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Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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From ballet to Flamenco and every step in between: DanceFest aims at spur interest in variety of dances

UPDATED: Sat., March 2, 2019

Angelie Melzer, center, leads the master ballet class during DanceFest 2019, on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at Spokane Community College. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Angelie Melzer, center, leads the master ballet class during DanceFest 2019, on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at Spokane Community College. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Angelie Melzer gazes at her six students, as they stand next to the dimly lit stage in their ballet garb.

She walks among them in their held ballet positions. She pats underneath arms, wedges her hand between shoulder blades.

“It should be sore right here,” she said, instructing how the muscles attached to the scapula properly hold the arm.

Melzer has worked as a professional ballet dancer in Colorado, Seattle and New York, where she’s sharpened her eye to the proper form and technique of ballet – the dance birthed in the Italian Renaissance and brought to the stage in Russia and France.

She works as a ballet teacher at Spokane’s Professional Ballet School, but on Saturday, Melzer was teaching ballet to a different crowd: students seeking a fun and commitment-free way into the art form. It was also free.

The Inland Northwest Dance Association hosted its annual DanceFest at Spokane Community College on Saturday. About 500 dancers, from beginners to professionals and young to old, came to learn and perform a wide variety of dances: Flamenco, tap, line, Irish and more.

“It’s to spread awareness of dance in the community and support the arts,” said Gail Bongiovanni, organizer of DanceFest. DanceFest began 18 years ago and has been hosted in Idaho, Spokane Valley, and for the past two years at SCC.

DanceFest is split into two parts: Master Classes, which pair professionals with students; and more than 50 stage performances, some with students who learned the dances in the Master Classes.

“It’s open to the general public to just try to spur interest in other forms of dance,” Bongiovanni said.

“We have different groups coming from all over. They’re going to be performing on stage and we mix them up so it’s young, old – professionals with the 3-year-olds. It’s just everything from soup to nuts,” she said.

Melzer volunteered as a Master Class teacher Saturday.

After working as a professional dancer, Melzer settled in Spokane because her husband was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base.

“We fell in love with it and stayed,” she said.

Melzer is hoping to promote ballet at DanceFest and grow interest so the city can better support professional dancers.

Gonzaga, Whitworth and Eastern Washington universities all have minors programs in dance, she said, but when students graduate there’s nowhere in Spokane for them to work because there are no opportunities for career dancing.

“We would like to see that change,” she said. “Right now we train them and send them away.”

She hopes to start a professional ballet dancing group in Spokane, she said.

“DanceFest is basically bringing all of the studios together in one place,” Melzer said. “It allows all of us to see each other and see all of the dancers together.”

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