Young dancers in Strathmore got up close with some Broadway pros, and their coaches hope the encounter leaves them inspired.
Late in July, Expressions the Dance Gallery got a visit from pro dancers Alison Jantzie, who hails from Alberta, and Eric Coles, both of whom have huge credits on their resume.
Jantzie, along with two of her sisters, dances in the world-famous Rockettes, and that alone was enough to get central Alberta kids excited to meet her.
The fact that the duo offered advice on everything from what to wear to auditions to how to deal with rejection was icing on the cake.
Angela Murdoch, a teacher-choreographer with Expressions, said the cache the dancers brought gave the 13 students ages 11 to 16 an attention level they don’t always have during a regular class.
“They listened differently,” Murdoch said with a laugh. “They have the Broadway on the resume. They live in New York. Allison is from small-town Alberta. It’s the same as our kids. They can say it’s possible and you can do it. You just need hard work and determination.”
One dancer, 16-year-old Teagan Rabbit-Carrier, was particularly enraptured with Jantzie. The teenage dancer fell in love with The Rockettes after seeing them on a studio tour in New York. She’s made it her goal to dance with them someday.
“They opened her eyes,” Murdoch said. “Even though I dance professionally, I’m her teacher but she doesn’t totally believe what I tell her, but having these two outsiders with the credibility of broadway, she was amazed that they were so kind to talk to her about anything and everything.
“She left in tears but they were happy tears. She was so enlightened from the experience.”
The visit went so well that Murdoch hopes they can entice Jantzie to visit whenever she comes back to Alberta. When she does again, they hope that kids from the surrounding area can come and meet her and get the experience of a professional.
Murdoch says that although what she said wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, it was great for the kids to hear some simple rules from someone who has gone through the process and made it.
“What was great was she went through a really thorough warmup and talked a lot about alignment,” Murdoch said. “That’s something we talk about to build healthy dancers who have long careers.
“It was nice that she reiterated some of those points. Saying stand up straight isn’t quite good enough. She made it a point about how important it is to be strong as a dancer, not just physically but mentally as well.
“She talked about how much work it takes to continue to persevere when things are difficult. I loved that about her. In general she was so positive and they kept asking for more.
“Having someone different there really changed how the kids performed. They pushed themselves harder than I ever have seen before and they all left with really big smiles on their faces.”