In order to make a living, Denver has decided to begin a dance program here in Blue Ridge – the need is great and she will do very well with it. So all week, she’s worked on a flyer and kept asking our advice. She has a great deal of preliminary material to work with, considering our history, so she put together a fantastic informational “sales” flyer/brochure describing the classes and her philosophy. She also had a meeting with the Blue Ridge Arts Association where she will be teaching, and asked me to attend. We brainstormed together to set the sessions, pricing, fix the dance room etc.
The assistant director then said she would send something to the paper if Denver would give her some particulars. I told her that wasn’t necessary, that I was planning to write an article about her for the paper. I am a writer now, and no one knows this dance program like I do (since I created it), so I sincerely doubt anyone could do justice to describing this emerging program as I could. I’ve also met the editor and he is expecting some human interest articles from me (I’ve already done the interviews, but been too busy to sit down and plunk out the actually articles.) Turning something in would alleviate my guilt in that area and help my daughter too.
She said fine, but the article had to be in Friday, (the next day) to be published next week. So yesterday, while sitting at Dianne’s house, I sat at the computer and plunked out an article about my daughter.
Funny, but every woman’s ultimate fantasy is to have control over everything her kid says and thinks. For one hour I could do just that. I filled my article with quotes and ideals that I thought would be accurate and beneficial while still trying to capture my daughter’s sentiments.
Later Dianne laughed and said, “I never knew Denver was so eloquent.” Ha.
I turned the article in with some dance pictures of Denver.
Later, I left a copy for my daughter to read. I assumed she would be thrilled, but she just smiled and said, “It’s funny.”
Funny? Funny ha ha, or funny weird? I asked her what she didn’t like about it.
She shrugged and said, “Has it occurred to you that I have to live up to that now? Gee Mom, I just wanted to make some money.”
I stood there, holding my cell phone in my hand, in a quandary, trying to decide if, in writing that article, I was out of place – even though the director and Denver asked me to do it.
Mark pointed out that I dive into any project with an attitude that it is a full commitment, always shooting for something bigger – not that it has to come about, but that I lay the foundation for greater things to come just in case I become gripped in the passion of the project. But, he pointed out, not everyone lives that way. I should not put pressure on Denver to excel or create a huge shadow that she has to walk in. I need to let her world unfold without my influence (Of course, I’m thinking, then she shouldn’t ask for my input). . . but I get his point.
Anyway, I did what I could to help her set up for success in the local dance arena with the best of intentions. And honestly, I meant everything I said in the article. She can do this better than anyone else. . . If she wants.
Here is the article for anyone interested in my emerging journalistic skills. I’m guessing, Denver will be thrilled when she sees it in print. One thing is sure, the people of this town will know “dance” has ventured into the mountains now. Had it been with me, it would venture in with a hobble. But with my daughter, it can leap in with all the enthuasiasm and energy of youth.
DANCING IN THE MOUNTAINS
By Virginia East
(Had to find a name other than my own since I quoted myself. Ha, how awkward is that?)
Denver Clark came to Blue Ridge to visit her parents in June, expecting to dance on to New York to continue with her theater studies. However, moved by the lovely attitudes prevalent in our community, she’s decided to do her dancing here for a while.
Building an alliance with the Blue Ridge Arts Association, Denver is creating a program designed to expand creative awareness through an introduction to dance which includes everything from technical skill to artistic expression. Denver believes dance education involves much more than teaching routines or donning costumes to put on a show. Dance teaches self-discipline, physical awareness, creative expression and physical fitness, while exposing students to art classics and more modern cultural movement at the same time.
The Blue Ridge Arts Association has earned a fine reputation through programs designed to share visual and Appalachian arts with the community. Denver is excited to expand their offerings to include traditional dance classes and is excited to work in association with a growing, non-profit organization whose heart is, she believes, in the right place.
“I feel the people involved in the BRAA are open minded and committed to bringing the best of the arts to our community,” Denver says. “And I think it’s wonderful they want to add dance to their roster of arts awareness programs.”
The BRAA has offered dance classes before, but they were random classes, lacking long-range goals. Now, the facility is working with Denver to design a progressive program that can grow as the organization grows.
It seems, no one is better suited to this ambitious goal than Denver. Denver comes from a family of dance educators. Before retiring last year, her parents owned one of the largest dance schools in Southern Florida with over 1200 students and two 10,000-foot state of the art studios. The Hendry’s are the innovators of the renowned KIDDANCE program, producing educational videos and CD’s for dance teachers, a progressive syllabus and an international newsletter of creative dance concepts. Ginny Hendry, Denver’s mother, still travels to teach dance seminars for Dance Master’s of America and affiliated organizations. After retiring last year, she began pursuing a low residency MFA at <ST1laceName w:st=”on”>Lesley</ST1laceName> <ST1laceName w:st=”on”>University</ST1laceName> where she is now writing a novel about dance.
“Mom is dancing on paper now,” Denver says with a smile. “And my father, Mark Hendry, is still a guest choreographer for schools and regional companies. For all that they are retired, dance remains a huge part of our family’s life.”
Denver is proud to carry on the family’s tradition of dance education by beginning a program of her own in Blue Ridge. “And my parents are here to consult me and help as needed. I am lucky to have their experience to guide me,” she says.
Not that her parents believe she will need much help. “Denver has trained all her life. She has participated in competitions, seminars, and all sorts of performances. She has all the tools she needs to be a successful teacher.” Ginny Hendry says. “I am proud to step aside to see what my daughter can do with dance. And I’m thrilled she’s chosen our community as her new home.”
Denver plans to offer children’s classes following the KIDDANCE syllabus, a progressive program that teaches dance basics creatively. KIDDANCE was featured in Dance Teacher Now Magazine as one of America’s most innovative approaches to dance education in 1999. The syllabus encourages teachers to introduce basic dance concepts in ways that make learning fun.
For example, to teach correct arm placement and spatial awareness, one exercise consists of students wearing socks on their arms and moving under a backlight to create shapes in space. With only arms glowing, the exercise is fun for kids but it also keeps their focus on placement and visual space. Another creative exercise involves “paper bag ballets”. The origin of ballet is pantomime, so once a session, students will don costume pieces to “get into character” and dance out a ballet narrated by the teacher. These short improvisational ballets expose young dance students to the story lines and music of the classics while also encouraging them to emote. Another exercise is a foot mat created by tracing students feet on long rolls of banner paper which is later used as a pattern for an exercise that teaches the difference between turned out or inverted foot positions. “It is all about camouflaging basic principals in joyful exercises,” Denver says. Many other creative methods are incorporated to teach dance concepts, along with more traditional exercises that teach dance terminology, steps and proper technique. Collectively, this system leaves children not only learning how to dance, but loving dance.
“Dance involves endless practice to reinforce technique,” Denver says, “The Kiddance program finds different ways to practice the same thing over and over again so children learn without getting bored. It is also highly creative which teaches a budding artist that dance is about personal expression, not just steps or routine exercises . The best way to get students to embrace the discipline required for dance is to make them love the art so they want to work hard to excel.”
The new dance program at the BRAA will be offering classes in eight-week sessions beginning September 5th. Denver feels this term will instill a foundation in movement and hopefully, tweak new dancer’s interest enough to continue throughout the year. “We want the emphasis of these classes to be on exploring movement, not just learning routines or practicing for an end of year recital,” Denver says.
But that does not mean that she doesn’t’t think performance should be a part of the dance education experience. On the contrary, Denver plans to end each eight-week session with some sort of performance, preferably dancing at community events such as festivals or homes for the elderly. “As a non-profit organization, I think it’s important that the BRAA dance program gives something back to the community. I’m hoping to find lots of avenues for performance which will be non-competitive and rich in the spirit of artistic sharing.”
Denver has spent the last two years attending <ST1laceName w:st=”on”>Central</ST1laceName> <ST1laceName w:st=”on”>Florida</ST1laceName> <ST1laceType w:st=”on”>University</ST1laceType> in Orlando in pursuit of a BFA in musical theater. She’s a singer, dancer and actor and she draws from all disciplines to make the dance class engaging. In addition to creative dance classes for youth, including a Mommy and me parent and child interactive class for ages 2 & 3 and preschool movement classes, she is offering more traditional dance classes in the subjects of ballet, tap and jazz for
elementary and middle school students. She will also offer a hip-hop and musical theater class for teens.
Beyond traditional dance classes for area youth, Denver hopes to offer specialty classes that will serve the community. For thirteen years in Florida, Denver’s mother taught a group of students with Downs syndrome, not only teaching them dance but also taking them to competitions and performances. She’s written several articles for national dance periodicals on how to teach handicapped students and lectured on the subject at dance conventions. Denver assisted these special needs classes and having been exposed to the unique complications of physical and mental disabilities, hopes to offer a similar class for handicapped individuals in Blue Ridge.
“Dance is for everyone,” Denver says, “Creative expression is a tonic for the soul, and I think dance helps a person get in touch with their inner selves in the healthiest of ways. I’m hoping, as I learn more about our community’s needs, I’ll be able to contribute something special through arts education. It’s wonderful to be able to do what you love for a living, but even more wonderful to share what you love with others.”
For information and a schedule contact BRAA at (706) 632-2144. Class size will be limited and registration is ongoing. BRAA recommends interested students reserve a space by signing up early.