By Samantha Edwards
Eyes bright and focused, and movements perfectly relaxed, Cierra Shumway, Levi McClellan and Faely Turley take turns twirling in perfect rhythm to the heavy, resonant beating of a drum for a routine. Sweating slightly, they listen carefully to the instruction of their teacher, Loni Hatch, and try again–this time with a little more expression, or perhaps more precision.
Cierra, 18, Levi, 16, and Faely, 10, are dancers, gifted and graceful, from the Creative Rhythms dance studio. Though confident in their abilities, they would be the first to admit that talent alone is not enough to attain excellence. “It takes a lot of practice,” Faely says earnestly.
These outstanding young artists attend class once per week, and practice on their own at home. When performances are close at hand, they may attend additional rehearsals. Why devote so much time and energy to this pursuit? For Cierra, Levi and Faely the answer is simple: they love the way that dancing makes them feel.
Cierra, a role model to younger students, confides that one of the reasons she dances is because it allows her to portray emotions, “(you can) move your body however you’re feeling…dance is a really great way to express yourself.”
For Levi, dancing and music are not simply hobbies–they are parts of his very identity. He sings, plays musical instruments and, of course, dances. His life may often resemble a precarious balancing act as he juggles school, music and other aspects of high school life, but he says, “I do it all because it’s all music…and music makes me happy!” Loni Hatch attributes much of Levi’s success as a dancer to his willingness to work hard and practice.
Watching Faely dance is a privilege; she leaps and spins through the air with grace and poise, rarely becoming disoriented or dizzy. Why did she begin, and why does she continue to dance? “(Dance) gets a lot of feeling into me,” she says simply. She also recognizes that it is one of her natural talents, and Loni agrees, saying, “If she can see it, she can do it.”
Loni, who has developed a love of teaching young people modern dance, began instructing in 1982. She has since taught the art in three locations: Seattle, Mesa and now Holbrook. Because of her love of both dancing and teaching, she has shown gifted students such as Cierra, Levi and Faely that dance is not simply movement and steps. They now know, and demonstrate through their own individual styles, that dancing is expression of the heart.
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By Samantha Edwards