Olympics beckon young dancers to Britain


Thirty-one dancers from the Glen Dance Studio performance companies, comprised of dancers aged 8 to 15 years, and a selection of the studio’s teachers will perform together in London, to entertain visitors to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in the prestigious English Arts Festival, an invitational three week dance exhibition organized by the American Alliance of Performing Arts Educators (AAPAE).

Over 1,200 dancers will participate in the Festival, including dancers from America, Russia, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom. The largest foreign contingent will be American with 120 dance troupes participating.

Glen Dance Studio is the only company from Long Island, New York and the tri-state area participating in the festival. The group will perform a repertoire of ballet, lyrical, and jazz dances in two separate half-hour shows. On August 11, their performance will take place at the 1,000 year old Warwick Castle located in the Cotswolds in the English countryside; and on August 12th in London, at Island Gardens, a Victorian era park, directly across Greenwich (by tunnel footpath) on the Thames River, in the Olympic Borough of Tower Hamlets, where the Olympian Equestrian events will be held.

Among the pieces to be showcased, is a poignant 9/11 ballet choreographed to “Heaven,” a song written and remixed by Sammy and Yanou for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

According to Kim Leary, the Group’s Director, “The dance was created in honorable memory to give hope to the children of 9/11 -- that their dads or moms who perished on that day, may still be a part of their lives, guarding over them from heaven.”

When Leary heard the song on the radio, she was brought to tears. “It hit me on two levels. I felt all the emotions of fear, sadness and desperation from 10 years before, but it also got to me on a very personal level. I lost my dad six months before my wedding. In the song, a girl asks her dad if he will be there at her wedding when she walks down the aisle. I have to believe my dad was there for me.”

Leary knew if she could put a visual of a little girl growing up with this powerful song, the result would be very moving, especially to her community of New Yorkers, who may have lost relatives in the tragedy.

When the group rehearsed the piece, she said, the dancers had to separate themselves from the emotional lyrics and focus on the music.

After the dancers knew the choreography, they had to reconnect to the lyrics and the powerful feelings behind them. Adorned in flowing red, white and blue costumes, the group recently performed the piece in competition and won the “Stellar Award,” for best dance and the “Ultimate Crowd Pleaser” award.

Another moving piece the group will perform is a lyrical ballet to the song, “Sarabeth,” also known as “Skin,” performed by the country musical group Rascal Flatts, about a young girl battling cancer. In the song, a girl dreams of dancing with her true love at her prom, but doesn’t want to go to it bald from the effects of her chemotherapy. Her gallant boyfriend shows up in a baseball cap that, when removed, displays a shaven head in solidarity with his girlfriend; and the two have their special dance. Leary choreographed this dance in honor of a younger brother of one of her students, who was also battling leukemia. Her dance companies organized a special benefit for the boy in which they performed the piece and raised thousands for the boy’s medical care.

An upbeat, crowd-pleasing number the group will perform, is a jazz dance choreographed to the 1960’s pop hit, “Land of 1000 Dances,” by Chris Kenner. It’s famous for its “na,na,na” lyrics and the mentioning of popular American 60s dances such as the Watusi, Twist, Jerk, Mashed Potato and Pony that the dancers will demonstrate.

Prior to performing in the UK, the Glen Dance Studio dancers and their families will spend one week touring the greater London area, attending Olympic events during the final week of the Games and meeting fellow dancers participating in the Festival. For many, it will be their first trip overseas. On performance days, in addition to dancing, they will be able to watch their contemporaries dance and learn about what’s going on in the field, a key goal for the event’s organizers.

Of particular note is what the opportunity offers these young people in the future.

“We’ve been contacted by a Russian group who is coming to New York next year and wants to meet us,” Leary said.