By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — Final Bow Center for Children’s Performing Arts completed its second annual trip to Artists Simply Human (ASH) in Nashville, Tenn., last month. Sixteen students from Final Bow’s Warehouse Dance Project and in dance levels two through four traveled with four of their instructors/staff to the national dance convention held Jan. 6 to 8. Begun in 2010, ASH is celebrating its 12th season of “providing an unequaled dance experience that challenges dancers as artists and inspires them to be the best they can be in both dance and life” per ASHdance.com.
The ASH annual convention is comprised of classes and faculty demos along with performance showcases and awards. Students are divided into three age levels: artists in training, intermediate, and advanced. The weekend consists of students being instructed in professional classes all day. “With 9 to ten classes per dancer, it is an opportunity to rise to the challenge and learn quickly,” explained Executive Director Hillary Holzapfel of Final Bow.
“The first Friday evening students take a class with all of the kids combined. After the class, we wanted to get the kids’ feedback and reassure them why we’re here… We’re here for education, to better ourselves; we’re not here to compare ourselves to others,” Holzapfel recalled. “The first two classes are more on the advanced level, so the younger students get a good idea of how to conduct themselves for the weekend.”
Auditions were also open to attendees over the weekend, and Holzapfel said Final Bow students were required to participate as a learning experience. While the auditions were closed to instructors and parents, Holzapfel reported Final Bow students did well and earned positive feedback from professionals. Some students were even moved toward the front of the class to provide examples and act as leaders.
Studio dance instructors also attended classes and were given one-on-one time with professionals to ask questions and seek advice on choreography, lesson plans, etc. Holzapfel said, “Several of the teachers, we actually danced. The professional teachers ran us through a regular class and taught us choreography as well. It was a little challenging as I haven’t been a student since college… It definitely gave us an appreciation for what it’s like to be students again versus always being in the ones in charge.”
Holzapfel, along with Kat McNew (instructor) and Sam Garber (parent) from Final Bow, performed in the closing showcase. “It was an unanticipated performance,” she said. When asked if she was happy to have taken on that challenge, Holzapfel laughed, “Suuuuure! I’m really more behind the scenes; I like to be there for the kids. It was so good for the kids, though. A lot of them stayed for that closing show to watch us and cheer us on, and it gave them an opportunity to see us in their shoes—a role reversal, I guess!”
The evenings consisted of adjudicated performances of which the Final Bow students were required to watch at least two hours. This allowed them to compare the work they are doing at Final Bow to other, typically larger, studios, determine what types of dance they like best, and share feedback amongst themselves.
Holzapfel added, “We also did a lot of team-building over the weekend. There was some swimming, and we ate most meals together as a group… We made sure to talk about about what was going on, what they liked and what did they not like, and how to improve for the next day.”
Final Bow staff and students plan to attend the January conference each year as it offers such a valuable set of experiences. Holzapfel said, “The timing of the year [for the Nashville ASH conference] is just perfect because it rejuvenates the kids for that next season since we take a Christmas break just before that.”
Holzapfel explained she witnessed many of the students maturing throughout the convention. She said a lot of the newer students were younger but that they “all showed up and came to dance!” Holzapfel finished, “It’s definitely a challenge, and all of the students really rose to the occasion this year… We were really impressed with them!”
Final Bow hopes to develop sponsorships to assist with future ASH convention fees and travel expenses. Any individuals or businesses wishing to ensure young dancers share the experience again next year are asked to call Final Bow at 937-459-8078 or email [email protected] Final Bow is 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission “to inspire children through the arts to reach their full potential.”
Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.