Dance inspires success
Dancers in the Giving Inspirational Feeling Through Expressive Dance Performing Ensemble balance gracefully on one foot. “I wanted to get better at dancing and advance my skills,” Clarke Central High School sophomore Cherish Gresham said. “Ballet is my favorite part about being in the company.”
Hard work and dedication are what drive six Clarke Central High School students to spend countless hours twirling, leaping and perfecting their technique for the East Athens Educational Dance Center. CCHS freshman Taylor Pittman, sophomore Cherish Gresham, junior Kristolyn Long and seniors Maya Daniels, Traesha Lawrence and Chelsea Lumpkin all are members of the Giving Inspirational Feelings Through Expressive Dance Performing Ensemble, which is a dance company based out of the East Athens Educational Dance Center.
“I really wanted to dance with East Athens. I had been trying to join for a long time, and I finally had an opportunity,” Pittman said. “I’ve been dancing (with the company) going on four years now.”
The East Athens Educational Dance Center is separated into two sections: the center itself, which offers individual classes for all age groups and experience levels, including an accelerated program for high achieving dance students, and the GIFTED Performing Ensemble, which requires a tryout and a large commitment to the program.
Dancers who are a part of the ensemble are thoroughly trained in all genres of dance.
“We train in ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, modern, African, belly dancing and all of the different techniques within each dance,” Lumpkin said.
All teachers at the dance center have a formal education in dance, years of experience in their respective genre and high expectations for members of the company.
“My primary ballet teacher and point teacher is Sally Grenadas. She came here from Russia,” Daniels said. “She danced in Russia professionally and she’s been dancing her whole life. She’s 60-something now and she’s amazing.”
In order to master all aspects of dance, members of the ensemble dedicate a significant amount of time for tri-weekly practices and performance preparation.
“It’s three days a week — Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, for three hours; 5:30 to 8:30 (p.m.),” Daniels said.
Being a member of the emsemble also requires summer practices.
“We start preparing in the summer and learn the dances and when school starts, we go back to regular technique classes,” Daniels said.
Dancers also devote a majority of their time to the days leading up to a performance to perfecting choreography and putting finishing touches to all aspects of the show.
“(In) the five days leading up to a performance, we practice for five days in a row from around (five p.m.) to (10 p.m.),” Pittman said.
These practices, according to Lumpkin, can be grueling.
“(They are) intense practices to just put everything together and to get the choreography and really just go hard,” Lumpkin said.
The amount of time and dedication is what Daniels feels is an indicator of commitment to the program.
“If (dance) is something you really want to do, you have to step up and be able to come and be punctual and dedicate yourself to it because you can’t just half do it. You have to put all of your energy into it,” Daniels said.
Outside of the dancing aspect of the ensemble, members also feel that being involved in a program that requires a time commitment pushes them to work harder at school.
“It’s really taught me how to prioritize work, to stop being a procrastinator and realizing what I can do and what I can’t do,” Pittman said. “(It took) practice. You have to do a lot of trails to see when you can do what things and when you can do others.”
In addition to the improved work ethic, dancers also feel that the ensemble helps them persevere in order to achieve their goals, some of which include a career in dance.
“(Dance) teaches you to do what they love and to not give up on it, even if it gets hard,” Pittman said. “In whatever you do, keep to it and never give up.”
While members work diligently to perfect their technique and grow as dancers, the ensemble, according to Lumpkin, who has been with the program for 12 years, is about more than just physical skill.
“The program is not even really for dance. It’s to promote self respect and to grow as a woman,” Lumpkin said. “It’s for learning poise, grace, self confidence and self esteem.”