Guest Choreography

Over the past several years, our studio, Lake Area Dance Center (LADC) has branched out into having guests choreograph different routines. Most years, it has been small groups or solos. The exception has been that the Senior Hip Hop group was the only large group having guest choreography. Choreographers have included teachers from other local studios, and, in more recent years, other professionals from the dance world.

The benefits of having guests choreographers are many. Dancers who learn from a variety of instructors, whether it be guest choreographers, or through Master classes or conventions, become better dancers. They get to learn new techniques and styles they might otherwise not experience.

Grace’s first experience with a guest choreographer was 3 years ago. She was in the Senior Hip Hop Group. Katelyn Bloomquist (formerly Rademacher), was the choreographer. The routine was called “Bake Shop”. It was a fun routine, with a unique twist on hip hop and baking. 🙂

2017-2018 – “Ya Ya” with Anthony Gabriel and Cory Booker

The next year, her hip hop routine, “Starving”, was choreographed by Anthony Gabriel. It was a smooth hip hop routine. They got special judges’ awards for their style and performance. Last year, her hip hop routine was also choreographed by Anthony Gabriel, with Cory Booker as a co-choreographer. This was a hard-hitting routine called “Ya Ya”. Our dancers again received judges awards for this routine, with comments about how different this routine was from any they had seen from LADC before.

2017-18 – “Love Me or Leave Me” with Kaleena Miller

Last year, her tap small group was choreographed by Kaleena Miller. We have been to many of her tap shows before, and are big fans of her style. Last year’s piece was called “Love Me or Leave Me.” Her rhythmic tap style made for a happy, fun routine that challenged our dancers. This piece was also selected to perform in the 2018 Twin Cities Tap Festival. This year’s tap small group routine has also been choreographed by Kaleena Miller.

 

2018-19 Graduating Seniors – lyrical small group with Katelyn Bloomquist.

This year, Grace has 5 routines (including the tap small group listed above) that are guest choreographed. She has lyrical and contemporary small groups, both choreographed by Katelyn Bloomquist.

Her hip hop large group has been choreographed by Erik Saradpon. Once again, this is a very different style of hip hop for their group.

 

2018-19 Hip Hop with Erik Saradpon

 

She is also part of a new Heels large group that has been choreographed by James Kinney, and Alex Nordin. This group routine has a completely different feel than any our studio has performed before. The girls were all extremely excited when they finished their choreography session with these two!

2018-19 Heels routine with James Kinney and Alex Nordin

Grace loves all of her dances she has learned so far. It’s going to be a great Senior year!

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Saying Goodbye Sucks

Recently , we had to put our dog to sleep. It was a REALLY tough day!

I took this picture 2 days before we put him to sleep, not realizing just how sick he really was.

For the past several years, Duke has been suffering from arthritis. It has gotten worse over the past year. In April, I witnessed a day where he couldn’t get up for about 5 minutes. That’s when I brought him in to the vet, and got him put on Carprofen, glucosamine, and fish-oil. It seemed to help for a while. When we’d run out of the Carprofen, and I couldn’t pick it up for a day or two, I could tell he was in pain. It was so sad.

For the past month or so, even on the meds, his arthritis was rapidly getting worse. The weekend before we put him down, I watched him struggling to get up and down the steps to the basement, where his bed and door to his kennel were.

On top of the arthritis, or maybe the cause of it, was the fact that he had Lyme’s Disease 8 years ago when we got him. Every 6-12 months or so, he would have flare ups that have been increasing in frequency over the past couple years. When he would have a flare up, he would get really sick. Occasionally, he would get bladder stones that also made him really sick. He had tumors on several parts of his body. New ones seemed to pop up every couple months… it was time, but it was awful.

This was taken the day we got Duke. He was so skinny.

Duke was almost 12 years old. He was loving and loyal. He didn’t like other dogs very much, but he loved everyone who would take a minute to pet him. It was hard to say goodbye to him. If I thought it was hard for me, it was even harder for my two kids. We got him when their dad and I were getting divorced. Grace was about 9, and Michael was about 5. They loved him from the moment they met him!

The night before we had him put to sleep, we had decided it was time. He was up all night with diarrhea (I literally had to let him out at least once an hour all night long). The morning of, Grace went down to say her goodbyes before school. It broke my heart a little bit to see her crying over him. He just looked up at her, like he knew it was time. She pet him for a few minutes, and then had to go.

Michael wanted to come with to the vet. He wanted to be there for his best buddy when he went to sleep. It was tough, as we both kept crying, trying to comfort each other, but also love up on Duke for the last time. The room they had us in to say goodbye was very comforting. There was a big dog bed on the floor, and a couch with blankets on it. The vet came in and did one last exam. He said Duke’s heart and lungs sounded good, and that he didn’t see any signs of a terminal illness. He mentioned that perhaps he was just really sick, and that with the right medication, we could get him back to normal. THAT WAS THE WORST THING HE COULD HAVE SAID! It tore my heart even a little more to have to stick to my decision. He followed that up with “Well, it really comes down to quality of life, and it’s your decision.” Ugh!!

I knew that if we gave him meds, he might get better. But, in between then and the next 4-6 months when we’d be going through this again, he’d still be in pain. Even with the pain meds and anti-inflammatories, he’d be pacing around the house, because it hurt too much to lay down. I knew we’d still be whimpering in his sleep, because he was hurting. I knew he’d continue to get more and more tumors (fatty tumors or cancer, we’d never have found out). I knew I had to stick with the decision to put him to sleep, but it was not easy!

This picture was taken when he was somewhere between 3 and 4 years old.

It was sad to see him go. He was just sitting between Michael and I. He was panting, and calm. He was enjoying that we were petting him, and that he had gotten to have many treats while we were there. As the vet put the sedative in his IV port, he relaxed. As the other medication went in, his panting slowed down even more, and he just put his head down and went to sleep forever. It was very peaceful, but also so sad.

That night, Michael was crying in his bed. He said he didn’t understand, the vet said Duke was fine. I had to remind him of all the reasons that it wouldn’t have been fair to Duke to keep trying to get him better, only to keep suffering in between getting really sick. I really wish the vet hadn’t said that, especially in front of a 13 year old kid who is trying to figure out how to say goodbye to his best buddy.

Once he started to realize that truth, Michael switched to blaming himself… after they put the IV port in Duke’s leg, they brought him back in to us. They told us to take as long as we wanted, and knock on the door when we were “ready” for them to come give him the medication. Michael paced around the room during that time. He pet Duke, gave him treats, and after 15-20 minutes, he knocked on the door. He said it was his fault, and that he should have waited longer. I told him we could have stayed in there for hours with Duke, and it still wouldn’t have seemed long enough.

We did get an impression of his paw, which sits on Michael’s dresser. I  noticed his leash show up on the dresser one day, and occasionally, it gets moved around, so I know he is still thinking about him. I don’t know if having him come along was the best or worst thing to do, but I wanted to honor his wishes.

Image result for heart with paw printThere are times when I miss Duke that I don’t even realize it. When I was watching Michael get on the bus on the first day of school was one of those days. Usually, Duke would have been right there with me watching him.

When people say pets leave a paw print on our hearts, they are right. Even weeks later, I get sad when I think about our sweet boy. The tears still come sometimes. I will never forget our Duke.

 

 

 

 

BravO! Dance & Talent Competition

This year, Lake Area Dance Center went to a new (to us) competition, BravO! Dance & Talent Competition. This was our last Regional Competition of the year. It was a great way to end the season!

I really liked this competition. Many parents and dancers said it felt more like a show, which made it even more fun. They had the lights go down between dances, which several dancers that I talked to said they liked. Before the awards sessions, there was a musical intro, light show, etc. It really built it up, making it fun to watch! On the screen on the sides of the stage, it said what award they were giving, which helped when trying to follow along with all the extras that we weren’t familiar with. The emcee was quite entertaining too. He had some corny commentary while props were being set up or taken down, or if there was any downtime while waiting for a group to finish a costume change. It was pretty funny (if you like cheesy humor).

Another nice thing about this competition, was that it wasn’t spread out over several days. It was very small – 2 days, and done! The downside that came with that, was that there were a lot of FAST costume changes. There were typically 4 dances in between each routine.

The Venue

This competition was held at Chanhassen High School. The theater was very nice. Acoustics were great, the stage was a decent size, There were two downsides of this venue. The first was that there were a million stairs to get down to the dressing room. There was no elevator accessible. When you have 8 costumes, and all the shoes that go with each dance, that bag is really heavy to carry down! With so many quick changes, going up and down the steps super fast was exhausting (for the parents, and we weren’t even the ones dancing). I don’t know how the dancers did it! The other downside of this venue, was that there were no concessions. The upside, is families could bring in food, which meant potentially healthier choices, and less cost to families. The boutique did have candy and water (maybe pop too) for those who needed something quick.

The Breakdown

One thing that was new (and a bit confusing), were the levels that dancers competed at. The first level, was “Encore!”, which would be the equivalent of recreational or novice. Next was “O!verture”, which would be like the intermediate level. Finally, was the “BravO!” level, which is the equivalent of the advanced level.

Categories were broken down by age, which made it seem like there were a lot of divisions. For example, within Junior, there was Junior (9), Junior (10), and Junior (11). There were also a ton of different awards they gave out at the overalls. There was the Entertainment Award, Outstanding Performance, Choreography, Standing Ovation, and Costume Award. There were scholarship opportunities (for dance intensives in Chicago), a Discount Dance Supply gift certificate raffle, and an Excellence in Showmanship Award. For this last award, the winner got a bag with a few goodies from Discount Dance Supply.

Another thing that was a little different was the scoring. The highest scores received a Platinum. Next, was Elite High Gold (we are used to High Gold at this level). I believe Gold was next, though, I don’t recall seeing any given.

During awards, they always called the teacher up for the 1st place winners. It was sometimes a bit awkward while we waited for the teacher to come up. They almost should have sat the teachers on the side of the stage so it would have been easier for them to get up there, and/or waited to interview the dancer until the teacher was there.

Duets/trios only got 1 medal. Participants could purchase a 2nd/3rd medal from the boutique if they wanted to. This caused some frustration for some of the younger kids when they placed. The only other thing I didn’t like about awards, actually had more to do with the program. It wasn’t overly expensive (I think $10). What I didn’t like about it, was that it didn’t have a place to write the awards. They did awards in a way that it was not too bad to go back and forth through the program to write them down, but I always appreciate being able to just sit on one page.

Something I noticed this year, was that there were a couple of studios that always stood up for the 1st place winners. Plie Dance Company did that at this competition. I love the sportsmanship that this shows!

The Results

Our studio did pretty well. “Gaga”, our Production dance, got 1st place, and the Standing Ovation award. “Studio 54”, our disco themed Line dance that has our preteens-seniors, also placed 1st, and got the Entertainment award. Several of our other large and small groups placed, and most got platinum scores. Grace’s solo got a Judges’ Award for being a Joy to Watch. The judge said she had a smile that made her want to watch her routine. It was such a great moment for Grace, since that was one of her goals all year! She also scored a platinum. 🙂 Some of our friends stayed after large groups to watch her… It was such a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Year to Go

This past weekend, LADC had their annual dance recitals. I will write about those later. While watching the afternoon recital, I started to reflect on the fact that Grace only has one year of competitive dance to go.

tweeted the following, as a summary of how I was feeling. “Watching all the Seniors at the dance recital today got me feeling emotional. Mostly I was thinking about how hard it’s going to be next year, but also, I adore those girls that are graduating!”

This year, Grace has really found a love of performing. I have never seen bigger smiles on her face as she danced. My mom commented at the recital about how much joy she was oozing while she danced. It has been fun watching her improve so much each year! After next year, I will miss the competition scene, even though they tend to get stressful at times. There’s something about being at dance competitions that I just love. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I really enjoy sitting in the audience, watching the dances from all the different studios. I love watching Grace perform, but also all the other dancers from our studio. I have watched so many dancers grow up over the past 7 seasons. When I watch the littles on stage, it’s like watching nieces and nephews dancing. I feel as proud of them when they win, as if they were my own family members.

As I was thinking about my feelings, I realized I shouldn’t be sad. I will still be around the studio as an Adult Tap student. That said, I won’t have those extended amounts of time there, where I will be able to get to know the other dance families. I will miss working at the front desk, and being able to help Maria wherever I can. I will miss being that obnoxious parent that is around every corner with a camera (especially at competitions). I am currently the studio “stalkerazzi”… I enjoy taking pictures not only of Grace and her dance friends, but also of other kids. I enjoy being able to share them with other parents, and our studio owner.

I was thinking about all of this as Miss Maria was honoring the Seniors. Every year, she pulls each of the Seniors and their families to the stage. She honors each one with some thoughts on her experiences with each of them. When she was talking to them, she said she wished she had enjoyed the moments she had with them just a little bit more. She talked about trying to enjoy each of their lasts with them through the year… I’m going to try to remember that next year, as we go through one last after another… last first day of dance (after 14 years), last solo, last competition, last recital, last Nationals… I’m going to try to enjoy each of those “in the moment”, and try not to be sad about them. I’m going to enjoy each conversation I have with each of the dance families, knowing that it won’t be the last time I see many of them…. Most of all, I’m going to try to enjoy every second I get to watch Grace on stage, performing her heart out!

It’s going to be a tough year, but will also be amazing, because it will signal the beginning of many new firsts…

 

 

Masquerade Regionals – 2018

Grace and her fan club – Kennedy and Maddy

Our studio recently attended Masquerade Dance Competition, traditionally, our favorite competition of the year. It was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville. It ended up being a 3-day long weekend for us (some were there even more than that).

Grace started the competition weekend by going to school for half a day, then we went down to Burnsville for her solo. She was really nervous, as Masquerade tends to bring some of the Best of the Best dancers in the Twin Cities. She REALLY wanted to wow the judges so she would be selected for Parade of Stars (being invited back to participate in the Opening Number at Nationals). She was hungry, but wouldn’t eat beforehand. She was too nervous. Just as she started her solo, her leg started spasming. She danced well in spite of this. I only knew something was wrong because I saw a quick flash of pain go across her face for a split second. I was worried she had re-sprained her ankle. Unfortunately, this was not her year for Parade of Stars. She scored a High Gold on her solo.

Miss Maria did Grace’s hair for her solo. So cute!

Saturday, we were back for Production. It looked so good! I wrote a note that said that I thought it was much better than the last competition! They got a platinum score, and 3rd overall. This was the day all the minis-juniors did all their large and small groups. By the time it got to production in the afternoon, you could tell they were all tired! This was true across pretty much all the studios. It was a long day for those little kids, without much time to rest.  The judges must have been pretty tired too, because the music was so loud! I think they were trying to make sure everyone stayed awake. The down side, was that they kept it fairly loud during awards too, so it was a bit hard to hear how some dances did. Usually, we do not have this issue at this particular competition. Luckily, we could still hear the tap sounds, though, I did not see microphones on the stage.

Studio 54 – a disco themed Line featuring our Preteens-Seniors. (photo creds to Miss Maria)

Sunday, Grace had the rest of her dances. It was a 12-or-so hour day for our preeteens-seniors. In true Masquerade style, the day started out with tap for our large and small groups. I’m glad they got to do their tap dances while they still had full energy. By the end of the day, they were all pretty worn out! Despite their exhaustion, all of the Seniors’ dances scored a platinum. Blue Moon, their musical theater dance got Audience Choice, and a “Class Act” Judges Award. YaYa, the Teen/Senior Hip Hop group, got a “Passive Aggressive” award. The judge commented on how their look (hair down, hats on), their hard hitting dance, etc was so different that what Lake Area Dance usually does. Their Line dance, Studio 54, got called back to do an encore. It was so much fun! Encore is one of the things we love about Masquerade! Another, is the ability of the audience to vote for their favorite dance in each category. When you download the Masquerade app, you can vote with the free version. If you want to pay for it, you can get live updates of what dance is on stage, how long until the next awards session, etc.

I heard a lot of parents at this competition asking about the color levels. At Masquerade, dances either compete at the green, gold, or purple level. Green is the equivalent of a novice or recreational level. Gold would be intermediate, while purple is the advanced level. If you’ve never been to Masquerade before, this can be confusing. The dances are scored similarly as most competitions. Judges score each routine, and then dances are given an adjudication based on their score. The highest “score” a dance can receive is Platinum. Next is High Gold, then Gold, then Silver, and finally, bronze. Most dances we have seen score somewhere in the gold – platinum range.

Hanging out with dance moms and friends who came to support our dancers.

Overall, this competition was fun as always. It has become very comfortable for us, as we almost feel it is an extension of our dance family. We look forward to our next competition, which will be a new one for us.

 

 

Legacy Dance Championships – 2018

A couple weeks ago, our studio had its first studio-wide dance competition of the season, Legacy Dance Championships. It was a great weekend. We were lucky in that we only had to be there 2 days.

This competition was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville. This is always our favorite venue. It’s nice to be in a place that feels so familiar!

My daughter’s day started with her tap small group. She loves this dance, as it was choreographed by one of her tap idols, Kaleena Miller. The dance is in a style of tap that is different than what Grace is used to, but is also a great challenge. I really enjoy this dance too, so it was a fun way to start the day! She then had her large group dances – tap, contemporary, Line (a disco themed jazz dance including all competitive dancers preteen-seniors),  and musical theater. That evening, she competed her solo. I love her dances this year!! Her tap dance is so much fun (and funny). It was choreographed by Lake Area Dance Center‘s owner, Maria Pomerleau (as were the musical theater, and Line). Her solo is a tap solo to “Cheek to Cheek”. I LOVE it soooo much! Instructor Madelyn Lee choreographed the perfect dance for her! It makes me smile when I watch her. Due to her platinum score, she also got invited to be part of their Nationals Opening Number. Unfortunately, I think all of their Nationals are at times that we can’t go, but it was a huge honor for her to be invited.

Grace and Madelyn. I wish these two could do a tap duet!

Sunday, she had her hip hop dance, which was choreographed by Anthony Gabriel and Cory Booker. It’s a hard-hitting routine that provides a good challenge for our girls. Grace also had to fill in for a dancer in the Teen Hip Hop group she assists with. One of the girls sprained her ankle really bad a couple days before the competition, so Grace was asked to fill in. Finally, our studio had their Production dance, which is Lady Gaga themed. It took first overall of the production dances. Very exciting!

Some notes about Legacy this year:

  • For the first year that I can remember, the volume was not too loud. In fact, they turned the music down during tap dances in order to help the judges hear the tap sounds. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. When Grace’s small group went, the very beginning was a little off. When I was talking to her later, she said they had turned it down so far, it was very hard to hear the music. Luckily, they recovered very quickly.
  • YaYa – Senior Hip Hop

    The judges each gave out 3 Special Awards. The interesting thing, was they didn’t present their own awards. Grace’s tap dance, “Stronger”, got a Judge’s Award for being clean, and accurate.

  • I don’t remember them offering scholarships in past years, but this year, they did. One of our Petite Small Groups, “Take Off With Us”, got a Choreography Award and a scholarship to Dance Dreams (what sounds like a convention, from what I could tell).
  • DanceXcel had impressive sportsmanship. Whenever the first place overall dance was called, the entire studio stood up to clap for them (whether it was from their studio or not). What a great ethic to instill in those dancers!
  • This had nothing to do with the competition, but the venue ran out of food by mid-day on Sunday. When people are there all day, and can’t leave, it really stinks for them! I left to go get food for us and our studio owner. This was the one and only time they actually let people bring food in.

Despite the busy scheduled, we still had a lot of fun. Her dances were great, and they scored well. We couldn’t ask for anything else. 🙂

 

Ghoulbusters – WBL Lions Club Show 2018

Last month, Grace and I were part of the 72nd annual Lions Club Show.  It is one of the largest fundraisers each year for the White Bear Lake Lions Club, typically raising about $12-$14,000. Money raised goes back into the community. One of the current projects the WBL Lions Club is working on, is the refurbishing of the Veteran’s Memorial Flag Pole in downtown White Bear Lake. According to their website:

“The White Bear Lake Lions Club Foundation is committed to serving our community through many different ventures such as:

  • Annual Holiday Toy and Food Drive
  • Lions’ Eye Bank and the collection of used eyeglasses for recycling
  • Lions’ Hearing Programs
  • Lions’ Diabetes Programs
  • The White Bear Lake Area Emergency Food Shelf
  • Local Scout Troops
  • Local Seniors’ Services
  • Area Schools
  • Scholarship Programs
  • Community Park Improvements”

The title this year was “Ghoulbusters”. It was a musical loosely based on “Ghostbusters” written by Lion Lisa Rockwood. The show was directed by Lion Janine Delage. Choreography was done by Carol Anderson from 4th Street Dance Centre, and Jen Finger, a fellow cast-mate with great skills!

This was my 4th year being involved in the show, and my 2nd favorite (the first being the year I played Lena in “Lena and Ole’s Wedding”).  This year, I played a waitress who got “slimed” with silly string. It was a fun role, with lots of singing and dancing – my favorite part of doing the show! This year’s writer  Lisa, was the other waitress. Our boss was played by Dave Hunt, who I have known for many years. We had a great time being the “staff” of the Beartown Cafe! Thank you Beartown Grill for supporting the show.

 

Just a small portion of the set that looks like real stores from White Bear Lake.

The sets were amazing. I was so impressed with the work done by our set crew! Their goal was to recreate our town of White Bear Lake, MN; they did a fantastic job! We had some incredible painters this year! Our backstage crew cannot go without mention either. They worked so hard to get set pieces on and off stage quickly in order to keep the show flowing. They run like clockwork! Sound and lighting have been done by Jeff Willey, who works for the school district. We are fortunate to have him, as he is really good at what he does!

I mentioned that Grace was part of the show. This was her 2nd year being on the hair and makeup crew for the show. Due to her dance and work schedules, she doesn’t have time to take on a role. She enjoys doing makeup, so this is a great way to be a part of the show, and do what she enjoys.

The Lions Club Show typically runs the first weekend in March. It traditionally features a local dance studio. Cast members are members of the local Lion’s Club, and community members (like myself) who are not part of the club. We are always looking for new members of the cast and crew. You can reach out to the club if you are interested in being a part of it. Auditions are usually in December. Rehearsals are usually on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings in January and February. Set construction is done at all different times.

The Ghoulbusters with their loyal Office Manager, Donna. Pictured are (left to right): Katie Vadnais, Paul Williams, Kate Hunt, Chuck Hunt, and Scott Engman.

Maybe you aren’t interested in being a part of the cast or crew… come be an audience member instead! The more people in the audience, the more fun it is for those of us on stage! We can pretty much guarantee that you will laugh at least once (though, we hope to keep you laughing the whole time). We appreciate every person that comes to see us perform. It is a fundraiser, after all…  without an audience, there would be no show. Thank you for supporting the White Bear Lake Lions Club Show!

 

 

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