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Kids have ‘crazy cool’ time at dance camp

 

A lively meringue set to music from “West Side Story,” the fantastical felines of “Cats” on the prowl, sunsets over NYC and rounds of musical chairs as you’ve never played it before—all this and much more were part of a fun-filled week of dance camp at Sonya Rice’s downtown studio this week. The boys and girls participating in Broadway and Ballroom got to learn the basics of ballroom/social dance plus an immersion into two of Broadway’s greatest hits, with instruction in improvisational acting, theatrical makeup and costuming.

On Wednesday, the students, ages 7-13, were practicing their meringue and their menacing moves as members of those two “crazy cool” competing gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, immortalized in the classic “West Side Story,” a mid-20th century twist on “Romeo and Juliet.”

“This number is ‘Mambo’ from WSS . . . but the mambo itself is a little challenging for this age group, so we’ve adapted the meringue for them to dance to the song,” said Rice, who taught the camp with the assistance of her former student, professional ballroom dance instructor Olivia Glenn.

The young dancers also polished their acting skills with different games and activities, including “emotional musical chairs,” with each chair representing a different emotion—sadness, anger, boredom, fear and more.

“When I give them a sentence once the music has stopped and everyone has grabbed a chair, each child has to stand up and say the sentence conveying their chairs assigned emotion through inflection and body language . . . and the one who doesn’t grab a chair in time is the wild card,” Rice explained. “It’s easy to get the giggles doing this, but I encourage them to focus on staying in character just as you would need to do on the stage. They’ve been getting better and better.”

Visual arts also made it into the curriculum with the youngsters each creating their own personalized string art Broadway star to hang on their doors at home.

“And here we have their canvases . . . you can see where they’ve already cut out their New York City skylines in black poster board and applied them to their canvases. These crayons placed across the top will be heated with a blow dryer so the colors flow down to make a gorgeous sunset,” explained Rice.

On Thursday, the youngsters got lessons in the art of theatrical makeup, transforming themselves into the likes of Rumpleteazer and Macavity, the T.S. Eliot characters who captivated the world in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Cats.” The week wrapped up with the youngsters performing mini-musicals using all the techniques and steps they learned throughout the week.

“We are videoing the kids’ performance as a special keepsake from dance camp. It’s really been such a fun week,” said Rice. “Giving children a chance to immerse themselves in the arts—dance, music, theater, the visual arts—is a joy.”

You might call it crazy cool.