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Odyssey Dance Theatre Offers Workshops at Midvale Middle School

Apr 07, 2016 02:22PM ● Published by Amanda Butler

By Amanda Butler | amanda@mycityjournals.com

Midvale - Odyssey Dance Theatre was at Midvale Middle School during the week of Feb. 22 to teach students the basics of dance. Students got to work with professional dancers to learn new skills, including choreography and how to warm up. The workshops were open to any student who wanted to participate. 

Forty students participated in the workshops, which helped them prepare for a free community concert on March 2. Twenty students participated in the concert, which was a celebration of the music of Michael Jackson. 

“This is the first time we have worked with Odyssey Dance. This workshop and performance is important because a large proportion of Midvale’s student body is unable to afford private dance lessons in a studio setting,” Stephanie Monroe, dance teacher at Midvale Middle School, said. “Workshops and performances such as the one we are doing with Odyssey provide students with dance experience that is normally cost-prohibitive. While we have a thriving dance program at Midvale Middle, students are always excited about additional opportunities to perform.” 

The Midvale Arts Council (MAC) helped coordinate the workshops and performance. “So many of our students do not have the opportunity to participate in the arts due to transportation or monetary issues,” Suzanne Walker, executive director for MAC, said. “Our goal is to take arts opportunities to the students so that they may experience the joy that can be found by participating in the arts.”

Brandon Armstrong and Peter Mortensen from Odyssey Dance Theatre taught the students a routine set to Michael Jackson’s song “Remember the Time.” 

“We’ve been kind of going on the fly because we didn’t know how old the kids were and how many there were going to be,” Mortensen said. “We just came in here and we were like, ‘Alright, this is what we’ve got. Cool.’ But it’s not really that difficult. It’s more fun because we’re kind of feeding off the energy the kids are giving us and vice versa.”

The students practiced dance steps for the routine, and near the end of the workshop, they had the chance to do a freestyle jam session where they could show off their new skills. Armstrong told the students that the jam session should be “super positive. Nobody judges each other. Just come out and show what you’re good at.” 

“Dancing is something that everyone can do,” Armstrong said. “It’s a cultural thing that our brothers and sisters and parents should be doing. And so these kids can just come out and dance, and as long as we teach them what to do, they’ll come out and they’ll have fun, and there’s a confidence that comes with that.” 

Mortensen agreed. “You’ll hear a ton of dancers say, ‘The dance studio, or when I’m on stage, that’s my getaway,’ and for some of these kids it’s like, ‘What’s your getaway?’ So even just coming here for this one hour a day after school is like another getaway. Even though we’re still in the school it’s like all those worries can go away and they can just focus on having fun and dancing to the song.”

“I remember what it was like being 12 or 13, and I was awkward; I felt weird about myself,” Armstrong said. “Dance is something that brings you confidence and allows you to have fun, and it’s social, so it’s good to see these kids step out of their box.”

Giving students a chance to step out of that box was right in line with MAC’s goals for the workshops. 

“Art and culture help to educate and influence our youth at a critical time in their lives, thus sparking creativity and giving meaning to their lives well beyond their youth,” Walker said. “We believe that working with the schools to bring arts experiences will help foster an upcoming generation with values based in art, culture and education.” 

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