Philadelphia Dance Company teaches master class in Madison
By Whitney Skeeters
The Morgan County Cultural Center hosted a master dance class taught by industry-respected dancing professionals from the Philadelphia Dance Company, also known as Philadanco, Thursday, November 6 at 4:30 p.m. in the Hall. From relevé to second position, talented Morgan County dancers got a taste of dancing magic from this world renowned troupe from the City of Brotherly Love.
"Flat backs! Point those toes!"
"Stretch those fingers like you've got lasers shooting out of them!"
The adept young dancers soaked it all in as they repositioned themselves almost weightlessly across the dance floor, their toes silent as a whisper against the hardwood.
Ten dancers from Pointe of Grace Academy between the ages of eight and 15 listened attentively to the two professionals, Jay Staten and Tracy Vogt.
Vogt, who has been dancing since she was three years old, has racked up an enviable dancing resume and has been with Philadanco for 10 years.
Staten, who began his dancing career at the age of 14, has worked with a number of respectable professionals and is in his fourth year with Philadanco.
The 90-minute class began with a series of stretches to warm up. Instructors then led the students through various traveling combinations. Ponytails swished as the dancers sashayed across the dance floor, and onlookers winced as they young girls effortlessly stretched their bodies like rag dolls.
"You're going to feel that tomorrow!" Vogt said, encouraging the girls to work even harder.
As the dancers moved to the eight-counts, they concentrated to make sure every muscle and fiber was in place. Vogt and Staten continuously pushed the young dancers to their limits.
Many of the physical challenges presented in the class were important lessons the students could carry on to other aspects of life. Early in the class, Vogt purposely gave the students a difficult routine, knowing they would mess up. She was testing their reaction to failure.
They passed. Each time one stepped out of place or missed a move, she kept a positive attitude and picked it right back up.
"You've always got to keep going. Never stop dancing," Vogt said, praising her pupils.
"If it starts to burn, just smile," Staten later added.
Katie Anderson, the artistic director at Pointe of Grace Dance Academy, said her students thoroughly enjoyed the class. She invited ten of the most advanced and committed dancers from her studio.
"We were really pleased they had the opportunity to work with dancers who are dancing professionally and in that atmosphere every day," Anderson said. "We were lucky to have them right here in Madison, usually you have to travel far and spend a lot of money for master classes."
Ten-year-old Mary Win Ligon has been dancing for seven years. She came to "just dance, and have lots of fun."
Courtney Boswell, a 15-year-old in her 11th year of dance, hopes to one day be a career performer. She was excited for the chance to "meet and learn from professionals, and to see other styles."
Staten said Philadanco is a modern dance company currently in its 39th season.
"We do everything – ballet, modern dance, jazz," Staten said.
According to the Web site, the dance company's live audiences each year are estimated to be over 100,000 and it is known nationally for being a trailblazer.
Vogt and Staten joined their peers the next day in performing for Morgan County audiences in two showings, one at 11 a.m. and another at 8 p.m.
Patricia DuBose, the Cultural Center marketing director, said they invited the troupe because of the rich history and cultural value of the group.
"It is the largest African-American dance troupe in the country. They are highly trained and are doing great things. They have a history of reaching out to kids," said DuBose. "The center looks to present performers that leave audiences with something to think about. We chose them for the quality of their program."