TCFAF Welcomed the Wexford Dance Academy Last Week!

March 15, 2011

Barbara Pankhurst

TCFAF in its mission to promote the Visual and Performing Arts through Encouragement, Entertainment and Education, was indeed very lucky last week (March 5-10), when they were visited by the Wexford Dance Academy from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The very successful dance school came down as part of their outreach mission with an extraordinary team of 5 very gifted teachers/dancers to give a whirlwind week of FREE dance classes that included ballet, jazz, hip-hop, modern, tap, and the history of dance.  Classes began on Saturday, March 5 with a 2-hour advanced ballet class, followed by a Meet and Greet of the teachers:  Elizabeth Mackin Karas, Naila Ansari, James Washington, Michael Greer, and Beth Robertshaw.  Sunday saw another 2-hour advanced ballet class, followed by a spirited tap class, and ending with a History of Dance class. Over 70 children and adults came out to take the classes during the week.  Each day, classes started with Creative Movement for children from ages 3 -5, followed by the most popular combination class of Beginner & Intermediate Ballet /Jazz and Hip-Hop, for 6-8 year olds (M,W) and 9-11 year olds (T,Th). Some classes had as many as 30 students in it! Starting at 6:00p on M,W,Th was Advanced Ballet followed by Jazz/Hip-Hop for 12 years and up.  The schedule was rigorous, but the teachers had the expertise to make the classes flow.

On Tuesday, Wexford and TCFAF arranged to do 2 Lecture/Demonstrations at the TCI Middle School and the British West Indies Collegiate.  Charismatic teacher/dancer, Naila Ansari began with a history of dance, explaining how ballet began in France during the reign of Louis XIV for the aristocrats.  She soon led the discussion to how modern dance came about with Martha Graham and then Alvin Ailey, demonstrating how the upright ballet stance led to a flexed contraction, and more freedom of movement and expression, all the while having the students come up and demonstrate. Handing out umbrellas, Ms. Ansari had the children try moves from Alvin Ailey’s famous piece, Wade in the Water. Michael Greer and Beth Robertshaw did a 30’s tap number, and Naila and James Washington showed a modern duet. Michael Greer taught the children a Michael Jackson Hip-Hop number, which brought thunderous applause. Question and answer followed with the students very curious about how the dancers pursued their careers.

It was an excellent week of dance, and TCFAF thought that every child who attended was touched by the pure joy of dance and expression, as well as the discipline needed to succeed.  The Wexford teachers noted many exceptional dance students during the week, but two stood out, showing real commitment, taking as many classes as possible, and were awarded scholarships to study in Pittsburgh this summer in their 2-week intensive dance program.  Congratulations Phoebe Twigg and Skye Zwahlen!

With such enthusiasm for their dance program in TCI, and a life-changing experience for their teachers, Wexford has promised to return with a repeat performance.  TCFAF and Wexford will be collaborating for more future programs.  Stay tuned.

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