Wednesday, October 1, 2014

For artists, ‘a place to take risks’

New conservatory teaches young musicians, dancers and actors


Performing artists Peter Burke, left, Brett Moellenberg and Yanna Lantz are part of a young team trying to establish a nonprofit conservatory to teach dance, music and acting in the Wood River Valley.
Express photo by Roland Lane

    Dreams of a performing arts conservatory rooted in the Wood River Valley began in July 2009 for actors Peter Burke and Kevin Wade. Five years later, their dream has become a reality.
    The Spot, a new conservatory for the performing arts on Lewis Street in Ketchum, is a place for actors, dancers and singers to pursue their craft. Burke envisions The Spot as “a place where the community feels welcomed with open arms,” while he hopes performances will challenge the community to think, to question, and to act.
    The Spot already provides a training facility for passionate, engaged, talented students with an interest in dance, music and acting. A year from now, The Spot hopes to be certified as a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
    The name of the company suggests several concepts. Firstly, The Spot is a destination.
    “It’s a place where the youth of the valley should feel welcome to hang out,” Burke said.
    Secondly, it is a venue for creativity. The space’s white walls provide a vast open space, a blank canvas for art.
    Lastly, The Spot gives homage to the spotlight, where many performers feel at home.
    The four founders of The Spot, Burke, Wade, Yanna Lantz and Brett Moellenberg, aim to create a safe hands-on learning environment where dedicated performing arts students can take big risks.
    “Not everything is so serious,” said Mollenberg. “It’s OK to fail—in fact it’s important.”
    The four founders come from diverse backgrounds in performing arts and have trained in cities including London, Moscow and Amsterdam. Each also has a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in drama.
    Moellenberg started acting at the age of 8 and studied at the Arizona School for the Arts through high school. He then attended Ithaca College for Acting, where he met Lantz.
    Over the past six years, Burke, Moellenberg, Lantz and Wade have acted, directed and taught as guest artists at various theatre and dance companies in the valley. These include St. Thomas Playhouse’s Summer Theater Project, Company B and SPACC, the nexStage’s Summer Stages Camp and Camp Little Laugh, as well as Footlight Dance.
    “These organizations have truly supported and honored us over the last decade, and we are so grateful to continue working with them,” said Moellenberg, the managing director at St. Thomas Playhouse.
    Lantz spent the last few years as an instructor at Boston Children’s Theatre.  
    The group is passionate about what they do.
    “The arts force us to be present and, thereby, human. Humans fascinate me—the good and the bad,” said Burke.
    “In art, and specifically performance, I am able to communicate my own humanity in ways that I can’t express otherwise,” said Moellenberg.
    The group has big aspirations.
    “I envision community partnerships, a conservatory program that attracts students on a national scale and students who started with us, hitting the big time (or at the very least, taking the leap of faith to try),” Burke said. “We have multiple studios, a faculty larger than four and money in the bank.”
    Although The Spot is ultimately an educational facility, “It’d also be cool if people came here, had a great time, saw something cool and left smiling,” Burke said.
    The Spot will provide a wide-range of classes starting this month, including youth acting, drop-in dance, drop-in jam session, jazz performance workshop and musical theatre workshop.

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