Most dancers have a dream - maybe to perform on Broadway or on stage with one of the world’s great ballet companies. For the students at the Dance Emporium, a North Side studio, the dream has been to perform in Disney World as part of the Magic Music Days program.
This summer, that dream came true. Thirty-three young tap and jazz dancers from Spokane spent last week at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
The dancers, who are between the ages of 9 and 18, sent off an audition tape last summer and waited. They were concerned about how they would fare against the others from around the country auditioning for a chance to perform at Disney World.
“We felt like we did a good job” says director Linda Allen, but doubts still reigned. “Maybe it’s not what they’re looking for,” Allen worried. “Maybe it’s not good enough.”
About two months after the tape was mailed off, Allen got a phone call congratulating her on the acceptance of her students. “I was jumping around in my house,” she says.
She told the students the happy news. “I cried,” says 15-year-old Sarah Atkinson, a student at Horizon Junior High in the Valley. “We’ve worked so hard for this.”
Atkinson and Becky Cook commuted from the Valley for the weekly dance classes. The 31 other students are from the North Side. They paid their own way to Florida, as well as for meals and lodging once there.
It was also a special moment for instructor Diane Underwood. “I used to dance professionally and I danced for Disneyland, so this is a thrill,” Underwood says.
In addition to performing at Disney World, the Spokane youngsters also had the opportunity to work with the dancers who play the Disney characters, Allen says, which gave the students a chance to learn from professionals.
“Part of it, I think, is a combination of giving them a chance to experience being a performer at Disney World, but also giving them a chance to go down there and have fun and make it a big memory,” Allen says.
Many of the Spokane dancers have been at it since they were barely out of diapers. “My parents put me in because they wanted me to make more friends and then I just continued on with it,” says 15-year-old Cynthia Meyer, a student at Northwood Junior High in Mead. Meyer has been dancing since she was 3 years old.
Other dancers simply decided to try it one day and have stuck with it. Richie Brock, the only boy who made the trip to Disney World, started dancing jazz only three years ago when he was seven. “I wanted to try it,” says Brock, who attends Meadow Ridge Elementary in Mead. “I thought it was fun.”
Tap dancer Lindsey Watkins also started dancing three years ago when she was 10. “I was in gymnastics and I saw everybody dancing and I just thought it would be fun,” says Watkins, a student at Northwood Junior High.
The instructors do try to emphasize having fun, Allen says, since dancing can be grueling. “I don’t think it’s the easiest life,” Allen says. “Right now it’s just important, at this age, for it to be fun.”
The dancers can also expect to benefit from dancing in many ways. “I think they’ll have benefits that will last them a lifetime in terms of confidence,” Allen says.