by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Esther Simmons came all the way from the apple orchard area of the Evergreen State to study dance in the Island City. The dancer from Yakima, Wash., participated in an intensive dance program for honing technique at the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts (MCA) this summer. She aspires to dance professionally, and the program “helps me with endurance, choreography,” she said. Simmons was one of several students from various dance classes MCA has held as part of its summer programming who said they appreciated having the opportunity to grow as dancers.
With grit, determination, and effort, dancers strained their muscles until they were a bit out of breath while refining their technique during a class of the summer dance intensive program involving yoga mats and balls. Dancers crossed one foot over the other on a yoga mat, then laid face-down over a yoga ball and slowly arched their backs up to their instructor’s count to music. They moved one leg above their heads behind themselves and one arm above their heads in front of themselves. As they arched, they made sure their position was perfect by watching themselves in a mirror at the front of the studio. Next, they gradually relaxed from their arch as their instructor counted in time with a song.
Dancers had to audition to even take part in the program, which occurred from Monday through Saturday over two weeks, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m..
Aidan Indahl, a member of the class who has been dancing at MCA for about five years, did so to prepare for an upcoming production of “The Nutcracker.” He felt the program helped him gain strength and was a step along the path to perhaps teaching dance one day. Simmons added that the classes assisted with building up the stamina required to dance from morning to evening in a professional dance company.
Along with developing the physical and mental fortitude needed to dance, dancers have to learn how to artistically express themselves, Indahl and Simmons said. “You have to do the hardest [dances] and make it look effortless,” Indahl said.
There are more lighthearted moments, however, that come when class members bond over making mistakes, Indahl and Simmons said.
In addition to the intensive program, MCA offered a junior training program. In that class, students studied various forms of dance, from ballet to contemporary to hip hop. They, too, danced for two weeks from morning to night. Participant Lorna Lisowski was glad to learn more about which styles of dance she does and does not enjoy. Class member Matthew Miller enjoyed learning about the roots different forms of dance have in ballet. Participant Aza Williams-Carpenter was excited to improve her technique in various styles of dance. The benefits students gained went beyond improving dance technique. Class member Trinitee Miller appreciated “making new friends,” as well.
The dancers from both programs also looked forward to performing at the Page Theatre on the Saint Mary’s University campus as a conclusion to their classes.