Thursday, January 26, 2006
There are pictures of Alex Stegmaier, Molly Willard, Katie Matteo and Hannah Bowers as 4-year-olds standing among 20 other tiny dancers. Fourteen years later, all those other girls are gone, and only four dancers are left -- seniors at Steamboat Springs High School -- fighting back tears as they dance their last dance with the Oak Street Performing Arts Co.
"It's sad," Willard said. "We've been with this company since we started."
¤ Oak Street Performing Arts Co.: "A Festival of Dance"
¤ 7 p.m. today and Saturday
¤ Steamboat Springs High School Auditorium
¤ $12 adults/$10 students and seniors for general admission; $15/$13 for reserved seating; tickets available at All That Jazz or at the door
"I don't think I'll cry," Stegmaier said, "but I might."
"I think it's more a sense of accomplishment," Bowers said. "We started out with 20 girls in our class, and now there are four. Look who made it."
All four seniors can remember being little girls and looking up to the older girls.
"Now we are those older girls, and they look up to us," Willard said.
"Remember when we used to dance at the Depot?" Stegmaier said. The studio on Oak Street where the girls now take classes and rehearse was built when they were in elementary school.
"We went through all the stages together," Bowers said.
The current director of the Oak Street Performing Arts Co., Heidi Meshurel-Jolly, took over when the girls were in seventh grade. The girls were hesitant at first because they had the same teacher since they were four, but Meshurel-Jolly was coming to the studio from a career at Disney and had a lot to teach.
"She taught us how to be more open on stage," Willard said. "She taught us the entertainment part of it."
She brought in members from the community to teach such dances as belly dance, hip-hop and lyrical, Matteo said.
This weekend's performance will be a culmination of everything the girls have learned since they were little.
Bowers and Matteo dance in a piece called "Classical Gas" set to a choreography Meshurel-Jolly learned during her days as a dancer at Oklahoma City University. The piece incorporates technical jazz and ballet moves into three intense minutes.
"This piece is very difficult," Meshurel-Jolly said. "There is a lot of continuous movement. It takes a lot of stamina."
The piece took its nine dancers months of work to get to the point where it looked effortless.
After the current falls on this weekend's "A Festival of Dance," the four seniors will bow for the last time with the Oak Street Performing Arts Co. They graduate in the spring, and all four plan to continue dancing in college. Stegmaier plans to major in musical theater and the rest plan to continue "just for fun."
Even if they never take another dance class, the girls say dance gave them something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
"Dance made me more comfortable with myself," Willard said. "You stand up there in front of hundreds of people as a dancer and pour your heart out without ever saying a word."