In its ongoing mission to integrate more with the community of Idyllwild, Idyllwild Arts Academy inaugurated a children’s dance program for local children ages 3 through 12.
IAA Dance Department Chair Ellen Rosa Taylor started the program in September of last year expecting maybe 15 local students might show up. Instead, 40 enthusiastic youngsters appeared, accompanied by their parents, for classes on the Idyllwild Arts campus in the same studios academy dance students take class. Classes are taught by IAA Dance Department seniors adding, as Taylor intended, the extra benefit of building teaching skills for the academy’s most talented dancers.
Observing two classes, one of pre-primary boys (the youngest was 4 years old) and Level 2 ballet for young girls, this reporter was struck by the dedication, patience, skill and clarity of communication of the student teachers, and by the focus and discipline of their young charges.
Academy senior Daniela Rendon Alonso, both an accomplished dancer and Dean’s List scholar, teaches primary-age students in the academy’s Children’s Dance Program. She spoke of her teaching experience. “I had taught before, back in Mexico,” she recounted. “With our classes here, I love going back to basics with them. I remember when I was their age [she was 4 when she started classes]. I share my passion for dance with them and they share their desire to learn with me. They just want to learn. I always see them come to class with smiles on their faces.”
Asked if there is a certain age that is best to begin studying ballet, Rendon said, “Starting at a young age, getting the [ballet] positions helps you shape the body. Also, getting them used to feeling comfortable having people watch them in performance is very helpful.”
Asked what is next for her, Rendon said she is returning to Mexico to study environmental engineering. “I’m still going to dance,” she said. “If I stop dancing I’ll stop being me. Being an artist is what differentiates you from others.”
Parent Felicia Navarro spoke about how her daughter Priscilla, 7, likes the ballet program. “This is her first year to take ballet,” said Navarro. Asked what her daughter says about taking class, Navarro recounted, “She says there are not enough classes and the classes are not long enough.”
Senior Clara Stark, one of the academy’s foremost dance students, teaches the older girls. “I see so much energy and joy in these young students — their pure passion and super innocence. And it is so meaningful to be part of raising a new generation of dancers.”
Taylor said she thought of starting the program because she felt there was a need in the community. “And we have the facilities here and there are none in the town,” she noted. “Parents have the opportunity to have their kids take classes that offer good training. One or two of the kids might even want to come here [to the academy] eventually. In a way, it can be a feeder system for us and we’ll know they’re well-trained.”
The first-year program concludes with two events, a Children’s Dance Concert on Saturday, April 30, in Fisher Dance Studio on campus and an opportunity for students to appear in an Academy Dance Department Production of “Cinderella,” to play mice, cats and frogs. Performance dates are March 16 through March 18. The production will be fully costumed.
For more information about the ballet program for local children, contact Taylor at [email protected] or (951) 659-2171, ext. 2235. Class tuition helps underwrite the program and pays student teachers.
For more about Idyllwild Arts Academy, visit www.idyllwildarts.org.