Elisabeth Hanley created The Art of Dance Foundation, now in its fourth year, to nurture the innate creativity of every child and adult through dance and movement. The foundation currently works with over 60 students offering two primary programs: a dance and movement program for children and adults—including a conservatory-level ballet academy; and educational programs for children that incorporate movement as a key learning tool.
This weekend the valley will be offered the opportunity to view the fruits of Hanley's creation as the Art of Dance hosts their second annual Tea Party and Ballet Recital. The Tea Party takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at the nexStage Theatre, and will showcase students from Art of Dance and the Eagle Performing Arts Ensemble.
The evening prior, Art of Dance will host a free champagne reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m., also at nexStage. A group of 18 highly accomplished students from the Eagle Performing Arts Ensemble will perform several short pieces during the reception, which is designed to provide the community with information about Art of Dance.
At the Tea Party on Saturday guests will be entertained with short ballet pieces choreographed by local ballet instructor Dina Madsen, Lisa Moon, a Boise-based choreographer and former ballerina, and Jeff Giese, a former professional dancer and director of the Eagle Performing Arts Center.
Madsen has based the pieces for the young dancers on characters from the children's classic "Alice in Wonderland." Other pieces will range from a classical variation in a tutu performed to music of Minkus to a barefoot contemporary piece to music of Grieg.
"The pieces that the older girls from the ensemble have been working on do not have a story line. They are more what you would expect to see in a professional performance, one modern and one traditional on point," explained Hanley.
Hanley's passion for the educational power of artistic pursuits was developed in her youth, nurtured as she was in a highly charged arts environment.
"My mother was a dancer. She studied in New York and I was raised in a museum environment and serious dance environment in California. Creativity surrounded me as I was growing up."
The idea for Art of Dance came from her desire to provide the valley's youth with conservatory-level training in the field of dance.
"Art of Dance was originally created to provide that training," continued Hanley. "I was hoping it would be for kids my daughter's age but also to carry on the work of my mother which had to do with movement and creativity being the fount of all learning."
The foundation now offers ballet at conservatory level for ages 3 to 14. As their students grow, so will the age range for which they offer this highly technique-based training.
Alongside ballet, Britta von Tagen teaches MMM (music, movement and magic), funk dance and tumbling. This is a children's version of Nia (neuromuscular integrative action), a class offered to the valley's adults. Nia is a mind, body and brain development based dance.
"It's like meditating to music," explained Hanley. "But it's also about brain development, and there's a lot of movement, so you're burning fat cells."
Von Tagen will present a workshop on Nia on May 28, as part of the Sun Valley Mountain Wellness Festival.
This weekend's recital is Art of Dance's fourth, but second Tea Party. "We thought the Tea Party format would be a great way to do a recital. Because we are more technique based than performance based, we wanted to do something that was not too stressful for the children but also enjoyable for the adults," said Hanley. "For our students it was the most relaxed that they could be in a performance situation and, because of the level of the older girls from the Eagle ensemble, it will be like watching a professional performance."
Hanley sees Art of Dance's place in the valley as an outlet in which parents can nurture and develop their children's artistic leanings. "It's important for parents to become familiar with the difference between taking lessons and conservatory-level training," Hanley said.
"I know my daughter, Carina Covella, would not have been accepted into the prestigious programs she has been if she hadn't had the conservatory-level training with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony Music Conservatory. Without that facility available to us we would never have known how capable she was, vocally."
Hanley feels passionately that it is imperative children be exposed to the highest level of training, "Otherwise you will never find out if they have the talent for any form of the arts, be it drama, signing, dancing or other visual arts."
Art of Dance
The second annual Tea Party and Ballet Recital hosted by the Art of Dance takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum.
Tickets, priced at $20 for adults and $10 for children, are available at Chapter One Bookstore, nexStage Theatre and through the Art of Dance at 726-8122. The ticket price includes refreshments.
To purchase a table of eight to 10 people contact Trina Peters at 726-5561. Limited seating is available.
Friday, May 6, Art of Dance invites the valley to learn more about the organization at a free champagne reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m., also at nexStage.