Pirouette for purpose: Five local dance studios come together to support Dancers Against Cancer
IF YOU GO
What: Dancers Against Cancer
When: Sunday, March 10 at 4 p.m. Doors open at 3.
Where: Beaver Run Resort’s Colorado Ballroom on the third floor, 620 Village Road, Breckenridge.
Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for students. Children 4 and under are free with an adult. Tickets are sold at the door and accept cash and check only. Visit ImADancerAgainstCancer.org to make a donation.
Jennifer Voxakis died from cancer last year, but her spirit lives on in the local dance community. Alpine Dance Academy, Summit School of Dance, Studio B, the Silverthorne Recreation Center and Aspirations Dance Studio will join forces for a charity performance in her honor on Sunday.
Before she passed from skin cancer last March, they gathered for a similar show in January to raise money to support Voxakis’ medical bills. Now, they’re doing it again for the national charity Dancers Against Cancer for what they hope will become an annual event. The idea came about from the studios’ own students when asked for yearly feedback.
“One of the things that they really enjoyed was the fundraiser for Jennifer,” Kelly Monahon, director of Alpine Dance Academy, said, “because they felt like they were doing something good for the community and when you’re a kid you feel like it’s hard to make a difference. They were able to do what they love with all of their peers from all of the studios in the area for a good reason and it made them feel really good.”
According to Monahon, Voxakis would travel often to coastal areas like Hawaii and Florida, bringing her experiences back with her and teaching the kids how to hula.
“Jennifer was like the kindest person you will ever meet,” said Monahon. “She was very sweet to all of the students. The little tiny ones absolutely loved her. She was just a happy, wonderful person.”
Despite a last minute venue change and the challenge of coordinating with multiple entities, the effort to raise money for cancer patients and their families is on as scheduled.
The two-hour show will feature diverse pieces that the studios picked and rehearsed individually. Then, at their final group dress rehearsal hours before show time, the ensemble will plan a grand finale featuring all of the students.
Monahon, who worked with Voxakis for five years at Rocky Mountain Dance Academy before opening Alpine Dance Academy in 2009, chose routines that embody perseverance and community support. Her 60-some students will perform “We’re All in This Together” from “High School Musical,” Alessia Cara’s “Scars To Your Beautiful,” and Florence and the Machine’s cover of “Stand By Me” from the soundtrack to “Final Fantasy XV.”
Debbie Whitmore, instructor at the Silverthorne Rec Center and primary organizer of last year’s fundraiser, is going a more personal route. Whitmore has been dancing since the age of 2 and was a student of Voxakis’ before becoming an instructor herself at Summit School of Dance. They worked together on musicals at Summit High School and Whitmore had the honor of performing a dance routine at her wedding.
“She was an extraordinary person, full of love and passion,” Whitmore wrote in an email. “She was fiery and brought such great energy to fitness and dance classes. She always created a warm, inviting and loving atmosphere for dance in particular. She did not have kids, but her dance students were all her children in a way.”
Eventually Whitmore joined the rec center and the pair co-taught children along with adult ballroom dance lessons.
“My favorite part of teaching is being able to share my passion with others and watch how it can impact their lives. I have watched children and adults grow in confidence and grow more into who they are through dance. It’s amazing to watch a child open up and do more than they thought possible.”
Roughly two years ago Voxakis stopped teaching at the rec center because of her illness and Whitmore took over as lead instructor. She would occasionally substitute teach Voxakis’ adult tap class, but Whitmore now had to carry on her tradition of learning a new tap dance each year while still performing the older pieces in the repertoire.
For Sunday’s event Whitmore is showcasing a mixture of tap styles, including works choreographed by Voxakis and performed by her students. One piece is soft shoe style, which is slower and more relaxed. Then there is an upbeat ragtime routine along with a traditional tap dance known as the shim sham. Lastly the group will perform to the jazz standard “Sing, sing, sing.” It was the last piece Voxakis started teaching when she became sick and Whitmore completed the dance for the performance.
“I love that the dance community is coming together to one, support those in need in our community, and two, work together since studios can be insular and we don’t always get to see each other perform,” wrote Whitmore.
“Keeping the repertoire of dances alive keeps Jennifer close to all of us.”
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