Dancing up a storm in the Big Apple
From the moment their plane touched down, 13 Barrhead dancers were in a New York state of mind.
Being in the city that never sleeps meant jet lag was not an option, so they immediately got into the swing of things and practised some neat dance moves at Newark Airport.
No wonder they were buzzing: they were tasting the Big Apple, they were going to hit Broadway, they were going to attend workshops with some of the best dancers in the business, they were going to be tourists, they were going to … well, do as much as possible in five days and nights in May.
What they didn’t anticipate was a face-to-face meeting with Raven-Symone, American actress, singer, dancer, comedian and all-round entertainer on their last night in New York. There would also be one or two other surprises, some mentionable, some unmentionable, as is the way with any visit to a bustling metropolis, where normality and the downright weird thrive together.
For three of the Footworks Dance Academy members, the trip to America was an amazing experience in itself – Zach Carlson, Karissa Rauscher and Kaitlyn Christiansen had never flown before.
To the others – Maddie Koberstein, Carly Lawrence, Katelyn Hamilton, Kylee Meunier, Kaylee Cole, Allison Kryskow, Keanna Widdup, Mikaela Widdup, Alena Widdup and Dehla Widdup – the main excitement seemed to lie ahead. Accompanying them for the May 17-23 educational field trip was Footworks owner/director and dance teacher Irene Widdup, family members and friends, making a group total of 30.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Kryskow, expressing a sentiment shared by all.
After checking into the Fairfield Inn By Marriott, the guests freshened up, had supper, did a brief reconnaissance of their surroundings and prepared themselves for a whirlwind schedule, which made little allowance for lounging about or lying in.
It began on Friday, May 18 with STEPS on Broadway workshop dance classes between 8:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.
To the Barrhead youngsters, being put through their paces in such a top-class environment was an inspiration and privilege as they constantly seek to improve their talents. “They all came away with a greater appreciation of the arts,” said Irene Widdup.
In the afternoon they took the famous New York subway to a Mary Poppins workshop before watching “Anything Goes,” the first of four Broadway shows. The others were “Mary Poppins,” “Chicago” and “Sister Act.”
Which was best? Well, “Mary Poppins” seemed to score highly with most of them, although each one was enthralling. The next day saw more dancing … this time with the Rockettes Dance Experience in which they received lessons in tap and jazz from one of the iconic Rockettes, and took part in a “mock audition.”
After seeing “Mary Poppins,” the dancers returned to the hotel with “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” playing in their heads, knowing that yet another early start was expected – more STEPS on Broadway classes. In between all the dancing, the group found time to shop, look wistfully at items in chic, up-market boutiques and visit landmarks like Central Park, Carnegie Hall, the Empire State Building and Ground Zero.
They also enjoyed a Manhattan Comprehensive Tour, taking in Times Square, Madison Square Gardens and Greenwich Village, among other places. The tour included an Italian lunch at Grotta Azzura Restaurant in Little Italy and an hour-long harbour cruise.
Then came one of the most memorable moments. After attending Broadway Dance Center Workshops, they saw “Sister Act.” It was backstage that they met Raven-Symone, who chatted and posed for a photograph with her star-struck fans.
“She was such a trouper, spending time with us” said Irene Widdup.
So what was the highlight of the trip?
To Zach Carlson it was seeing the Statue of Liberty, not to mention munching on the $1 a slice pizzas. To Allison Kryskow it was the dancing, particularly hip hop and jazz. To Kylee Meunier it was the Empire State Building. To others it was Carlos Bakery or haggling in Canal Street.
Each dancer took away a personal memory along with bags filled with souvenirs. Each dancer returned with the wisdom that comes from experience. Each dancer returned with a deeper appreciation of dance.
Some even gained affirmation that this what they wanted to pursue into adulthood.
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