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Arts and Enrichment

A Cure for Dance Fever

Encouraging Confidence through Dance

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I'm sure you've heard of Dance Fever. It comes around each spring and kids are often not immune. Between cheerleading tryouts, dance competitions, recitals and the general need to release winter's pent-up energy; don't be surprised if your child succumbs to what seems to be an innate desire to bust a move.

Fortunately, there is a cure and it can be found at any number of studios and gyms in Central Indiana. While it may be too late to participate in tryouts and competitions already underway, now is a great time to investigate the types of dance and cheer classes available and get your little ball of motion enrolled.

Geist Sports Academy offers classes in gymnastics and cheering. One of their most popular programs is the Cheer Fit program, which prepares kids for cheerleading try-outs. In this class, they teach cheer motions, jumps, dance and tumbling. Dana Osler, Director of Operations, says that the greatest benefits kids gain from participating in cheerleading and gymnastics are a sense of self-esteem, coordination and flexibility but most importantly—it just keeps kids moving.

Dawn Bandy, artistic director of Dance Legacy on the west side of Indianapolis, advises parents looking for a recreational experience to visit a handful of studios to get a feel for how they run. "Meet the teacher and owners and bring your child with you to see how your child reacts to that environment."

For those interested in more formal training, Bandy says families should look at the studio's staff bios, learn where and what the staff has studied and see how their students have performed.

Bandy's studio offers tap, jazz, ballet and lyrical dance classes as well as tumbling and cheerleading instruction. "We have the best of both worlds - a recreational division of our facility, which is kids that come in and want to dance for fun," says Bandy, describing it as a low-key atmosphere with a focus on fun, fitness and skill development. "We also have a competitive dance program that is completely different. We have a really good time but the dancers in the dance company are definitely focused and want to do this because they absolutely love it. They are here four to over 12 hours per week. It's something they really truly love and could possibly one day want to do as a career."

Dance Legacy's competitive dancers participate in four dance competitions per year and have been known to perform at Pacers games and area parades. "It's pretty serious. When the students come in we are very focused and get down to business right away." She says the competitive dance program can be expensive but the studio has a booster club and conducts fundraisers to help raise money for the students.

Despite Bandy's studio being just five years old, one of her students has already gone on to be part of a dance team at Indiana University and another student will move on to major in musical theater next year.

"The way I train my dancers here is I want them to be very well rounded. When they graduate, if they want to be a ballerina, they can be a ballerina. If they want to go to L.A., or be on Broadway or dance at Kings Island for a summer, they can."

Likewise, Lynn Herrick, executive director of The Dance Refinery on the south side of Indianapolis, wants her students to be able to dance anywhere, on any stage and be able to blend in readily.

The Dance Refinery, which is housed in a 25,000-square-foot facility, offers dance, gymnastics and cheer classes for both the recreational- and competitive-minded student. It's a place for many types of kids of all levels of ability. Herrick works to ensure students get the right education from the beginning and says her high school students are often ready to major in dance or be part of a collegiate gymnastics team once they have gone through her program.

Of particular note, Herrick says The Dance Refinery has been successful with kids with an autism spectrum disorder and ADHD. "Our goal is to be sure we give each student quality lessons and try to give them as personal an experience as possible and still make sure that it's fun. You want them to be learning but there needs to be a touch of fun thrown into the whole thing."

While specific programs for such special needs kids are not yet available, Herrick says they are in the works. "We've had great progress in just mainstreaming those kids. We've had parents who say it's done an amazing amount for their kids, especially kids who have trouble focusing in school and things like that. We are a little quicker paced and they are not having to sit in a chair so we have better luck keeping their focus and they are getting positive feedback. We are a positive place for some of those kids."

Clearly, dance is a form of self-expression and can provide an almost primal form of release.

"I think all kids thrive from dance and movement. I don't think you can say one kid doesn't," says Kristen Tod, business director of Indy Dance Academy on the north side.

"It's a form of expression, and it's so important starting at an early age to be able to express how you are feeling, to know how your body feels and how to use your body. It develops not only physical aspects, but mental and spiritual aspects of everyone," she says. "I see tremendous confidence coming from kids who dance. Even kids who are very shy find a form of expression and that is really exciting to see."

Though not yet a year old, Indy Dance Academy has over 400 students of all skill levels and its classes range from mommy and me all the way through adult. Disciplines taught include ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap, contemporary, musical theater, lyrical, dance team technique, pilates, zumba and more.

For kids who have dance fever and then some, The Flip Zone is one spot that offers a little bit of everything. "I have everything but a pool basically for kids," says Stephanie Strout, director of operations for the business. And she's right. The Flip Zone offers competitive and recreational cheerleading and gymnastics as well as martial arts, a fitness-based preschool and more including dance, though it's currently on a brief hiatus.

Parents often find that this varied menu of classes allows them to enroll their kids in classes that occur at the same time, which is an obvious help to hectic family schedules. The breadth of opportunity also underscores Strout's commitment to helping kids find their passions without limiting their choices.

"I believe that you don't want to limit your child to just one thing. We have kids in high school cheerleading who are also on the gymnastics team and we work around their schedules," she says.

Strout also works to make sure The Flip Zone provides a positive experience for its students. For instance, anytime a student does a new skill he or she rings a designated bell. As soon as the bell rings, "everyone in the gym stops what they are doing and say 'Let's see it!' And they do it. It's a great reward system."

Obviously, there are a good number of studios and gyms that provide dance, cheer or gymnastics instruction. If you suspect your child is suffering from a little dance fever, know there is good help to be had here in your own backyard.

Carrie Bishop is a freelance writer and mother of two young sons, whose daily antics inspire her work and her life.

Tags: Enrichment

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