WALLA WALLA -- For 40 years talented students and skilled instructors have been gathering each summer to learn and practice the art of dance in what is now known as the Summer Dance Lab at Whitman College.
This year in honor of the 40th anniversary of Summer Dance Lab the Eugene Ballet will join some of the five week students on stage at Cordiner Hall for the performance of "Scheherazade." The fairy tale dance will began at 7 p.m. on Friday July 23.
To purchase tickets to this live performance visit the Whitman College Bookstore or Earthlight books. Adults tickets are $15 and senior and student tickets are $10.
The Summer Dance Lab is an intensive training for dance students to become experienced in the areas of ballet, modern dance, jazz and American theater. The purpose of the training is to create pre-professional dancers. The program has three options for dancers: two, three and five week trainings. While the dancers are in Walla Walla for their training they stay on the Whitman College campus.
The dancers' schedules reflect that of professional dancers. Their days begin at 9 a.m. with two hours of ballet training. Next, the students take one hour of either pointe class or men's class before their break for lunch. After lunch, they take two 1 1/2-hour classes of modern dance and either jazz or American theater. Following a break for dinner, dancers attend elective classes in other areas of dance or rehearsals for upcoming performances. All together, each dancer spends a minimum of six hours dancing each day, not counting their individual practice in preparation for the next day.
For those students in the five week program there is more work to be done after their elective classes. Each student in this advanced program is expected to take notes on the choreography learned that day and spend time practicing the steps. Each step learned is expected to be learned by the following day of class, meaning practice time for the students in their down time.
The full faculty for the Summer Dance Lab includes John Passafiume, Denise Dabrowski, Jennifer Martin, Lisa Bostwick, Allison Keppel, Lydia Tetzlaff and Stas Kmiec.
Though there are many similar summer dance programs throughout the country, this program stands alone in a few areas. Each instructor within the program is professionally trained in different areas of dance. Also, this program, unlike others, is not affiliated with a larger company controlling the curriculum. Instead, the instructors have complete control of the class work, allowing them to cater lessons to the skills and needs of each individual dancer.
"Every dancer is unique, every dancer is special," said Tetzlaff. "We can help steer them in the way of their talents."
"The training is to make artists, not just make bodies move," Dabrowski said.
Making artists requires individual attention to each dancer, something Dabrowski does each class period.
"We have a holist and healthy approach to dance," Tetzlaff said.
This healthy approach is what keeps students returning each year. This year 70 dancers have come to the training in hopes of improving their skills. The students range from 12 to 18 years old and are all current students of dance in their home towns.
Passafiume, a modern dancer from New York, has directed the program since 2003. Passafiume said the program is evolving and will continue to grow into something more. Coming to Walla Walla for Summer Dance Lab is something both the dancers and instructors look forward to all year, Passafiume said.
Jackie Wood, a piano teacher at Whitman College and one of the pianists for the Summer Dance Lab each year, applauds the instructors. Their individual attention, sense of humor and creative approach makes them exceptional teachers, said Wood.
"The quality of the teaching is so high," she said. "The teachers are so dedicated to their art."
For more information about the Whitman Summer Dance Lab visit www.whitman.edu/summer_dance.