Free recital at Silverthorne Pavilion will showcase what students have learned
“Tell everyone what position that is,” Miss Jennifer says to the dancers assembled on the stage at the Silverthorne Pavilion.
“First position!” the class responds, as “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent” begins to play over the sound system. The girls move carefully through a few more ballet steps and then assemble in a line across the back of the stage.
The phrase “How about love?” blasts over the stereo and the queue of tiny dancers each raise a colored placard above their heads, spelling out the word “LOVE” over and over, as a featured ballerina twirls slowly in front of them. They sway back and forth with their letters, sometimes in synch, sometimes to their own rhythm.
“This is their first experience in production work,” says Miss Jennifer, aka Jennifer Voxakis, to the assembled group of parents, who are clicking photos madly with their cameras, phones and tablets. “It’s quite the experience; they get to be on stage with two other classes. Cross your fingers and your toes.”
“Walk like you mean it, be pretty!” she says as the girls file off the stage into the wings, ending their moment in the spotlight.
Julie and Scott Willis’ daughter, Westleigh, 6, has been dancing for three years in the Silverthorne Recreation Center classes taught by Voxakis.
“We love Miss Jennifer,” Julie Willis said. “She’s really great, age appropriate for kids, uses props, makes it really fun, she really has a good time. I talked to several people who had kids in other programs and I really liked how this was more geared for younger kids.
“It’s age appropriate where it’s really fun and lighthearted and not really strict. It’s very informal; it’s not like your traditional ballet class.”
Voxakis has been teaching dance for “about as long as I’ve been alive,” she said, starting when she was 16. She started the rec center program 17 years ago and also previously owned Rocky Mountain Dance Academy in Summit County.
“This program basically deals with elementary school kids, preschool through fifth grade, and then we have an adult program,” she said. “We have tap, ballet and ballroom for adults, and teens are welcome in the adult class. Sometimes teens don’t want to be in a big class, they just want to dance for fun if they aren’t so serious about being in a company or more rigorous dance program.”
About 65 participants will perform in the rec center recital on Sunday, May 18, at the Silverthorne Pavilion. The show has a Broadway theme this year, featuring music from “Gypsy,” “Rent,” “Singing in the Rain,” “Newsies,” “Mame” and “Chicago,” Voxakis said.
“This program makes the elementary school children the stars of the show,” she said. “They are not second to the teenagers; they do not wait around for an hour to be on stage for 15 minutes. The whole show is about them.”
Stars of the show
One of the stars of the kindergarten and first-grade ballet tap combo class is Lilla Oppito, 5, who said she likes twirling around in her costume and prefers the tap dancing parts to the ballet parts.
“I like the costumes,” she said. “It’s black and white and it has dots on it. I like to do the dances.”
Lilla also likes Miss Jennifer, brightening up just at the sound of her name. She was really shy at first in her classes, but Miss Jennifer helped her come out of her shell and she would dance and dance and enjoyed dancing on the stage.
Claudia Pinillos, 5, said she also likes her costume, which she described as a big, red skirt. She prefers ballet because she can spin in circles, she said, demonstrating with her hands above her head. Claudia’s mother, Stella Pinillos, said her daughter tries to make her own little ballet classes at home.
“She loves dancing all the time,” Stella said. “She likes the ballet more. She likes the tap, too, but she says it’s very sweet and very feminine when she does the ballet. She likes spinning a lot.”
Stella said anytime you can start your kids young with something that gives them exercise and teaches them discipline, such as dancing or gymnastics, it’s a good thing because it carries into their adult lives. Voxakis said the goal as their dance director is to give them the love for dance and make them want to keep going with it.
“Their love for dance is going to continue to other studios,” she said. “They’ll be ready at that point to be in a more rigid program. We’re going to keep their love alive, hopefully. I want them to know all of their basics. I’m going to equip them with good dance technique and proper vocabulary in a way that’s fun.”
“Miss Jennifer really talks to the kids and explains things to them at their level,” Julie Willis said. “She explains everything, why they are doing everything they are doing, instead of just do this or do that.”
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