Sign up for Park District classes for National Dance Day

When was the last time you or your children danced? At the Naperville Park District, you don’t have to be a star to experience the joy, fun and health benefits of dancing.

July 26 is National Dance Day — and with a Naperville Park District Autumn Program Guide in hand, full of fun dance programs for all ages, it’s a perfect time to bring dance into your family’s life.

The Naperville Park District’s Dance Academy provides a place to begin, to explore and to enjoy dancing. Throughout its 40-year history, the Park District’s popular recital-track program has provided core instruction in ballet. Additionally, the Dance Academy offers a variety of seasonal dance classes for all ages.

Almost 500 students participate annually in Dance Academy programs and the academy’s pre-professional Élan Dance Company includes about 38 dancers. During the past several years, recital dance instruction has expanded beyond ballet to include jazz, tap, contemporary, lyrical, modern and hip-hop styles.

“Our program remains focused on the fundamentals of dance, especially ballet and jazz, but we also want to offer a variety of styles to ensure that students are well rounded,” explained Chesney Murphy, Dance Academy coordinator.

“We’re excited to bring in new programs this fall both for recital and seasonal students,” added Brittany Malatt, arts program manager.

Malatt and Murphy have been working together during the past few months to enrich and expand the Park District’s dance programs.

“This fall we are introducing competition dance and musical theater dance for intermediate recital students. Storybook Ballet and Tumbledance, also new this fall, are designed to appeal to the imagination and interests of younger students,” Malatt said. “We want our classes to remain relevant to the culture in which our students live.”

To help accommodate families’ busy calendars, the 2014-15 dance classes will offer more flexibility in scheduling. Each class will meet only once a week, allowing students more choice of times, locations, teachers and dance styles. Previously, a ballet class would meet two days a week, for example, on Tuesday and Thursday. Now students may register for two ballet classes on different days, or one ballet and one jazz class back-to-back.

There are lots of opportunities for parents to enjoy watching their children dance, through end-of-class demonstrations and at the annual spring recital. For the youngest children, some classes include parent participation, for example, Pirouette with Me and Tippy Toe Tap with Me.

Adults, too, can register for dance programs, from ballet to ballroom dance. Instructor Melissa Sallee teaches adult ballet to students ranging from age 20 to 50 and older.

“Anyone can learn to dance,” Sallee said. “I care deeply about making sure that anyone who has a hint of a desire to dance does not feel afraid to try.”

Whether introducing dance to the youngest beginners, developing the talents of dedicated young artists, or nurturing adults’ desire to learn, the instructors at the Naperville Park District’s Dance Academy echo the sentiment of the familiar song by Sanders and Sillers: “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”

Sue Omanson is the community development manager at the Naperville Park District.

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