Dancers prepare to take the stage

The choreography has been learned and the pirouettes have been spun, and it’s just about show time for the Cook County YMCA jazz, ballet, tap and hip hop dancers.

Last year’s dance recital, titled “Breakthrough,” ended with a jazz routine by the 4-6 graders. | Bruce Johnson

Last year’s dance recital, titled “Breakthrough,” ended with a jazz routine by the 4-6 graders. | Bruce Johnson

The first YMCA dance performance took place three years ago under the direction of teacher Lenna Stever. Instructors Christine Curtis, Breana Roy and Lesli Higgins, all lifelong dancers and choreographers, have since taken over to continue the tradition and bring the recital to life. The name for this year’s show is “Reprise,” a theme that came about organically through song choice.

“After we choreographed the dances, we realized many of our song choices had connections and similarities. The Kindergarten class is dancing to the Disney song ‘Once Upon a Dream’ and the adult beginning ballet class is dancing to a remake of the same song,” said instructor Christine Curtis. “This is also our second year choreographing for the YMCA, so we decided Reprise is a perfect show title.”

Roughly 70 dancers of all ages and skill levels have been preparing for the May recital since October, with weekly practices per age group class. The recital will include full costumes and lighting. The Kindergarten through sixth grade groups will perform a jazz and ballet dance. The Pre-Kindergarten group, an excitable bunch of 14 girls, will be performing solely ballet. The adult dances include performances by sections of beginning ballet, intermediate ballet, jazz, tap, and hip hop.

The 1st-3rd graders rehearse their dance in the YMCA studio. | Breana Roy

The 1st-3rd graders rehearse their dance in the YMCA studio. | Breana Roy

Local dancers participate in the activity for a variety of reasons and sometimes gain unexpected benefits. For Payton Quaife, a 6-year-old dancer in her third year, the costumes are overshadowed by her love of dance and her connection with her instructors.

“I am excited, but a little nervous about the recital. We got to try on our costumes today and I really like both of them,” said Quaife. “Dancing makes me feel very happy. My teachers help me practice and we perform it by ourselves.”

Martina Williams is a second year adult dancer with the group at the YMCA. Though she hasn’t participated in a formal dance class since she was very young, Williams has always been drawn to dance as a form of physical expression. Last year, she “got up the courage” to participate in the classes and the recital.

“I was so nervous attending my first class. I knew some of the girls in the class from the community, and that helped me feel a bit more comfortable. It was also comforting that, even though there were dancers of various skill levels within our class, the more skilled dancers and our instructors, Christine Curtis and Breana Roy, were willing to gently and kindly assist those of us, such as myself, who needed more one-on-one guidance,” said Williams.

Having this opportunity available in such a small town is a fact that is not lost on the dancers as well. For Williams, who has an intense position as a Social Worker for the county, the stress relief offered through dance is a welcome addition to her life.

The adult tap dancers prepare for the upcoming show. | Breana Roy

The adult tap dancers prepare for the upcoming show. | Breana Roy

“I am so thankful to have this outlet. Our instructors are all beautiful human beings and amazing dancers. I feel very lucky that we are able to experience and benefit from their gifts in our small community,” she said.

The culmination of the hard work of both the instructors and the dancers over the past eight months has proven to be a popular community event in years past. All indicators point to this year being no different.

“Tickets usually sell out quickly, so if people want to come I would recommend getting them in advance,” said hip hop instructor Lesli Higgins.

The third annual YMCA Dance Recital takes place May 13-14 at 7 p.m. at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts in Grand Marais. Tickets can be purchased at the door.



By Casey Fitchett