Friday, January 23, 2015

Former Ringling clown to teach clown workshop

Two years ago, Matthew Belopavlovich stood stranded atop a 25-foot tower while a handful of clowns, dressed as knights, circled beneath, trying to figure out how to save him. They couldn’t. Then, a very small man arrived, shimmied up Matthew’s hair and carried him to safety.

Welcome to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Matthew was living the dream, his dream: life as clown with the greatest show on earth.

“To be a clown, you need a big heart. You need an open mind,” said Matthew, now a Patel Conservatory theater instructor.

Matthew will be teaching clowning skills, like slapstick comedy and juggling, and passing along his experience with the circus in an upcoming clowning workshop.

For students in Grades 3 - 8
Feb. 7, 2015
2 to 5 p.m.

“I had a dream to be a clown since second grade. My parents took me everywhere there was a show,” said Matthew.

In “the Rapunzel gag,” he starred as the long-locked lass with about 30 feet of fabric “hair.” He was one of 12 clowns in the 120+ person cast, and learned a lot during his time in the magical world of makeup, costumes, high-stakes improv, unpredictable audience interaction and adrenaline-by-way-of-comedy.

A native of Wisconsin, Matthew earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in acting at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After graduating, he auditioned twice for Ringling, and didn’t get the job. Instead of giving up, he took a piece of advice from a former theater professor: create your own work if there’s no work for you.

So Matthew staged two of his own clown creations, By the Time You Read This and LAUFFITI, the latter shown at Silver Meteor Gallery in Ybor City before going to New York City.

He auditioned again in New York for Ringling, who had set up an impromptu ring in Grand Central Station during the middle of the day.

“They said, ‘you should be able to captivate us, but can you capture the people in their day-to-day routine and bring them to the ring?’” said Matthew. “It was nerve-wracking. And awesome.”

The intensity of the audition spurred Matthew to step up his game, and that audition landed him a contract to travel with the circus starting in 2012. He was off to clown college, then into the show.

“To work with Ringling and the people on their clowning staff was heaven. I got to be in a clown costume and design my own makeup and be on the floor during clown college—that alone was a dream come true. I lived on a train, a real circus train! I went to almost every state, we did outreach in hospitals, with the Sunshine Kids organization and Boys & Girls Club. It was mind-blowing. It was everything.”

Matthew re-joined the Patel Conservatory theater department in 2014 after two years with the circus. (He also taught here from 2010 to 2011.)

“It was a whirlwind of experiences—so much more than clowning. I learned a lot about the circus, and I learned a lot about myself,” he says. “The Patel mission, to dream, reach, discover, create … I can speak to this mission because I did it. Nothing was handed to me, although I had a lot of love and support, but I made it happen. I applied myself to my career.”

Matthew will teach the upcoming workshop along with guest artist Dustin Portillo and student guest artist Wesley Williams.

Portillo is a highly skilled improv and comedy actor who toured with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for seven years. His performance credits also include work at Six Flags Great Escape, Busch Gardens Tampa and with the clown troupe, Aga-Boom.

Williams, adept at juggling clubs, knives and fire, recently completed his second summer tour with the Vermont-based Circus Smirkus.

During the workshop, students will learn basic slapstick comedy techniques, proper clown makeup application, balloon twisting, juggling and get an inside scoop on what it’s like to be a professional clown.

For the students, I say to them: ‘I did it, and you can do it, too.”

For more information, or to register, call 813.222.1002.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

NGB receives top honors at YAGP 2015 Tampa semi-finals

Janaya Zimmermann, left, and Jarod Curley
placed 1st for  their Coppelia pas de deux.
Congratulations to Next Generation Ballet (NGB) for winning Outstanding School at the 2015 Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) Tampa semi-finals.

NGB also received 1st place for the Large Ensemble category for both pieces, Odalisques and Turkish March; and for the Ensemble Pas De Deux category, NGB received 1st place for Coppelia pas de deux with Janaya Zimmermann and Jarod Curley, and 3rd place for Flames of Paris pas de deux with Madeleine Gardella and Peter Weil.

Approximately 350 students from throughout the southeast competed in the regional event, which was held last weekend at the Straz Center. Among them, 16 NGB students qualified to go to the YAGP finals in New York in April.

The following NGB dancers also placed at the competition:

Sr. Classical Women
Madeleine Gardella - 1st place
Alexandria Marx - 3rd Place

Madeleine Gardella received 1st place in the Sr.
Classical Women category and other top honors.
Sr. Classical Women Top 24
Chloe Pruett
Lexa Armstrong
Brittany Broussard

Sr. Classical Men
Peter Weil - 2nd place
Jarod Curley - 3rd place

Sr. Contemporary Women
Alexandria Marx - 1st place

Sr. Contemporary Women Top 12
Madeleine Gardella

Sr. Contemporary Men
Jake Tribus - 2nd place
Jarod Curley - 3rd place

Jr. Classical Women
Natalie Thornley-Hall - 2nd place

Jr. Classical Women Top 24
Makayla Dorris
Tessa Hartmann
Kiyo Miyazato
Miya Mobley

Jr. Classical Men
Liam Boswell - 1st place
Jordan Martinez - 3rd place

Jr. Contemporary Top 12
Tessa Hartmann
Natalie Thornley-Hall

Jr. Contemporary Men
Liam Boswell - 1st place
Jonathan Fahoury - 3rd place

Pre-competitive Classical Men and Women
Alexandra de Roos - 3rd place

Pre-competitive Classical Men and Women Top 12
Gabrielle Vogel

Pre-competitive Contemporary Men and Women Top 12
Alexandra de Roos
Gabrielle Vogel

Friday, January 9, 2015

Students compete in 2015 YAGP Tampa regional

Patel Conservatory's 2014/2015 Next Generation Ballet dancers

Best of luck to the Next Generation Ballet (NGB) dancers competing this weekend in the regional Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), the world’s largest student ballet competition.

Students who qualify at regional competitions worldwide will go on to the prestigious final YAGP competition in New York City in April, 2015, where they’ll have the opportunity to win scholarships to prominent ballet schools such as School of American Ballet in New York and Royal Ballet School in London.

At last year’s Tampa competition, NGB earned the Outstanding School award and NGB dancer Olivia Gusti won the Grand Prix award. Gusti is now a trainee with Ballet West in Salt Lake City, UT.

More than 300 dancers from throughout the southeast, including 34 from the Patel Conservatory’s NGB, will compete in the Tampa regional, which will be held at the Straz Center through tomorrow.

On Saturday evening, top students from the competition will perform along with international ballet stars from some of the most renowned dance companies in the world in YAGP’s gala performance Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow.

Don’t miss this unique, all-star dance performance which sells out in New York City! For tickets, click here.

NGB Dancers competing this weekend:

Alexander Correa
Alexandra de Roos
Alexandria Marx
Avery Jarrard
Bridge Taylor
Brittany Broussard
Chloe Pruett
Christopher Kunzelmann
Cosette Falker
Devin Hammond
Gabrielle Vogel
Hailey Cherry
Jaison Allen
Jake Tribus
Janaya Zimmermann
Jarod Curley
Jonathan Fahoury
Jordan Martinez
Kiyo Miyazato
Kyra McDonald
Levi Durie
Lexa Armstrong
Liam Boswell
Madeleine Gardella
Makayla Dorris
Miya Mobley
Natalie Thornley-Hall
Neal Burks
Peter Weil
Ryan Ward
Tessa Hartmann
Treyden Chiaravalloti
Tucker Nickman

NGB dancers competing in YAGP regionals in other cities:
Autumn Kilby
Dylan McIntyre 
Eliana Vogel
Julia Meister
Noelle Miller
Savannah Payne 
Zoe Briscoe

NGB dancer's mom makes unexpected visit from Afghanistan

For Next Generation Ballet trainee Neal Burks, competing in this weekend's Youth America Grand Prix's Tampa semi-finals will be especially exciting. Burks’ mom Makeda Oates surprised him on Wednesday when she showed up at his rehearsal.

A logistics coordinator with a military contractor in Afghanistan, she hasn’t seen her son in almost a year.

"It was surprising, I was happy to see her," said Neal.

“It was breathtaking to watch him [in practice]," said Oates. "I knew he’d come further than he was last year, but I didn’t expect to see such high kicks. He’s come a long way.”

Oates is in her second tour in Afghanistan and has spent at least the last four years out of the country. Neal lives in Tampa with his grandmother, having relocated from Jacksonville in 2013 to train with NGB.

Oates is excited for the opportunity to see her son perform in the competition this weekend, having missed him in the Nutcracker in December. She leaves Sunday to return to Afghanistan.

“[NGB faculty] are definitely taking him to the next level. I could see that from the last time,” she said. “It’s a blessing for him to be here.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Take your Gasparilla costume to the next level with our Pirate Boot Camp!

Step up your Gasparilla costume this year with our PIrate Book Camp workshop!

As part of Patel Conservatory’s Behind the Curtain workshop series, this hands-on DIY workshop will teach you how to create an authentic pirate look worthy of ye finest krewe!

Behind the Curtain Workshop: Pirate Boot Camp
MON • JAN 19 • 10AM-12PM  • Gr. 5-Adult
MON • JAN 19 • 6-8PM  •  Adults Only

In this workshop, students will be introduced to the basics of make up, hair and costume design that will help them get ready for Tampa’s Gasparilla Festival. Learn aging/distressing, theatrical and glamour make-up techniques that will take your Gasparilla costume to the next level.

Hair, scars, bruises and accessorizing will be demonstrated. Students will have the opportunity to apply learned skills in an application portion where they will create their own pirate persona. Students will be provided with all materials to create in-class applications as well as how-to and material guides to take home for reference.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New theater classes for homeschool students

The Patel Conservatory theater department is excited to introduce new classes geared toward homeschool students this spring.

New classes have been added for preschoolers through 12th grade, including Young Theater Arts, Theater 1 and American Musical Theater. Classes are offered side by side, so that siblings of varying ages can all participate at the same time.

“This is a unique opportunity for homeschool students to expand their academic experience through the corporate learning offered by participating in the performing arts”, said Theater Department Chair Suzanne Livesay.

“These classes are offered during regular school hours which makes them convenient for homeschoolers’ schedules.”

Classes start the week of Jan. 12, 2015. New students are encouraged to attend our upcoming open house on Jan. 3 or Jan. 6 to get an overview of all our Conservatory programs, policies and procedures.

New class descriptions:

Young Theater Arts
Pre-K3 through first grade
Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to noon, or Thursdays from 11a.m. to noon
Engaging instructors will lead students through samples of movement, pantomime, clowning, storytelling, improvisation and theater games. This action-packed class will help students build confidence and enthusiasm about the theater arts. The cost is $180.

Theater 1
Grades two through 12
Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to noon
Through this 18-week course, students will explore basic performance and technical theatrical studies with the goal of preparing, staging and presenting a classroom showcase of a one act play. Open to students in grades 2-12, students will be divided into age and skill-appropriate work groups. The cost is $180.

American Musical Theater
Grades two through 12
Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon
This 18-week course offers students an overview of musical theater from the historical and performance perspectives. Students will explore examples of American Musical Theater pieces, and various musical, theatrical and dance styles from throughout the 20th century. This performance-based class culminates in a classroom showcase performance. Open to students in grades 2-12, students will be divided into age and skill-appropriate work groups. The cost is $180.

For more information, or to register, call 813.222.1002.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Spring 2015 Open House dates

The Straz Center's Patel Conservatory will host two free open houses for all new and prospective parents and students.

Spring classes begin the week of Jan. 12, 2015, with more than 100 classes for adults and children of all ages and skill levels, including new theater classes just added, and our popular Rock School program.

New theater classes include Adult Improv, and youth Theater Arts classes offered during the day for homeschool students.

Come learn more about all of our performing arts programs in dance, theater and music and tour the Conservatory’s 45,000 square-foot facility, which includes dance studios, classrooms, private music lesson studios and the Conservatory’s TECO Theater.

Brief orientation sessions will provide students and parents the opportunity to meet staff,    ask questions and receive more information about our programs, policies and procedures.

Patel Conservatory Spring Open House Dates
Sat., Jan. 3, 2015
10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Orientation at 10:30 a.m.

Tues., Jan. 6, 2015
6 to 8 p.m.
Orientation at 6:30 p.m.

Tours are offered before and after each orientation session, and light refreshments will be served.

Auditions for select music classes will also be held on Tues., Jan. 6. For more info, click here.

To RSVP, call 813-222-1002 or email