Steamboat Springs The most recognizable role for the members of the Promethea Dance Project is being dance teachers to 2,000 elementary school children in Northwest Colorado.
Once a year, though, the dancers get to shine during a fall concert, which opens tonight.
"This is the show that we do for us," Promethea artistic director Chris Carbone said. "All the workshops that we do are fulfilling but we are performers at heart."
Promethea Dance Project is the professional division of the Steamboat Dance Theatre.
It will perform 10 dance pieces in jazz, modern, swing, ballet and hip-hop at the concert.
The show is the group's biggest fund-raiser. Throughout the year, the dancers run workshops in eight schools in Northwest Colorado. They work with about 2,000 children each year, teaching them basic dance techniques.
They have been doing that since 1998. It was first known as the Shining Mountain Repertory, which Carbone and Barbie Bonfiglio started after working with a similar program run by Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.
"We wanted to be a road company. We did concerts at night and workshops in the daytime," Carbone said.
It was a daunting job. About five dancers would go to towns such as Meeker and Rangely places where the high school band is the only performing arts opportunity for children.
In 2000, Bonfiglio retired and Carbone changed the name to Promethea Dance Project.
Today, with five years invested in some of the schools, the workshops have evolved into a respected service. Administrators welcome the dancers and the students have grown accustomed to seeing the program.
"The first couple years, (students) were like, 'No, I'm not going to get up and dance. That's not cool,'" Carbone said.
Now, the children remember the dances, such as the Charleston, swing dances, disco moves and even some hip-hop. They are more willing to participate.
The art isn't as foreign as it once was, Carbone said.
That's the goal: to introduce dancing in places thin on performing arts, he said.
"The workshops are always a pleasant surprise," said dancer Pam Chivaluksna-Hamby, who has been with the group since the beginning. "The kids really get into it and have a great time. We always leave with smiles on our faces."
However, the nighttime performances after the workshops were phased out in some communities. Some performances would yield a sparse audience, and that was a big let down for the dancers who work hard at choreographing and performing the shows, Carbone said.
"We now only perform in Steamboat, and sometimes in Walden and Paonia," he said.
The performances in Steamboat are well received. Last year, all four concerts sold out.
Plus, the shows are a great opportunity for the dancers to perform and choreograph material.
"Besides getting to know people in the arts community, it's a chance to do the thing that I love to do," Chivaluksna-Hamby said.
Last year she choreographed her first piece at the fall concert, and this year she is doing another.
Most of the dancers grew up dancing but got away from it, Carbone said. The Promethea Dance Project, as well as the Steamboat Dance Theatre, presents opportunities to get back into it.
"There is a need for performance art," Carbone said. "It has been an experience for me that I couldn't have gotten in many other places."