You might not expect Siler City, NC, to be an incubator of artistic talent, but the first annual studio recital of the Siler City Dance & Gymnastics Academy is hoping to change that. This past weekend all eight classes joined together to present a year-end recital showcasing their work. Hosted in Jordan Matthews High School’s auditorium – which was packed with supportive friends and families – this hour of music, dance, and tumbling was as endearing as it was surprising.

The youngest students admitted to the academy were the 2-to-4-year-olds in the two Creative Movement classes. The first class performed “Fairy Ballet,” a cute number in which the three girls dressed as fairy ballerinas and the one male counterpart ran, wobbled, and twirled. The second class performed “Rockin’ Robin” and were a little more synchronized, showing knowledge of beginner ballet movements. The two classes came together towards the end of the program for a gymnastics routine set to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” This routine involved the children doing somersaults, floor balance beam walks, and assisted swings from the bar. One girl got so excited to perform – or play? – that she ran through the obstacle course of sorts several times before and after the music played!

The more advanced gymnastics students consisted of a Gym I and Gym II class, each of which performed one floor sequence and one bar sequence. Mats were laid out by the tireless instructors and the students formed two assembly lines. Gym I first demonstrated somersaults, backflips, handstands, cartwheels, and one-handed cartwheels, with each student progressing at her own level and doing only what she was able to safely perform in the “Trouble” routine. Teachers were on hand to provide support and spot individuals who needed help. In the “Under the Sea/Hakuna Matata” bar sequence, these Gym I students added somersaults around the bar, beam cartwheels, and back walkovers, again doing only what each individual was capable of performing safely. I might suggest that in the future each gymnastics class perform to the length of one song only, instead of two. It was great that each student was afforded the chance to showcase her hard work individually, but the repetition of the movements was a little tedious – especially as someone without a child in the performance.

Gym II picked up right where Gym I left off, showing off their refined technique of bridges, handstands, one-hand cartwheels, and back walkovers in “Cup Song/22.” This class’s second sequence afforded even more opportunity to show off their more advanced skills – certainly more than most of us who like to keep both feet firmly planted on the floor could ever hope to achieve! In “Let it Go/Roar,” a very upbeat and positive set of songs, Gym II students continued work on their technique of these skills, with the addition of bar flips. One or two students in particular stood out in their advanced bar work, adding chin-up pullovers and back hip circles. These students were awarded for their efforts with wild applause from not only their parents, but most of the audience.

Dance I performed a tap routine set to “Lollipop,” showing off basic step-touches and rhythmic movements with giant rainbow lollipops in hand. They did a good job of looking at each other when they forgot a move, or sneaking a look offstage for their instructor, who was undoubtedly coaching from the wings. Next they performed “I Feel Pretty,” showing off basic ballet routines including pliés, twirls, skipping in circles, and hops. Their sweet smiles and charm surely made up for their lack of experience, but hopefully they will continue to learn more and more!

Dance II was the most prolific performing class, presenting first ballet, then tap, then jazz. This small class of 8-to-12-year-olds began with “Starry Night,” a simple ballet routine utilizing more complicated forms and group choreography that instantly called to mind Degas’ Ballet Rehearsal. “Dreamgirls” was next, a tap routine in which the dancers embodied the attitude and expertise of the fabulous Supremes. Their tapping was nearly synchronized, and their enjoyment was palpable. This class’s final number was “Ruby Blue,” a moderate jazz work with classic choreography, from grapevines to pivot turns. The amount of steps this class had to remember was enormous, but they performed all of them with flair.

Dance III/IV split into two solo performances. Alli Maness performed “Problem,” a jazz solo in which her dramatic attitude and flirtatious steps won her the audience. Her props, a sequined fedora and a folding chair, were classic icons that helped her channel her inner diva, and her seamless blend of jazz and ballet were admirable. Her revolutions and splits were both applauded enthusiastically. Josey Sirls performed “Adore You,” which combined ballet and a more contemporary style. She matched her performance to the plaintive and desperate mood of the song, utilizing expressive floor poses as well as more classical leaps and turns to show a maturity beyond her age as a high school student.

These performances were all very enjoyable, but the gem in the Academy’s crown was its integrity, showcased by the performance of the Inclusive Art & Dance Improv class led by Maria Troiani-Howard. This class was made up of young adults and adults with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, who were so united in their energetic movements that it was easy to forget about their “diffabilities.” They created their own costumes and set pieces, and seemed to be having so much fun on stage that the audience started swaying along.

Much laud goes to the instructors for making these first classes successful: Allison Gaither, Sada Lodge, Troiani-Howard – who was her class’s fearless leader during the performance as well – Julie Anderson, and Madison Pleasants. The students were each awarded participatory medals that were well earned through all their hard work in establishing such an inspiring program. I look forward to seeing the impact that the Siler City Dance & Gymnastics Academy could make in this community and how much it hopes to grow in following years. Summer Camp registration is open and Fall registration will open June 1st for those who are interested in becoming a part of this unique studio.