. Sponsorships start at $250 and could include tickets to the performances, a logo on the concert poster, ads in the program, and/or banners during the concert.
The Steamboat Dance Theatre is a volunteer organization in which about 100 dancers come together to create three performances, at 7 p.m. March 5 to 7 at the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium. For more information about how you can get involved as a sponsor, call Deb Curd at 846-5696.