By Abigail Megginson
The 2015 Summer Dance Workshop, hosted by Pensacola State College, offered dancers in and outside the Pensacola community an opportunity to improve technique and express their creativity.
From June 15 -20, the workshop offered a series of classes in classical ballet, modern and contemporary, jazz, tap, hip hop, theatre, improvisation and choreography.
Lavonne French, instructor of Dance and Musical Theatre in the PSC Performing Arts department, has been the coordinator for the Summer Dance Workshop at PSC since 2011.
French has achieved success bringing in professionals locally and from across the country.
Such talent includes Bethany Hooks (musical theatre/hip hop), Larry Lavender (improvisation), Sarah Tourek (contemporary/choreography), and Anthony LoCascio (tap) Jennifer Mays, Dorothy Lister (Ballet), Elizabeth Bradford, and Keith Anthony Cross (Jazz).
“Students get amazing classes from these professionals who love teaching,” French said.
An advantage to the workshop includes a low student to teacher ratio. The largest class had 60 students. Roughly 200 students attended overall.
French believes the students are receiving unique training at the workshop.
“The students are getting exposed to different dance forms they aren’t used to taking, or maybe a different approach to learning,” French said.
Other benefits include experiencing what it would be like in a dance program in college, networking with other dancers and professionals, getting exposed to different dance forms and approaches to learning, and of course, improving dance technique.
More opportunity can be found through the scholarship auditions held at the beginning of the workshop.
Michaela Jacobs, an up and coming performer in Pensacola, auditioned for a scholarship during the Summer 2014 workshop. She landed a scholarship worth five classes to Broadway Dance Center in New York City.
Jacobs praises the experience.
“It was so inspiring and motivating, such incredible, accomplished individuals, teachers and dancers that are so passionate and so driven,” he said. “It was so great to get to work under those people.”
A dancer for eight years, Jacobs currently is an individual dancer and has no connection to a studio. Despite this, she praises the workshop for accepting her as an individual.
“That’s what’s so great about this workshop, you don’t have to be connected to a studio. You can come with this common interest of loving dance and wanting to grow as a dancer and performer,” she said.
Sarah Tourek, a dance instructor at Elon University in North Carolina, attended the workshop as a Contemporary Dance instructor.
Tourek was impressed with the level of technique she saw in the classes compared to other workshops she has taught at in other areas.
“There’s, obviously, a lot of good training going on here [in Pensacola]. They know where their core is, they know how to point their feet, they’re used to picking up choreography really quickly. That was kind of exceptional for here,” Tourek said.
Tourek shared that the best part of teaching at the workshop was seeing the students grow over the course of time she taught them.
Tourek also added she enjoyed having other dance teachers take her class.
“Teachers from other studios and other colleges take class, and that’s been really fun. You usually don’t get that.”
A new feature was added this summer to the workshop. On June 19, a showcase was held in the Ashmore Auditorium which featured dances from local and out of town studios.
The performance was put on for the workshop attendees to see what other studios are doing and express dance with others.
Shelby Weeden, a volunteer and dancer at the workshop, expressed that her biggest takeaway from the experience was “being exposed to new styles.”
“I never knew that there were so many techniques, even in improvisation, you can do,” she said. “It opens your mind so much.”