Studio Blog

Welcome to Studio West's Blog. A place where we gather dancers and families to-- let you know what is happening in the heart of our community.


Giselle has two performances today--a matinee & evening show.

 

My dearest Giselle,

Here you are. You are here, on the cusp of change.

In the ballet you begin as a young village girl, and you die a young woman with a broken heart. In your life you are near the end of high school, and about to move far away to begin your next adventure.

Which means this is my final letter to you.

There is so much to say about this ballet. To look at the power of each emotion--Joy. Love. Deception. Death. Redemption.

But in this last letter, I want to write about the push and the pause.

Near the end of act I, you push me. Shove, really. Really hard. And that’s your job in life right now, too. It is a teenager’s work to push against what is familiar. Trusted. Safe.

And it’s okay to push away. It’s more than that—it is important and necessary.

We have to push away to create the space to go. We have to push against in order to create the space to grow.

The second part of the ballet that matters isn’t in the ballet at all.

Intermission.

The. Big. Pause.

The time between acts I and II when the audience isn’t necessarily sure what comes next. They may have a sense of the storyline, but the details won’t be known until the curtain rises. And the same is true for you. With graduation right around the corner, you are fast approaching your intermission. A few weeks of space before the curtain goes up at the Joffery.

Often we get impatient for intermission to be over. We want to rush it, or skip it altogether. But intermission is about breathing. About being still. Quietly gathering our energy so we have the strength to leap into what’s next.

The push and the pause. Take them with you. Each is vital to a career beautifully danced, and to a life well lived.

All my love, now and always.

 

Berthe

For tickets to the performances, go to: olytix.org

 

 

 Dance to Make a Difference  

Watch to make a difference? Absolutely! We often get asked about our spring charity gala—Dance to Make a Difference—and whether it is a good event for young dancers to come experience. The answer is a resounding yes!

The Dance to Make a Difference charity gala is designed to be a community event. An event where our older dancers volunteer their time and artistry for a local charity. A chance for a local charity to be spotlighted in a unique way to an audience who may not yet know of their mission. And a chance for our community to come and support both dancers and those in need.

It is a great night for kids to come and see dance groups from all over the south sound region, showcasing many styles and types of dance. From Studio West they will get to see the debut of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s principal dancers Jerome and Laura Tissersand’s piece ‘An Afternoon Waltz’, there is a dance with bright pink flamingoes, another showcasing music by Mumford and Sons, and more!

And it is all for a great charity. This year is the 9th Dance to Make a Difference gala, and the proceeds from the night go to Family Support Center of South Sound, which provides support for homeless and low-income families. The doors open at 6 p.m. with a silent auction, wine, and a delicious dinner by Joanie’s Catering of Seattle! Tickets for the gala and dancing are $40. The performances begin at 8:00 pm. If you think your child might do best coming just for the dancing, you can do that, too. Doors open at 7:45 pm for this portion of the night, and tickets are $15. You can purchase both tickets here: https://ticketsales.washingtoncenter.org/Online/seatSelect.asp

So yes! Come join us as a family for Dance to Make a Difference. Come for the food. Come for the auction. Come for the dancing. And come be part of the difference!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all our Nurcracker dancers...

 

Dearest Clara and Nutcracker,

Moments from now the curtain will go up. I know you are nervous. Please, don’t worry about dancing perfectly.

Because by tomorrow the audience will have forgotten you.

All of the hundreds and hundreds of people in the crowd tonight will not remember a perfect performance. Beautiful feet, elegant fingers, timely entrances and well-executed turns will all fade from their minds. These elements are important, absolutely. But they don’t stick. It’s not what people remember.

What they remember is a performance that is real.

Memory comes from emotion. When we feel connected to someone, they linger in our minds. So don’t dance tonight just to be technically precise, but to give character to your character.

The audience enjoys watching Clara during the boisterous, fancy Christmas Eve party. They cheer for the Nutcracker during the bold, chaotic fight scene. But it is the snow scene when they come with you into the story. If you invite them.

The invitation isn’t in the excellence of your mechanics. It comes in the falling snow, in the quiet of the beats between the notes. It comes when you open yourself—and share the longing, the uncertainty, the wistfulness—the emotions of the moment. When you reveal what you feel, the audience feels it with you. That is the magic of artistry. That is what they remember.

And life is the same.

It isn’t enough to be seen. Our accomplishments don’t tell our full story. What we need is to be understood. And for that to happen, we have to invite people in. Into our real. Into our dreams. Into our longing, our uncertainty, our wistfulness. It is when we are vulnerable that we are strong.

Tonight I will marvel at your technique and your emotion. Tomorrow the audience will remember your precision because of your passion.

And after that? I will always be here to listen to your dreams.

With all my love,

Mama Stahlbaum

It may be November, but now is a great time to start thinking about dancing next summer!

Summer Dance Intensivesin Ten Questions

Ahhhhhh, summer. The weather is warm, the sun sets late, and everyone is a bit more relaxed. This time of year it feels like summer will never get here. But planning for dancing in the summer is happening now. Welcome to the world of summer dance intensives (SDI). They are an opportunity for dancers to set aside school work and focus a bit more, well, intensely, on their dancing. Here’s a Q & A about summer dance intensives to help both parents and students know what to do, when to do it, and why.

1. At what ballet level should students start to look for SDI?

A great time to start dancing over the summer is when a dancer is in level 2. Just like teachers want students to keep reading over the summer so they don’t lose any of their skills, the same is true for dance. Studio West offers dance intensive classes each summer for dancers of all levels. For each age we both strengthen their ballet skills and expose them to a broader range of dance offerings. Our dancers do not need to audition for our SDI, they are automatically accepted into their current dance level.

2. At what ballet level do students begin to look at SDI away from their home studio?
When a dancer has reached level 4A (which for girls includes being en pointe) they may want to start looking at other programs. There is a big variety in what kind of programs are offered: there are local programs, regional ones and residential programs farther away. Not every student wants to be away from our studio (and we don’t blame them!). Not every student wants to be away from home. Not every family is in a place to have travel happen. We know there are many reasons why students want to be here with us all summer, and we work hard to craft a high quality summer intensive program right here for them. You can dance here all summer and get all that you need. We have no expectation that they leave Studio West. However, for the very serious dancer, going away to a prestigious summer program is an important next step (around the age of 14-16); it offers exposure and experience with a school affiliated with a professional company.

3. How long are SDI?

SDI’s range from two to six weeks long. If this is a student’s first summer, send them for however long they are comfortable going. This first year is really about getting used to the process. Also, pay attention to the financial piece,

because while the longer you are there the more your dancing grows, it is also true that the longer you are there, the more expensive it is, and many programs are quite spendy. For more advanced dancers, the longer the intensive the better.

4. How do you apply to SDI?

Each summer dance intensive will have you audition for application. Some far away SDI’s will send an instructor around the country to audition students locally. You can find that information on the SDI’s website. For example, the San Francisco Ballet has a teacher come up and hold an audition for interested students at PNB. The audition is similar in format to a master class, or the auditions we hold here for The Nutcracker and our spring ballet. Another way to apply, if you can’t get to an audition site (or the school isn’t coming here), is to submit a video audition. Each school requires different elements for a video, so look at their website information closely.

5. How do you find out if you were accepted?

The most common way to learn the result is by email, usually within two weeks of the audition, but some schools say they will tell you a month afterwards. You will either be accepted, placed on a wait list, or declined. Some schools (ex: ABT) have more than one site for their summer programs. They will let you know which site you are assigned. Please know that the audition experience itself has incredible valueconsider it a fabulous master class being taught by instructors / dancers / directors from all over the US. If the answer is noone year, keep applying! Many dancers audition year after year before being accepted by advanced schools.

6. Are there different tiers for summer programs? Which programs fall into what categories? How do we know where to start?
When we look at programs, we think of them in three groups: intermediate, intermediate/advanced, and advanced. We have not listed all SDI’s but here are some examples for each category:

Advanced

  •   School of American Ballet

  •   San Francisco Ballet

  •   Pacific Northwest Ballet

  •   American Ballet Theater--New York location

  •   Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell

Intermediate / Advanced

  •   Boston Ballet

  •   Washington Ballet

  •   Miami City Ballet

  •   Houston Ballet

  •   Chautauqua

  •   Pittsburgh Ballet Theater

  •   The Rock School of Dance Education

  •   Oregon Ballet Theatre

  • Intermediate

  •   Kirov

  •   Milwaukee Ballet

  •   Summer Dance Lab/Walla Walla

  •   Gelsey Kirkland

  •   Ballet West

  •   ABT Orange County

  •   Joffrey

  •   ABT Alabama, Austin, Detroit

Even with lists like these, so much depends on the strengths and needs of individual dancers. Some schools have a Balanchine focus, others a Cecchetti or Vaganova, and some a mixture of two or more. Other schools have a strong focus on their boys’ program. There are lots of pieces to the puzzle of finding a great place to go.

7. Where should families look for information about SDI?

The ‘ballet talk for dancers’ discussion board
( http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php ) has an extensive section dedicated to SDI. As you read, realize that some of the people posting are students, some are parents, and some are instructors. Be sure to read through different sections to get a feel of who is providing reliable information. If you ever have a question on what you find, please don’t hesitate to ask us.

8. How can students / families figure out if a specific SDI is a good match for their dancer?
Talk to other dancers who have been, look online at the reviews, check in with our instructors.

9. What are the key things parents and dancers should be looking for in a SDI program?
Look at both the dancing and non-dancing aspects of the program. How many classes are offered a day? Dancers should be in class a minimum of 4 hours a day. Look at the type of classes they are offering. Is there partnering work? What supplemental classes are offered? Yoga? Pilates? Core conditioning? Nutrition? What about housing? Is it offered? Is there room for all dancers? Who are the chaperones? How tightly monitored are the kids? Are there meal plans? What about transportation to and from the dorms to the studio? Do you have extended family nearby? Is the school in an area of the country you’ve always wanted to visit?

10. What happens if you are accepted by more than one SDI?

Congratulations! It’s great to be accepted, but just because you get in, you don’t have to go. What is important to do is send a timely response to the school(s) to let them know you are accepting or declining their offer. Most schools expect a reply within two weeks of offering you a place. This can mean that you must decide about one program before you even know the results of another audition. If you are declining a school, they often like to know why you are making other choices, and giving them a brief reason can be helpful. Also, you can include a comment about being excited to audition for them again next year. And if you loved the program you attended last summer, you can absolutely reapply and return.

 

 

 

September is here. School has started. The rain has arrived. And if you walk through the halls of the studio you’ll start to hear the music of The Nutcracker.

Why? Because while the show won’t be on the stage until December, auditions are right around the corner.

 

 

For dancers in levels 4A-6, auditions will be held Friday, September 23rd

For 4A/B, auditions will be during the ballet technique class. Please bring your pointe shoes. (3:45-5:10 pm)

For 5/6, auditions will be during the pointe class and after (en pointe).

For all Friday auditions, please be prepared to be asked to stay for callbacks at 6:30 pm.

For the students in pre-ballet through ballet 3B, auditions will be Saturday, September 24th.

Pre-Ballet dancers will audition from 11:30am- 1:15 pm.

Ballet 1 and 2 dancers, their turn will be between 1:00 pm -2:45 pm.

Level 3A and 3B will follow from  2:30-4:15 p.m.

If this is your child’s first Nutcracker audition, here are some things to know.

Yes, they need to be seven. While we love how enthusiastic our youngest dancers are, to perform in a full-length ballet they need to be 7 years old by December 31, 2016.

Arrive early. The studio is a bit nutty during Nutcracker, so arriving early will give your child time to get settled before the audition begins. There will be registration, paperwork, and an official number they get to pin to their leotard or t-shirt. It is exciting and nerve-wracking for them!

Auditions are a class. Just like there are plies and barre work and center work in class, dancers will do the same during their audition. Letting your child know what to expect can help settle the butterflies in their bellies. You can remind them that they know what class feels like, and they should come dressed as they do for their ballet class-for girls, hair in a bun, pink tights and leotard of their class color. For boys—white shirts, black tights and shoes. Once rehearsals begin, girls are allowed to wear the leotard color of their choice, and can add a short ballet skirt if they would like. Pink tights are still required and hair should be up in a bun.

 Wednesday is the big reveal. Wednesday afternoon, the casting list will be posted on the walls at the studio. You’ll know the location by the crowd around it! Please have your child read all the way through to find their name, then highlight it so we know you know what their role is. Check which cast they are listed for – A or B. A and B are simply the names we use to keep track of the two casts, there is no difference in dance ability. Your child will need to be at every rehearsal for their part, regardless of their cast. Make sure to write it down somewhere, though, because you’ll want to know which shows to buy tickets for!

Nutcracker is fabulous—and a fabulously big commitment. We know life can be hectic and filled with family events. Missing rehearsal is different than missing a class. The dancers depend on each other for placement, timing, choreography. If your child is going to miss one rehearsal, the directors need to know two weeks in advance. If they are going to miss more, the directors may replace them with another dancer.

Keep you eyes on the calendar. Once casting is posted on Wednesday, September 28th, rehearsals begin! The Nutcracker is an evolving dance. Rehearsals are added or moved to meet the needs of each piece. Please check the calendar (link) at least once a week for updated dates and times.

Welcome to theatre week(s)! The week before the show opens our rehearsals will be happening on stage at SPSCC’s Minnaert Center for the Arts. There may be days you’ll need to pick your dancer up early from school, and days they will be up past bedtime at the theatre. We all have children, and we work hard to keep their ages and stages in mind as we schedule rehearsals. Theatre week is the time we add the last-minute polish so that our audience is wowed on opening night. Also, we’re so excited that this year we are performing eight shows over two weekends! So mark you calendars accordingly.

The Nutcracker becomes a family. There is nothing to lift the holiday season like participating in The Nutcracker. We are so excited to have your dancer join us for this performance. Remember that you, too, become part of the family. There are many ways to volunteer your time and expertise. Kim Cadoo will be sending out information soon about the volunteer commitment and opportunities.

Thank you for sharing your child with us. The Nutcracker is a tradition. We are proud to be a part of it. And even more we are grateful that your child will be joining us on this journey. Thank you for having your child spend the time, energy and commitment with us. Thank you for your flexibility and good cheer as we bring the magic of The Nutcracker to life.

 

 

  Honoring our Seniors!

The end of May means it is time to honor our Performance Division graduating seniors. In the days ahead, we'll be highlighting each one of them. We are always impressed with who these dancers are, and how they express themselves. You can read about them here, and then look for them during Spring Showcase.

 

Today's dancer is: Monica Sieling

 

1.    How old were you when you started dancing?

 I began dancing at age 4 so in total I have been dancing for 14 years!

2.    Why did you start dancing?

 I started dancing because I always knew I was destined to be a princess and I figured I needed to know how to dance when I attended a royal ball.

3.    Why do you dance at studio west?

I dance at studio west because... Well it's free for me haha! But I also love the community and opportunities Studio West provides and the quality training is unlike any other dance studio in Olympia.

4.    What have you learned about yourself through dance?

Through dance, I learned that I can be very hypercritical of myself. I think that's why ballet and I have always gotten along so well. Ballet requires a dancer to constantly be striving for perfection... Even if we know we will never achieve it.

5.    What is the most important lesson your instructors have taught you?

My dance instructors have helped me over the years to accept my craziness as a blessing. Through them I have been taught to channel all my insanity into an art form that has given my life both grace and meaning. Stephanie, Marianna, Erin and yes Ms. MC, pushed me to be unapologetic for who I am. Because of my teachers, I will never be afraid to dance on the edge; the risk of falling is nothing compared to dancing among the stars.

6.    What do you anticipate feeling at the end of Spring Showcase?

 TEARS! Lots and lots of tears! But these tears will be both happy and sad. Though it seems terrible to imagine the many friends who I have lived and laughed and danced with for years, no longer being in my daily life, the closing of the Spring Showcase will also mean the beginning of a new chapter in our lives.

7.    What are your plans for next year?

Next year I will be staying in Olympia to finish up my A.A. at SPSCC before transferring to a four year college. I also plan to be teaching more classes at the studio and of course continuing with the many dance classes of my own.

8.    What are your dance hopes for the future?

In my perfect life I hope to be dancing my way out of a nursing home and into a crematorium, haha. But really, the best thing I could hope for is to always be dancing whether that is through teaching or taking classes in college or even just dancing around my living room. Because for me dance is synonymous to bliss.

9.    What would you want to say to the young little dancers in their pink or purple leotards?

 Never give up. Follow your dreams. I know it sounds cliché but really, no matter what people say, keep your head in the clouds! And don't be afraid... of anything! If you want something bad enough, nothing and no one can stand in your way. And if someone does, don't be afraid to tell them like it is and then drop kick them out of your life. 

10. I dance because…

I dance because it is in my blood. It is a part of me that I will never be able to live without. Do you know that feeling when you dive underwater and for a moment you are not sinking nor are you rising to the surface. You are just floating, suspended in this world of blue. And all the noise and decisions and pressure just falls away. That is why I dance. For that single moment of perfect simplicity.

Today's dancer is: Isabelle Hamilton

1.    How old were you when you started dancing?

I started dancing when I was about 4 years old but stopped for a few years and then started again when I was 7.

2.    Why did you start dancing?

I started dancing because both my sister and a lot of my friends were enrolled in classes.

3.    Why do you dance at studio west?

I dance at studio west because of the dedicated faculty and the sense of community and family that the studio provides.

4.    What have you learned about yourself through dance?

I have learned that I am capable of more than I think I am, and how to appreciate myself and what I am able to do.

5.    What is the most important lesson your instructors have taught you?

My instructors have taught me hard work and dedication and how to appreciate the individualism of every person.

6.    What do you anticipate feeling at the end of Spring Showcase?

I'm definitely going to be sad. SWDA is my family, and spring showcase marks the end of an era. I am so used to spending a large apart of my life at the studio and surrounded by my closest friends, and it's going to be strange not having that anymore.

7.    What are your plans for next year?

I plan on attending Western Washington University.

8.    What are your dance hopes for the future?

I hope to continue taking at least a couple of dance classes at WWU.

9.    What would you want to say to the young little dancers in their pink or purple leotards?

Work hard and spend your life doing what you love. Dance is a lifestyle, so embrace it, and enjoy it.

10. I dance because…

The feeling that you get performing is amazing, knowing that you worked so hard to accomplish what you are essentially giving to the audience.

Today's dancer is: Sydney Solis

1. How old were you when you started dancing?

I started dancing when I was four!

2.         Why did you start dancing?

Honestly, I don’t remember why I started dancing… I probably was just attracted to the sparkly costumes and pointe shoes. However I know that I kept dancing because I always wanted to be as beautiful and graceful as the “older girls,” I’ve always loved working hard, and it just felt like the right sport and art for me.

3.         Why do you dance at studio west?  

I dance at Studio West because it’s become a second home to me!  The environment is so supportive and it’s hard to ignore that “family” feeling among the level six girls and among the whole casts of our shows.

4.         What have you learned about yourself through dance?

Through dance, I have learned perseverance.  I have found that pushing through the hard days and not giving up through injury is completely worth it to keep doing what you love.  I have also learned how to give myself grace.  In ballet, it’s easy to strive for perfection, and that constant search for perfection can be draining.  At some point, I had to learn to strive for excellence rather than perfection, because I’m only human!

5.         What is the most important lesson your instructors have taught you?

The most important lesson my instructors taught me is humility. Learning how to accept corrections and criticism in a positive way and trying to improve upon them is a lesson that they have taught me, but applies to life even outside of the studio.  

6.         What do you anticipate feeling at the end of Spring Showcase?

At the end of Spring Showcase, I anticipate feeling very sad. Each year when the seniors leave, I am so happy for them but it’s nearly impossible to finish the show without crying a little… or a lot. I never thought my senior year would come, but now it’s here and it’s very bittersweet! I’m very excited for the future but leaving behind my SWDA days will be hard.

7.         What are your plans for next year?

Next year I will be attending the University of Washington to study International Business and Entrepreneurship and Spanish! I am SO excited.

8.         What are your dance hopes for the future?

I’m definitely not ready to stop dancing just yet, so I hope to take dance classes next year at UW and hopefully be involved in some performances.

9.         What would you want to say to the young little dancers in their pink or purple leotards?

To the little girls in their pink and purple leotards… you girls are just as inspiring to me as I might be to you!  Your absolute awe of ballet is refreshing and something I often forget I need.  Don’t lose that wonder, dance with all you’ve got, and be kind to yourselves and your bodies!

10.      I dance because…I dance because I love pushing myself and working hard, and the feeling of bringing all of my work to the stage and showing my love of dancing to the audience is a reward worth it all.  The feeling of community I’ve found at the studio is something I’ve found nowhere else, and I continue learning more about life and myself through this crazy mix between a sport and an art form that we call dance.  

 

 

Today's dancer is Carol Davis.

1. How old were you when you started dancing?

My parents snuck me into the pre-ballet class for ages three and above when I was two.

2.         Why did you start dancing?

I started dancing because my parents signed me up, but I think I kept dancing because ballet captured my attention as a little kid. According to my mom, I was never one to count down the minutes until class was over or to look outside of the studio to make sure she hadn’t left. I think I really just loved the focus of ballet class, the music and the feeling of being a star on stage.

3.         Why do you dance at studio west?  

Dancing at studio west is something that I actively choose to do everyday. I’ve never come because my parents wanted me to, because I wanted to do what my friends were doing, or even because I felt like it was the right choice. I come because I love dancing and being surrounded by dancers and teachers who share my passion and are pursuing it wholeheartedly. Studio west is filled with positive energy and encouragement that fuels me as a dancer and a person.

4.         What have you learned about yourself through dance?

There is strength and value in my individuality! Especially in the middle of something like ballet where uniformity is such a big deal, I’ve had to remind myself that uniqueness is beautiful and -quite frankly- a key part of being an artist. There is nothing worse than a “cookie-cutter” dancer (no matter how strong his/her technique may be), and there's nothing better than a dancer who owns herself, her story and her gifts. In some sort of roundabout way, dance has forced me to appreciate that who I am as an individual is far more meaningful and interesting than my physical strengths will ever be.

5.         What is the most important lesson your instructors have taught you?

There are quite a few ballet teachers in the world who can teach technique, but only a handful of those take the time to make sure their students become artists. I'm really lucky to have teachers who see the importance in both things and have worked hard to make me a well rounded dancer. There is a lot that goes into becoming powerful performer, and for me its been a process of being taught the importance of self confidence, self love, and fearlessness. Every one of my teachers has taken the journey with me and empowered me with the tools to push the limits and be vulnerable on stage.

6.         What do you anticipate feeling at the end of Spring Showcase?

In the past there's been such a wide range of emotions after the last shows … sadness that the seniors are leaving, excitement for summer, relief that our bodies will get a break and our that brains can start deleting choreography, eagerness for summer intensives etc. This year will probably be the same in a lot of ways but also different knowing that it's the last of MANY showcases and the cap on so many good times with so many good people. I could seriously go on and on about the sweet memories I have with everyone at the studio. It’ll be a lot to say goodbye to.

7.         What are your plans for next year?

I'm excited to say I'll be attending Texas Christian University in the fall to get my BFA in Ballet and major in another (undetermined, but potentially health science-related) area. Many adventures to come as a horned frog!

8.         What are your dance hopes for the future?

I’m interested in pursuing a professional career in dance and plan on exploring that option during the next few years. My experience with ballet so far doesn’t even make a dent in all there is to be exposed to as a dancer, and I want to get out there and be a part of everything the world has to offer! Further down the line, I’d love to see my career matching up with dance somehow. Whether I end up teaching, choreographing, doing dance medicine, or sewing costumes, I want to be able to give back and be involved with the next generation of dancers.

9.         What would you want to say to the young little dancers in their pink or purple leotards?

If you’re wearing a pink or purple leotard then you’re at the very beginning of your dancing journey and you have a lot of decisions ahead of you! Whatever you choose to do, whether it be basketball, swimming, knitting, dancing (the best choice), or anything else, pursue it with every part of you. You might spend a lot of time at your activity not knowing how or if you will get use it in the future, but that doesn't mean it isn’t worth your time. The physical aspects of any art or sport only last for the moment, but the lessons and rewards that come from hard work are timeless. Be fearless in your pursuits… there’s nothing to lose!

10.      I dance because…I dance to get lost in movement, to be free onstage, to feel a unique kind of joy, to share rehearsals and final performances with some of my best friends, to connect with the most unfamiliar of audiences, to make a difference, and...well...sometimes I do it just because it's fun and I get to wear bright red lipstick.

 

Our first dancer is Mai-Nhien Dang

1.         How old were you when you started dancing?

I started dancing when I was about three or four years old. 


2.         Why did you start dancing?

I can’t really remember why I started dancing because I was so young! I was lucky because my parents were willing to let me try out many different sports/activities. From soccer, to swimming, to piano, I stuck with many hobbies and activities for a few years, but didn’t become passionate about those other extracurriculars like I did with dance. Maybe it was the dreamy promise of tutus and pointe shoes, but I truly loved ballet as a little girl and I stuck with it. 


3.         Why do you dance at studio west?  

The reason why I chose Studio West is because that feeling of “home” that I feel onstage. It’s at Studio West, whether I’m dancing in class or taking a dinner break with my friends between rehearsals. The people that I dance with are the same friends that have seen me through countless tough rehearsals, stressful performances, and the chaos of everyday life. They’re the same family that I found eight years ago when I first started dancing at Studio West. Dance is a universal language, one that you can understand in any country and at any studio. What makes your dance experience more valuable and unique is the people you share it with.


4.         What have you learned about yourself through dance?

So many things. I’ve learned that there are some things that are out of my control, and the best way to deal with those roadblocks is to accept them and work around them. I’ve learned that I have limits (because surprise! I’m human) and that doesn’t translate to failure. I’ve learned that you get used to the smell of feet (eventually) and that there’s nothing duct tape and hairspray can’t fix. And finally, I’ve learned that I do have control over how I carry myself, and if I do it with confidence both onstage and off, the roadblocks get a lot easier to jump over. 


5.         What is the most important lesson your instructors have taught you?

One of the things I really appreciated about dancing at Studio West was the fact that the lessons I learned were not always about how to execute a pirouette, or how to properly turn out. I don’t think that I would be the same student or person without my ballet training. Throughout my time at SWDA, my teachers constantly emphasized the fact that good technique makes an athlete, but good artistry makes a dancer. Applying this lesson to my everyday life, I found that I really shouldn’t be focused on attaining technical perfection in everything I do. Instead, I’ve learned to work and act with creativity and purpose, thinking more about the impact I have on others and how I can make myself memorable, not enviable. 


6.         What do you anticipate feeling at the end of Spring Showcase?

I think it’s safe to say that there will be many tears from me! (Apologies in advance) The end of my time at SWDA means the end of my dance career (as I know it). In college, I won’t be able to dance as much as I do now. I won’t be performing in the same kinds of productions that SWDA puts on every year. These past eight years have truly been a blessing and a privilege, and I expect to be a little heartbroken to see them end. However, I am grateful for my experience with dance and with the studio family I found at SWDA. And even though I’ll be sad, I’m hopeful for this new chapter in my life. 


7.         What are your plans for next year?

I will be attending the University of Southern California as a Presidential Scholar to study Computer Engineering! Making the decision to move out of state was a tough one, since I’ve planned on going to a college in Washington my whole life. However, I know that USC is the right fit for me, and I’m excited to take a risk and explore a completely new city and home. Fight on! 


8.         What are your dance hopes for the future?

USC is actually opening the brand new Glorya Kaufman School of Dance this fall. I’m hoping to find time to minor in dance and take advantage of the new facilities and studios! Although I’ve known since the beginning of high school that I wouldn’t major in dance, I can’t imagine my college experience without it. I think that I’ll always try to somehow incorporate dance into my life, even if I’m not dancing in full length productions and festivals.


9.         What would you want to say to the young little dancers in their pink or purple leotards?

Perfection does not always translate to success, and success is not necessarily synonymous with happiness. Whether it be a disappointing role in a ballet or a bad grade in school, you’ll find that there are discouraging moments in between the good ones. It seems obvious that life isn’t perfect, but I think that sometimes we need reminders. When you encounter those disappointments, avoid comparing yourself from others. Accept help from your friends and your teachers, but stand up for yourself too. Remember why you started dancing in the first place.

10.      I dance because…some things just can’t be said through words. Storytelling through movement is so personal and moving, and personally, I think that dance can reveal even more about a person than a regular conversation.

Cinderella!

Spring is here at SWDA! It is time to highlight our advanced dancers. In the months ahead we’ll be reflecting with the seniors on where they started and where they are headed. This month, we’re talking to our upper level dancers who will be with us again in the fall. The last time we performed Cinderella was four years ago—we thought it would be fun for families and young dancers to see just how much changes in a short amount of time. Each day or two we’ll be highlighting another dancer. Need tickets? go to: olytix.org

 

 

Today’s dancers are: Jean Kallenburg and Owen Brodie.

 

Jean:

What role did you dance last time the studio performed Cinderella? What was that like? I wasn’t here for the last Cinderella. 

What role are you dancing this year? What are your thoughts about doing it again now? This year I am Court Lady & court princess. I'm really excited because Cinderella was one of my favorite Disney stories as a kid and I loved playing dress up and so it's really cool to be able to be dancing in the ballroom scene as a princess.

What is a moment you love and you think the audience should watch for?Personally I love Cinderella's entrance; all the guests are so fascinated by her and it's just a really mystifying and beautiful scene.

 

Owen:

What role did you dance last time the studio performed Cinderella? What was that like?  I was a gnome last time. It was nice to be part of the experience and watch the older girls and Nathan as Prince.

What role are you dancing this year? What are your thoughts about doing it again now? I am part of the summer pas this year. I am exited to do it again.

What is a moment you love and you think the audience should watch for?

My favorite part is when Cinderella gets transformed and gets into the carriage with the horse.

 

 

Today’s dancer is: Lena Miltimore.

 

What role did you dance last time the studio performed Cinderella? What was that like?  I was a Dragonfly! So, that was actually my first time dancing in a Spring Production, since I didn't do Peter Pan the year before. It was so fun and exciting! I had a blast learning all my different little dances and we also got to move some sets around, which was something I had never done before, and I honestly felt really important ;)

What role are you dancing this year? What are your thoughts about doing it again now?  I am a Court Lady and a Princess. What are you thoughts about doing it again now? It is a lot different this time, because now I am actually a part of one of the main scenes (court scene) and last time I only came in a couple of times! Now I actually know the story and ballet a lot better, and I got more impressive roles that are lots of fun.

What is a moment you love and you think the audience should watch for?

To be honest, any part that the Stepsister's are in cracks me up! Aaron and Rhett are so expressive and entertaining, I love watching them whenever I am not dancing and just on the side. Also, both Cinderella's have amazing technique that makes me swoon when they dance. Definitely (and obviously) watch for them!

 

 

Today’s dancer is: Lani Dang.

What role did you dance last time the studio performed Cinderella? What was that like?

The last Cinderella I was a court paige and a fairy sprite. I remember being a little bummed because I was in parts with dancers that were all younger than me but overall it wasn't that memorable to be honest. Maybe it's because Cinderella was a few years ago and my memory is less than perfect.

What role are you dancing this year? What are your thoughts about doing it again now?

This year I'm a court lady and the spring fairy. That's such a good ballet journey now that I'm thinking about it. I went from fairy sprite to spring fairy and court paige to court lady. I'm excited to do Cinderella again because spring fairy is my first real variation. I remember being a little sprite and sitting in the front watching all the fairies doing their variations and wanting to be them so badly.

What is a moment you love and you think the audience should watch for?

As far as a special moment in the ballet, I would say definitely look out for the step-sisters in the ball scene. Not even when they're specifically dancing, but when they're just on the side interacting with court people. I keep having to look away in rehearsal because I'm cracking up. The same goes for the jester. They're all a bunch of comedic geniuses.

 

 

Today’s dancer is: Naomi de Jesus

 

What role did you dance last time the studio performed Cinderella? What was that like?

Last time we did Cinderella I was nine and I was a mystical gnome and a dragonfly. I remember loving both roles, and feeling very honored to dance at the same time (as a dragonfly) with the Autumn Fairy.

What role are you dancing this year? What are your thoughts about doing it again now?

Coincidentally, I am now the Autumn Fairy in addition to a court princess! These roles have challenged me in different ways, and I hope to show my efforts positively onstage! I am incredibly excited for this year's production, however I am slightly anxious because I share parts with some girls who are much older than me, so I worry that I won't live up to their standards. Although overall, I think it will be just as magical as last time and the performances will definitely be happy memories for me!

What is a moment you love and you think the audience should watch for?

One of my favorite moments in the ballet is when Cinderella transforms from a sad, mistreated girl into a gorgeous soon-to-be princess. It's an iconic part of the story and the ballet does an amazing job of showcasing the magic. I think the audience will also enjoy all interactions between the evil step-sisters, because it brings a lot of humor and drama into the ballet. I am looking forward to the performances and I hope our production of Cinderella receives lots of love!

Today’s dancer is: Gabby Connors.

What role did you dance last time the studio performed Cinderella? What was that like?

I was a peasant vendor last time we did Cinderella, and it was my first part en pointe. It's so surreal looking back and seeing how much further we have all come, and I think what I like most about doing the same production is having that previous knowledge of the material to gauge just how much we've all progressed in the last four years. It's funny to think about how four years ago I would have totally bombed court scene whereas now, I have more experience and technique in my tool belt.

What role are you dancing this year? What are your thoughts about doing it again now?

This year I am a court lady and the jester, which is SO FUN and I absolutely adore it. My favorite roles always tend to be oriented more with acting as a character rather than only dancing, so having so many interactions within the scenes I get to do fits right into my comfort zone.

What is a moment you love and you think the audience should watch for?

I think the audience should definitely watch out for the booty bump the step sisters get to do when they celebrate what "successes" they were at the ball- it kills me every time! But really, it's hard to pick out one specific moment because everyone has done such a phenomenal job embracing their roles and truly letting the magic happen that every second on that stage is going to stand out to someone.

 

 

Dance to Make a Difference!

Looking for a Date Night idea? A gathering place for your Girls Night Out? Wanting to support local charities? Do you have a young dancer at Studio West and you are wondering what they might become in the years ahead?

Welcome to Dance to Make a Difference! An evening to meet all of your needs. DTMAD is a unique community event. Galas for arts organizations are common ways to fundraise. What is uncommon about this event? We raise money not for ourselves, but for our community. All of our proceeds are donated to a local charity—this year our partner is Homeless Backpacks.

This year is the 8th annual DTMAD and while much is the same, much is new as well. In the past we’ve raised funds for our charities on the night of the Gala, this year our relationship has been structured to be stronger and last longer. Since the summer, our upper level dancers have been volunteering monthly at Homeless Backpacks, and in January we held a studio-wide food drive so students of all ages could contribute.

Another shift that has happened this year is the production of the gala. When the event began back in 2008, the studio put it on as a way to help Big Brothers Big Sisters. In the years since, the studio has worked hard to create evenings to benefit additional charities. This year it is the non-profit Studio West Dance Guild that is producing the gala. Our parent volunteers are working with our gala sponsors: Panowicz Jewelers, The Olympian, Abby’s Cookies and Cupcakes, Olympic Crest Coffee Roasters, Cornerstone Christian School and the Washington Center for the Performing Arts; along with our event donors to offer a wonderful variety of raffle and auction items. We are excited for how this broadened base will allow us to give even more money to Homeless Backpacks.

For those of you who have come before, we’re thrilled that you’re coming back. We so appreciate your support. For those who are new to the night, we warmly welcome you. The evening begins at 6:00 pm at the Minnaert Center for the Arts at SPSCC. Light dinner and wine are served while you mingle and chat, with ambiance provided by local musicians. You can bid on silent auction items as well as enter raffle tickets for all of the items on display. At 8:00 pm the doors to the theatre open and the dancing begins. Dance groups from all over the Puget Sound, including Seattle, Tacoma, Chehalis and, of course, Olympia will be performing. Tickets are $40.00 for the entire night, and $15 for the performance only (8 pm). Both options are on sale now at http://www.washingtoncenter.org/upcoming-events/2016/2/20/studio-west-dance-theatre-dance-to-make-a-difference.html.

 

 

 

 

The curtain rises tonight! Here's the 2015 edition of the letter Mama Stahlbaum's writes each year to Clara. This year she wrote to both Clara and the Nutcracker.

Dearest Clara and Nutcracker,

 

Here you are. Together. You’ve been practicing the pas de deux for hours and days and weeks and months. Each turn, each lift, each leap. You’ve learned more than the steps. More than the technique. You’ve learned about partnership.

 

You’ve learned how to connect. How to create community. How to find your people. People who matter. People you like. People who like you. They don’t have to be people who are like you—the more diversity, the better. What is important is that they support you. They tell you the truth. Yes, even when it’s hard. But who don’t tell you in a hardened way. People who are your partners. Who lift you up. Who you, in turn, lift and protect.

 

You’ve learned that you don’t have to dance through life alone.

 

And yet, you should.

 

Not always. Not forever. But for sometimes.

 

Because sometimes you focus so completely on being part of a pair, you lose yourself. Sometimes you give too much, and don't get enough in return. Sometimes, you work so hard to make their dreams come true, you forget your own.

 

To be equals, begin as individuals. Know yourself, so you can discover someone else. And know that the dance will shift and grow. At times it will be the Nutcracker who keeps Clara safe. And at others it will be Clara who steps in to save the day.

 

The most powerful thing you can bring to a partnership is you. All your quirks. All your strengths. All the crazy, funny, true pieces of you.

 

When you do, one + one = dazzling amazingness, not just merely two. So in the moment just before you leap, just before you lift, find your center. Know your self.

 

Are you strong? Be powerful. Are you graceful? Be elegant. Are you fiery? Be passionate. Bring all of you to the dance. That creates a partnership that crackles and sparkles and is the magic. On stage and in life.

 

The curtain will soon rise. The muscle memory is there. Your partnership awaits. So do your dreams.

 

With all my love,

 

Mama Stahlbaum

  October ends & November begins with Joseph Jefferies! Master classes with the cavalier!

Russia, France, Turkey, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, Poland, England, and Olympia. Olympia? Our sweet OlyWa? Yes. Dancer Joseph Jefferies has performed professionally in 25 countries all over the globe, and mid-December he will be here, on stage, as the Cavalier in Studio West Dance Theatre's production of The Nutcracker.

Why Olympia? Jefferies danced for years with Studio West's co-owner Stephanie Wood at Ballet Memphis. "Dancing for Stephanie is fabulous.  She has an incredible sense of musicality and choreography that allows the music to tell the story.  Whenever we would get to work together it was easy, it was comfortable.  There was good rapport there.” Says Jefferies.

Jefferies will be here at SWDA next week! Not only to rehearse his role as cavalier, but to work with the advance dancers as well. The Studio West Dance Guild is sponsoring two master classes with Jefferies: Sunday November 1st, 2015
Level 3A/3B:  1:00 - 2:20 PM
Level 4A-6:  2:20 - 3:50 PM. The free classes will fill, so pre-registration is a must!

Additionally, Jefferies is the studio's guest choreographer this year, creating a piece that the most advanced students will perform in the studio’s Dance to Make a Difference Charity Gala and other spring dance festivals.  “I love it when I see someone who wants to give more, they are hungry for it, but they don’t quite know how to connect it.  So if I can help them think about their dance in a new way through my choreography, that’s my favorite thing.”

Jefferies has danced the lead in many ballets, including Swan Lake, Giselle, Coppelia, and Cinderella. The excitement in dancing a traditional role like that of the Cavalier, who some may know the Sugar Plum Fairy's Prince, is the awareness that the audience includes those who have never attended a ballet before. Coming to the ballet can seem intimidating for some. Jefferies advice? “Come with an open mind. You don’t have to know anything about ballet to enjoy it. The Nutcracker is very accessible.  Watch and enjoy all that you see. The whole point of technique is to make it so that the audience doesn’t know how difficult it is. If it looks really easy it means the dancer is doing a really good job. Come enjoy the music and the costumes and the sets. The story is animated, it is fun. And I bet you’ll know more of the music than you realize. There is a reason it has become a huge holiday tradition in the states. There are thousands of productions, it will always be there. I’ve been doing Nutcracker since I was 10, and I still love it. I still get excited when I hear the music.”

The highlight of the Cavalier’s dance includes the Pas de Deux with the Sugar Plum Fairy. Two of Studio West’s own student ballerinas are dancing this incredibly technical role. Says Jefferies of dancing with a ballerina “One of my favorite things to do is to partner.  I love it. I really enjoy that aspect of creating something more. There is that third entity on stage - which is the ballerina and her partner creating something together. When we come together my focus is all on making her look good. And being present with her- trying to breathe with her, feel the music with her, trying to pick up on all those little signals her body is giving me. ‘I’m slightly off here or tense here.’ There are things I can do to say ‘I’m here.  Relax.  I’ve got you.’ Non-verbal cues- whether it’s a little more support on one side or a softening of a plie. I like doing that. It is so exciting to be here for these girls and their first professional partnerings. It’s really exciting for me to help teach a girl how to be partnered.”

So come and be a part of this beautiful, exciting, breathing-taking production of The Nutcracker. The ballet runs for six shows December 17-20 at SPSCC's Minnaert Center. Tickets are on sale under at https://ticketsales.washingtoncenter.org/Online/SWNut

 

 

 September is Here!

 

September is here. School has started. The air is crisp. And if you walk

through the halls of the studio you’ll start to hear the music of The Nutcracker.

Why? Because while the show won’t be on the stage until December 17-21,

auditions are right around the corner.

 

For dancers in levels 4A-6, auditions will be held Friday, September 25th from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. 

 

For the students in pre-ballet through ballet 3B, auditions will be

Saturday, September 26th. Pre-Ballet dancers will audition from 11:30am-

1:15. For ballet 1 and 2 dancers, their turn will be between 1:00-2:45.

Level 3A and 3B will follow from  2:30-4:15 p.m.

 If this is your child’s first Nutcracker audition, here are some things to know.

 

Yes, they need to be seven. While we love how enthusiastic our youngest dancers are, to perform in a full-length ballet they need to be 7 years old by December 31, 2015.

 

Arrive early. The studio is a bit nutty during Nutcracker, so arriving early will give your child time to get settled before the audition begins. There will be registration, paperwork, and an official number they get to pin to their leotard or t-shirt. It is exciting and nerve-wracking for them!

 

Auditions are a class. Just like there are plies and barre work and center work in class, dancers will do the same during their audition. Letting your child know what to expect can help settle the butterflies in their bellies. You can remind them that they know what class feels like, and they should come dressed as they do for their ballet class-for girls, hair in a bun, pink tights and leotard of their class color. For boys—white shirts, black tights and shoes. Once rehearsals begin, girls are allowed to wear the leotard color of their choice, and can add a short ballet skirt if they would like. Pink tights are still required and hair should be up in a bun.

 

 Wednesday is the big reveal. Wednesday afternoon, the casting list will be posted on the walls at the studio. You’ll know the location by the crowd around it! Please have your child read all the way through to find their name, then highlight it so we know you know what their role is. Check which cast they are listed for – A or B. A and B are simply the names we use to keep track of the two casts, there is no difference in dance ability. Your child will need to be at every rehearsal for their part, regardless of their cast. Make sure to write it down somewhere, though, because you’ll want to know which shows to buy tickets for!

 

Nutcracker is fabulous—and a fabulously big commitment. We know life can be hectic and filled with family events. Missing rehearsal is different than missing a class. The dancers depend on each other for placement, timing, choreography. If your child is going to miss one rehearsal, the directors need to know two weeks in advance. If they are going to miss more, the directors may replace them with another dancer.

 

Keep you eyes on the calendar. Once casting is posted on Wednesday, September 30th, rehearsals begin! The Nutcracker is an evolving dance. Rehearsals are added or moved to meet the needs of each piece. Please check the calendar (link) at least once a week for updated dates and times.

 

Welcome to theatre week! The week before the show opens our rehearsals will be happening on stage at SPSCC’s Minnaert Center for the Arts. There may be days you’ll need to pick your dancer up early from school, and days they will be up past bedtime at the theatre. We all have children, and we work hard to keep their ages and stages in mind as we schedule rehearsals. Theatre week is the time we add the last-minute polish so that our audience is wowed on opening night.

 

The Nutcracker becomes a family. There is nothing to lift the holiday season like participating in The Nutcracker. We are so excited to have your dancer join us for this performance. Remember that you, too, become part of the family. There are many ways to volunteer your time and expertise. Kim Cadoo will be sending out information soon about the volunteer commitment and opportunities.

 

Thank you for sharing your child with us. The Nutcracker is a tradition. We are proud to be a part of it. And even more we are grateful that your child will be joining us on this journey. Thank you for having your child spend the time, energy and commitment with us. Thank you for your flexibility and good cheer as we bring the magic of The Nutcracker to life.

 

 

August--What's new? The Beat Box Studio!

This fall The Beat Box Studio, in conjunction with Studio West Dance Academy, opens its

doors just across the parking lot. It is Olympia’s first and only hip hop studio. Here’s our

interview with the director, Kristen Martensen.

 

Q: Tell us the history of the creation of The Beat Box Studio.

A: I started with SWDA in the fall of 2008, and at that time we only had beginning two hip hop classes--one for teens and one for kids. After seven years at the studio, we now have 14 classes that offer all levels of hip hop as well as a performance group called EDGE! It has been so incredible to see the dancers at SWDA grow to love hip hop and develop their own styles.

Stephanie and MC have been so supportive of the hip hop program over the years, they proposed the idea of starting a hip hop school - in partnership with SWDA. We decided that we would open the school in the Fall of 2015. By opening our own space we have a win-win; ballet and jazz get more space in the Academy, and hip hop gets all the time we need in our own garage. Its going to be an incredible year.

Q: Why this name?

A: It was important to me to choose a name that allowed for some growth and expansion. I didn’t even want it to be dance specific - because hip hop is not just dance. Hip hop is a culture (no, not the “culture” of rap or 50 cent or any of those crazy music videos you see on MTV), a culture of vibrant and artistic expression. There are four elements to hip hop; Emceeing, breakdancing, tagging, and DJ-ing. I wanted the name to allow for additional training and programs in the other elements as well. After a few weeks of thinking about it - it just stuck. I love it. 

Q: What would you like parents of dancers to know?

 A: I always want to educate people on what hip hop really is, it’s more than the junk you see on TV and the terrible rap music you hear on the radio. Hip hop, at its core, is a culture of expression that empowers youth and supports positivity and growth. Just like ballet, it takes lots of hard work and determination to make your dreams come true as a professional dancer. I want the parents of our dancers to know that The Beat Box is a bridge between recreational classes and professional training. There are many, many differences between training as a ballet dancer and training as a hip hop dancer. Our studio will provide the opportunity for both types of dancers to thrive and have fun in our new format of classes and instruction.

 Q: What do you want dancers to know?

 A: I want our dancers to know that we did this for them, to bring more opportunities into the south sound and more professional hip hop training to Olympia. It’s also very important to me that our dancers know and understand that The Beat Box is 100% positive and supportive environment, and that they can be a part of a movement. I want them to be proud of The Beat Box and to help us grow into a professional studio that draws dancers from Seattle to Portland to take class and workshops in our space. I believe we have this potential and I hope they do too! 

 

Q: Where do you hope to see The Beat Box a year from now?

 A: In a year, I expect we will need more studio space!! I would love to offer even more classes, and to continue expanding our advanced program. My goal is to offer more classes for intermediate and advanced dancers, and more styles of hip hop and conditioning. I’d like to have 2-3 performance groups that hit the stage at major PNW conferences and even competitions. I can’t wait to have our FIRST hip hop showcase next spring and to see where this year takes us!

 

Spring Showcase 2015 happens May 30th & 31st at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. 

 It’s a time of big smiles, and tiny feet. Small costumes, and huge nerves. Here’s some extra information for the TLC your dancer may need for Spring Showcase. 

Yes. They’ve had hair and make-up done for photos and dress rehearsal. You may still need extra time on the BIG day. Because no matter how much we practice, the day feels different. And so do the butterflies in their bellies.

Yes. Your child may well be begging to get into their costume early the day of the performance. We totally understand. We get that excited, too. Please have them eat one last snack before they put on their costume.

Yes. They may tell you how nervous they are. Maybe even a bit scared. Both are great. Why? You can let them know it means this matters to them. They are taking their dance seriously. And let them know you’ll hold onto their nerves for them so they can focus on stage.

Yes. They’ve been rehearsing this dance for months. And they still might make a mistake up on stage. All dancers so. If they seem crushed, remind them how they recovered, how they finished, and how they smiled. Life has mistakes, it’s how we move forward that counts.

Yes. There are many spring showcase performances. There are also many, many dancers. Please be sure to leave home early in order to find parking and arrive without added stress. We’ll see you at the backstage door 30 minutes before show time.

Yes. They look darling, beautiful, handsome, captivating on stage. Please let the professionals capture them. There is no photography or videography during the performances

Yes. It is the end of dance classes for the school year, but remember we have Frozen Dance Camp, Ballet Princess Camp, Ballet Boot Camp, and Summer Dance Program to keep your child on their toes until fall. And in the fall? We’re expanding and opening The Beat Box—our new Hip Hop school. 

Yes. Celebrate! Your and your dancer made it through the big day! Enjoy their joy!

 

 

With Spring Showcase less that a week away, here is our final Q & A with senior Stefani Turner! 

 

Why did you start dancing?

I started dancing at the age of four. However, as you grow older you have to make the choice between dance and maybe something else you wanted to do. For me it was between dance and soccer, I ended up choosing dance. Something that kept me going was the feeling that my instructors gave me. I had Ms. MC at a very young age and [she] constantly had energy and gave me a hunger for dance. When I was finally old enough to have Ms. Stephanie for a teacher I was so ecstatic! Her strength made me strive to have what she had. Having them as role models really kept my spirit and energy alive for dance.

 

Why do you dance at studio west?  

I enjoy the community at SWDA. The girls I have danced with at SWDA are lifelong friends. We are a family, and I know that I can talk to them about anything. They know everything about me, and are constantly there for support. I honestly feel that the people at SWDA contribute so much to why I love it so much.

 

What have you learned about yourself through dance?

 

Dance has taught me a lot of great things. I have learned how to be articulate and express how I am feeling very well. Dance has also taught me that I can have a lot of confidence. There is nothing scarier to a lot of people than being on stage in front of a lot of people, however, I live for that moment because through that moment I have been able to prove confidence to myself.

 

What is / are the most important lesson/s your instructors have taught you?

  

One lesson that I am constantly reminded of is something that Ms. Marianna said to me was: “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” Marianna has taught me that one person/company may not like the way I look or dance, but that there will be another one that will. Whenever I feel torn down I can remember that there is something else out there for me. All of my instructors have taught me a new level of confidence in myself, and I am so thankful for that.

  

What do you anticipate feeling at the end of Spring Showcase?

 

Wow. Spring Showcase marks the end of my journey with SWDA, but it also marks the start to a new chapter in my life. My journey with SWDA will be over. Not being able to see the people that I know love me the most every day will be heartbreaking. I know that those memories and friendships that SWDA gave me will last a lifetime.

 

What are your plans for next year?

  

Next year I plan to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. There I will be studying engineering. TCU has been my dream school for three years now, and I have pushed myself to make this dream happen in many ways. I am thrilled to start this new chapter in my life.

  

I dance because…

  

I dance for the pure joy that it brings me. Dancing helps me to let out all of my emotions and regain control of myself. Whether that is because I had a really hard day or if I had an amazing day, I know that through dance I can express myself.

 

What would you want to say to the young little dancers in their pink or purple leotards?

 

Be realistic with yourself. Work hard and push yourself, but do not lose the love for dance that you had when you first began the journey. Dance brings you such joy, never lose that feeling.

 

 

 Peter Pan Opens Tonight!

 

shows are May 1st & 2nd. For tickets go to:  olytix.org

 

Dear Wendy Moira Angela Darling,

We rarely use your whole name any more. Mostly you heard it as a little girl—whenever you and Nana would get into mischief. In those moments your father and I would call to you with your full name and with a stern tone.

Tonight you got into the biggest mischief of all. And yet I write your name softly and with love.

Tonight you travelled to an unforgettable island. An enchanted place, bursting with impossible adventures with lost children, mermaids, a clock-filled crocodile—all of which were true. But the biggest truth of all tonight is knowing that the power of the pixie dust doesn’t come from Neverland.

It comes from you.

How can I know? I, too, flew with Peter Pan when I was a young. And I want to tell you our secret. It is not Peter who brings the magic. It isn’t even Tink.

It is you.

Do you remember the moment just before you flew? You closed your eyes, breathed, and believed. And do you remember all of the bedtimes I read to you the story of Pan? And the countless other times you’ve read it to your brothers? It was you who believed. It was you who had the pixie dust within her. Without it, Peter never could have found you. The window would have remained latched.

It seems impossible now, but your memories of Neverland will blur and fade. I know mine have. As you grow, life pulls you away from the window.

And so I want to give you this tiny gift. A simple token. A thimble necklace for you to wear close to your heart. To help you remember. It is not a gift to help you remember Peter. Or Tinkerbell or Tiger Lily or Captain Hook. It is a gift that is bigger than Neverland.

It is a gift to remind you that you are the magic. You are the one. It is you who holds the needle and thread. It is you who can sew a beautiful life. It is you.

Your father and I wish for you a life full of pixie dust. A life in which you stitch together impossible realities, grand adventures, the best kind mischief, and love.

We love you, darling Wendy. It is a love you may not fully understand until you are tucking in your own daughter and reading to her the adventures of Neverland.  

Until that time, remember our love. Remember that you are the magic. Remember to fly. And remember the open window. Through it, all things are possible. Just look for the second star on the right, and go straight on until morning.

I love you so, my Wendy Moira Angela.

Mama Darling

 

Peter Pan!

Have you seen our fabulous videos on Peter Pan? You can feel the magic in each one! Don't forget to buy your tickets! Shows are May 1st & 2nd at the Washingon Center. www.olytix.org

https://youtu.be/1RflAbi0bBA

 March 31st--Studio West Senior Highlights

Part three in our series on our graduating seniors focuses on Josiah Gundersen. Here is his Q & A.

 

Q: Why did you start dancing?

A: I started dancing because it was just something I had always wanted to do ever since I saw The Nutcracker as a young boy and because I just felt like moving when I heard a good song. Unfortunately I didn't start taking classes until high school. As I got involved in the musical theatre scene I decided that I should finally pursue the dance classes which I've always wanted to take. 

 

Q: Why do you dance at Studio West?

A: I first chose Studio West because I already had some friends who danced there so I thought it would be a good place to start. I continue to dance at Studio West because the teachers are truly wonderful and I have not had a single one I have disliked.

 

Q: What have you learned about yourself through dance?

A: I have learned that it is never too late to pursue something you love. Starting dance classes at the age of 15, I definitely had some fears that I may have started too late to become all that good and had lots of regrets for not starting earlier. But over the past two years I have learned how to move on from these regrets and really challenge myself to be the best dancer that I can be despite my late start. Dance has helped me see how far a little bit of perseverance and grit can get someone.

 

Q: What is the most important lesson your instructors have taught you?

A: My instructors have taught me how to give my everything in dance classes no matter the circumstances because I am incredibly blessed to get to do what I do.

 

Q: What do you anticipate feeling at the end of Spring Showcase?

A: There will definitely be some sad feelings because I have had such an amazing time with all the students and teachers at the Studio which I will be leaving, but it will also be an exciting time as I look forward to what is coming in the future.

 

Q: What are your dance hopes for the future?

A: In the future I hope to continue my dance training in college and constantly work to be the best dancer I can be as a way to express myself and to communicate messages and stories to others through dance. 

 

Q: Why do you dance?

A: I dance because it makes me feel alive. It gives me an energy like nothing else quite can. And through that energy I have the opportunity to bless others through sharing the art that I love. 

 

Q: What would you want to say to the young boys just beginning to dance?

A: I would want to tell them to pursue what they love no matter what others may say. Some people may say that ballet is not a very masculine art form. First of all, that is just absurd, and second, if it's something you really love, who cares what others may say. Never let someone else's judgment dictate how you feel about the things you love. Dancing is a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day it is SO worth it. 

The second dancer we are highlighting in our Series on Seniors is Khyley Villanueva. Here is her Q & A:

 

 

Q: Why did you start dancing?

A: To tell the story in my mother's words, ever since I could walk and talk I walked on my tiptoes and twirled around the house, and every time I was asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I said "A Ballerina." So when I was two my parents signed me up for classes with my best friend and the rest is history.

 

Q: Why do you dance at studio west?

A: The amazing faculty at SWDA. I have improved and grown so much here and will be forever grateful for that. Besides great training, I have also found a family at SWDA. I consider the other dancers at the studio my brothers and sisters and we all support one another in our life endeavors. It isn't everyday you find this at a dance studio and once I discovered this here, there was no way I was going to leave.

 

Q: What is the most important lesson your instructors have taught you?

A: One of my ballet instructors told me that if you spend the majority of your time focusing on the other dancers around you rather than yourself, you make it hard to improve. I used to always compare myself to other dancers, especially their strengths and my weaknesses. It caused me to be very negative toward my dancing and you have to be determined and hopeful if you ever want to improve. She taught me that I can be inspired and by other dancers while being proud of what I have accomplished and continue to work toward improvement. I've learned that I don't have to look or dance like anyone else to still be beautiful.

 

Q: What are your plans for next year?

A: Next year I will be fulfilling my dream by attending Dominican University of California in San Rafael, CA, majoring in dance with the LINES Ballet BFA Program and minoring in psychology. I fell in love with this school when I attended the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Summer Program for the 1st time in 2013 (I returned in Summer 2014). I am completely overjoyed by this opportunity and cannot wait to start school this August!

 

Q: What would you want to say to the young little dancers in their pink or purple leotards?

A: To the young dancers at SWDA, I would want tell them to never let anyone tell you that you can't do something. If you have a dream, whether it be dance related or not, you can do anything that you set your mind to. It won't always be an easy journey, but if you fight for your dreams and have faith in yourself, you can reach your goals and nothing is more rewarding.

 

Q: Why do you dance?

A: I dance because I love it more than anything. When I dance (especially on stage) I feel like I am in a different world. I feel like I'm telling the audience anything and everything I would want them to know about me; like I'm telling my personal story. It gives me the change to express myself in ways I cannot with words and fills me with all the happiness I could ask for. I can't imagine my life without dance.

March 20th--Studio West Senior Highlights

It is spring! And that means time for changes for the high school seniors here at Studio West. In the weeks ahead, we’re going to be highlighting each of our dancers, and their plans for next year in a series of Q & A posts. First off, Megan Meier!

 

Q: How old were you when you started?

“I have been spinning in circles since before I can remember. My dancing career started in the living room when I could walk. I would dance to any type of music-We Sing, Princess songs, lullabies, etc. I have always danced, the movement ingrained in my heart and soul since I was born.” Megan’s first dance class began when she was three—the youngest aged children they allowed into the local studio. She wore her tights, slippers and leotard so much both at the studio and at home that her younger brother began to mimic her, including wearing a rainbow tutu on his head.

Q: Why do you dance at studio west?

Before moving to Olympia 18 months ago, Megan’s home studio, which had been historically a very strong academy, splintered. Then her family relocated here, after she spend summer in Boston for her summer intensive. Megan danced at both Olympia studios to decide where she wanted to be. It was Studio West that captured her feet and her heart. “I took a class with Studio West and felt that all of the girls were extremely including and nice, having the family feel and diversity of the dancers that I had loved. I begged to take another class at studio west. By the end of that class I knew I was going to Studio West. I have not regretted [it].” One of Megan’s favorite parts of Studio West is the productions. “I had never been part of a story ballet before and the experience was enthralling because it encompassed the performance and magic aspect of ballet that I have always been in love with.”

Q: What are your plans for next year?

For Megan it means one more move—this time to Hamilton, New York to attend Colgate University. Currently she plans to double major in psychology and anatomical biology. Double major aside, Megan will still be putting hours of her time into work at a studio. “I will be dancing with Colgate Ballet Company, a little program that is getting up and running. I plan to be very involved in helping the program pick up the pace. Colgate puts on an annual Nutcracker and travels much as we do to festivals and galas around New York.”

Q: Why do you dance?

“I dance because it is the closest thing to flying. I have always dreamed of flying…Thus Peter Pan has been an obsession of mine since I was a little girl and very close to my heart. I used to leave my window open every night and tell stories to my siblings, hoping that he would come take me to Neverland…Ballet gives me a freedom and sensation of flight. The feeling of balance at the end of a turn where you feel as if you could stay up there forever, when you jump and hover for the smallest fraction of a second, or the feeling of being swept off of your feet literally by your partner, launched high into the air. I find joy in the other aspects of dance as well, but my heart simply wants to soar.”


 

February 21st--Studio West Dances to Make a Difference

The cycle of art includes vision, creation, performance. But for us here at Studio West, it means more. It also means giving back to our community. Holding a charity gala to raise money for the arts isn’t unusual. What is unique about ‘Dance to Make a Difference’ is that we aren’t raising money for our art, but for someone else’s need.

Over the years we have given thousands of dollars to charities like the Hands On Children’s Museum, Mercy Corps, Northwest Harvest, and the Homeless Backpacks program. This year ‘Dance to Make a Difference’ will benefit SafePlace. SafePlace’s Development Director Thomasina Cooper said “SafePlace is honored to be the beneficiary of the Dance to Make a Difference. The generosity of businesses like Studio West and community members who attend events like the dance have a huge impact at SafePlace.”

This year’s gala, which is the seventh, will be held on Saturday, February 21st at the Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts at SPSCC. We are incredibly excited with all that the evening has to offer! The dancing, with performances by six different groups from across the south sound, is just the beginning.

When you walk in the door there will be live music, appetizers and wine. There will also be a silent auction as well as a raffle—all supporting SafePlace. The silent auction is full of fabulous items donated by local businesses, and the raffle prize is a beautiful Pandora Bracelet (including a petite pair of ballet shoes charm) that has been donated by Panowicz Jewelers. Want a sneak peak? Here it is!

To see Studio West and all the dancers, as well as support SafePlace, you can purchase tickets to ‘Dance To Make A Difference’ by visiting http://www.washingtoncenter.org/tickets/.  Doors open at 6 pm and performances on the main stage begin at 8 pm. Same-day performance-only rush tickets may be purchased at the door.

So please, come and join us. Come for a date night. Gather a group of friends. Bring the whole family. We love giving back to our community, and we can’t do that without you.