Monday, October 25, 2010

Students get top awards at YAGP

contributed by Peter Stark, dance department chair
Hannah Beach
Our Next Generation Ballet new artist dancers and PCYB dance students won many awards at the international Youth America Grand Prix semi-final event this past weekend.
The Grand Prix award for best overall dancer went to St. Petersburg native, Hannah Beach. Additionally, we won four 1st place, three 2nd place, two 3rd place, and outstanding teacher awards. Click here for the full results:

Megan and the Patel Conservatory production team were also amazing in hosting over 300 for the associated master classes on Sunday.

Congratulations to all our students who competed for an outstanding showing from the Patel Conservatory.

Giving the chance to dance

Since kids in underserved communities don't have the resources to come to the Patel Conservatory, we strive to bring our programs to them through educational outreaches. Ballet instructor Amanda Roa recently began teaching a dance class at RCMA’s Wimauma Academy, an elementary school in Ruskin that serves predominantly hispanic children of migrant workers. The class was featured in the St. Petersburg Times.
Roa shares what her experience has been like for the past few weeks...
“I really wanted to do the dance outreach at RCMA [Redlands Christian Migrant Association] because the few outreaches I taught at the school last year made me realize how much I connect personally with the mission of the RCMA organization.
Times photographer O'Rourke
Most of my closest friends are immigrants and my husband's family immigrated from Dominican Republic when he was young. Ironically, I feel right at home at Wimauma Academy.
What most inspired me about this dance outreach is that I have the tremendous gift and responsibility of teaching most of the students dance for the first time. The students at this school have no (or little) exposure to formal dance (ballet, modern, jazz, etc.) except through these classes that occur once a week through Patel.
I teach a class of kindergarten through 3rd graders with the school music teacher, the amazing Ms. Hebe Tello. We start the class with a ballet warm-up for about 45 minutes to an hour. This is critical because if the students gain some tenants of ballet technique (posture, flexibility, coordination, body placement, isolation of different body parts, basic terminology, musicality, etc.), they can use those tools to do anything in the future with dance.
For the rest of the class, they are learning some choreography that they’ll perform for the school holiday show in December. The holiday performance showcases the talent of every student at the academy, so we’re excited to be working up to this goal with the group we have.  I also like to intersperse movement games to give them a mental break and to explore different ways to approach dancing and moving.
The main challenge up to this point has been simply introducing the students to what dance is, how you behave in a dance class, and keeping them engaged, because they are all doing something very new. But I’ve already seen some big improvements in the students. There are a few specific students in the class that have shown a huge transformation with their coordination, strength, posture and flexibility.
Though as an educator, I understand that children and young adults are sponges, sometimes I am still amazed at what they can accomplish if they just have the right resources and decide to commit.
I am very honored and blessed to be able to share my degree, my experience and my passion for dance with them.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Students get a glimpse of an up and coming star

Students visiting the Patel Conservatory for a panel discussion yesterday got treated to a special performance.
Ethan Fuller
Ballet student Ethan Fuller was training on the third floor with Peter Stark, and agreed to perform.
Fuller recently auditioned for Billy Elliot on Broadway. The floppy-haired, well-spoken 12-year-old shared his experience with the students and then showed off his audition piece that won over Broadway execs.
“I was in New York for a summer intensive and I was asked to audition for the show,” explained Fuller, totally comfortable in front of an impromptu audience.
He was studying with Complexions Contemporary Ballet when spotted by a top New York choreographer. “It was really cool. They kept on bringing me back to run scenes and introduce me to people.”
Fuller has been dancing since he was seven years old, focusing on contemporary ballet. He currently lives in Cocoa Beach and drives to the Patel Conservatory three times a week to train with Stark.

For the role of Billy, he was asked to sing, act and learn tap and acro routines. He also got to meet the main choreographer of the show, who choreographed the movie and the London production. While Fuller hasn’t been hired yet, his future on Broadway looks promising.
“It’d be cool just to live in New York,” he said.
Fuller wowed the group with his expressive movement and exceptional talent.
Thanks, Ethan, for sharing. Extraordinary moments happen here at the Patel on the road to success.

Want to break into the business? Listen to these Broadway pros.

Do you know the difference between a production manager and a stage manager? How can wearing either of these hats make you a valuable member of the theater community?
Students from Alonso and Blake High Schools got to learn all about these jobs through a teleconference yesterday at the Patel Conservatory with some of today’s top dogs in Broadway production.
Presented by the Broadway League’s Speakers Bureau, four of Broadway’s most sought-after stage and production managers spoke to students about what’s it’s like to be behind-the-scenes on major productions like Miss Saigon, Cats and Mary Poppins.
“You have to be aware of everything that’s going on at all times,” said Peter Wolf, whose stage manager credits include Grease, My Fair Lady and Miss Saigon. “From costumes, props, even the A/C in the have to help resolve all the issues that may arise.”
The stage manager, he explained, does everything from rehearse the understudies to calling the cues during the show.
The production manager, as explained by Gene O’Donovan, production manager for Aurora Productions, organizes the technical end of the show from the design concept to the load out (when the sets arrive from the scene shop and get set up on the stage). The production manager bids out the construction of sets and is responsible for making any changes that the director may need. And there are usually changes based on what works and what doesn’t work in rehearsals.
The panel spoke to the students through a Skype conversation. The wonderful world of technology brought their expertise live from New York to the TECO Theater, where students were able to ask questions after the discussion. One student asked about their most challenging experience...
“Miss Saigon always had me on the edge of my seat,” said Wolf, who served as stage manager for five years on the touring production. “I never fully felt comfortable calling the cues because so much could go wrong.”
Whether working on plays or elaborate Broadway musicals, the panel agreed that being responsible for a set and calling cues for a hit Broadway show can be a lot of pressure. But it also has its up side.
“Being a part of live theater is intoxicating,” said James Fitzsimmons, stage manager for the current production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession. “It takes many people to come together collectively for a show to work. You feed off other people’s energy.”
Another thing they all agreed on: whether you want to be an actor or behind-the-scenes, it’s important to become familiar with all aspects of theater work.
Wolf started as an actor. "As an actor, there are so many people fighting for the same roles. But if you have special skills, like organizational skills, you may be suited for another role."
He filled in once as a production assistant at a summer stock theater, and then consistently got called on for that role. "I realized it's the right fit for me," he said.
The collective advice from the panel members to anyone who wants to break into the business is to make an effort to learn as much as possible about the industry, including production.
James Fitzsimmons said he got his start working off Broadway as a production assistant. He fetched coffee and mopped floors.
A graduate of New York University, he said, “I went to school for lighting design. I didn’t know about the tons of different outlets that were available working in theater...administration, marketing, business.”
Pay your dues in community theater and summer stock theaters and explore all your options, they said.
“Don’t limit yourself to one area,” said Wolf. “Know about costumes, sets, do everything that you can.”
Want to learn more? The Patel Conservatory has a Stage Management class starting Nov. 1. For more information, call the registrar at 222-1002.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Get up close and personal with Sherill Milnes

Join world-renowned operatic baritone and Opera Tampa artistic advisor Sherill Milnes next weekend as he leads opera singers through a master class at the Patel Conservatory.

The class, open to the public for observation, gives the audience a rare opportunity to watch singers perform and be guided by Milnes as he shares his experience and knowledge with the performers. The five performers were selected through auditions around the world in early October.

Winner of three Grammy® awards, Milnes is internationally recognized as the leading Verdi Baritone of his time. He performed in every great opera hall in the world, such as La Scala in Milan and Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, and performed for every United States president since Gerald Ford. His remarkable voice, artistic integrity, commanding stage presence and rugged looks made him a favorite for all audiences.

Teaching young singers has been a passion for Milnes, who has led master classes at the Julliard and Manhattan Schools in New York and at many major universities throughout the country. He’s taught more extensively at the Yale University School of Music and other universities internationally.

Come enjoy the amazing talent of vocal artists next Friday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the TECO Theater. Tickets are free for season subscribers and $15 for non-subscribers.  Call 229-STAR, or visit our website.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Patel Conservatory students compete in regional YAGP

Students from our PCYB and Next Generation Ballet trainee program are gearing up for a major competition next week.
Ballet dancers have been training hard, preparing for the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) regional competition being held Oct. 22-24 at Blake High School and the Patel Conservatory.
“YAGP brings in judges from all over the world who are affiliated with famous ballet schools,” said Melissa Stafford, PCYB principal. “It’s an opportunity for students to be seen and to consider whether they want to pursue a professional dance career.”
Student who qualify at one of the regionals will go to the prestigious final YAGP in New York City next spring.
“If you make it to the final round in New York, it’s a chance to be seen by various schools and professional dance companies for consideration for their summer programs, and who may want to hire them someday,” said Stafford.
This year, the Patel Conservatory boasts 18 students participating in next week’s YAGP regionals, a substantial increase from last year.
“This shows the advanced level of training available here at the Patel Conservatory,” said Stafford.
This includes both students from the youth ballet program who’ve started with us as young students and are now ready to compete, as well as trainees with Next Generation Ballet, the new professional dance company at the Straz Center.
Hannah Bettes
Historically, students of Peter Stark, the dance chair for the Patel Conservatory and artistic director for Next Generation Ballet, have done exceptionally well at previous YAGP competitions, regionally and nationally. Hannah Bettes received a scholarship two years in a row for the summer program at the School of American Ballet (affiliated with the New York City Ballet).
The competition is a great experience for students, not only because they get to be seen by professionals in the industry, but also because they’ll get to train with them and other exceptional dancers. Following two days of competition, students will then participate in master classes here at the Patel Conservatory led by YAGP’s judges.
“Students are inspired by other great dancers from around the state, and around the world,” said Stafford.
This is the first year for Tampa to host a YAGP regional, and students from around the state will come to participate.
“We’re excited to showcase our facilities. We have state-of-the-art facilities that are only six years old. And we have the theaters right here as well.”
Congratulations to the following students who will compete next weekend:
Molly Hellier                 
Beth Ward                    
Ellis Endsley                
Drew Nelson                 
Daniel Cooke                
Erica Loper                   
Samantha Posyton       
Hannah Bettes              
Clare McQueen             
Gabrielle Beach            
Hannah Beach              
Debbie Chen                 
Katherine Grones          
Caitlin Birt                    
Emma Town                 
Sasha Alvarez              
William Dugan              
Carlin Dixon
Kathryn Gutierrez

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kids aren't the only ones who learn from our outreach classes

Siegler enjoys playing for the kids.
Last week, Patel Conservatory instructor Audrey Siegler began teaching her Creative Storytelling class at Sulpher Springs Elementary. Once a month, she teaches a group of 3 to 4-year-olds in the Head Start program.
“We read a story together, then do an activity based on the story. It usually relates to their classroom theme of the week.”
The Creative Drama class introduces theater concepts to small children. Siegler uses visual arts and music to help the kids create and act out stories.
At her first class for the Head Start kids last week, “we played a get-to-know-you game and sang a hello song. Then we did warm up exercises to warm up our bodies, and a vocal exercise to play with pitch and volume and tone. This will help when we start introducing different characters in later classes.”
Siegler uses the analogy of waking up in the morning to stress why it’s so important for performers to warm up.
“You don’t open your eyes and immediately start going. It takes a few minutes to stretch and get your body moving. It’s the same thing before you perform. Warming up gets us ready to start moving and helps you feel more awake and give a better performance.”
After their warm-up, the kids played an improv game where they acted like different animals. As the children pretended to be lions and tigers, and even zebras and flamingos, they then had to add emotions, like happy, hungry or sleepy.
“The most original idea was when one boy had to act old, he yelled, ‘Get out of my yard!’ It makes you wonder where he got it from, and makes you appreciate that kids are so observant,” said Siegler. “They really do pay attention.”
Siegler says she enjoys teaching outreach classes at various schools and organizations because she learns something from every class, from preschool to middle school.
“Each child and their reactions are so completely different. And they each have something to offer.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Day at the Center - Music can be fun!

We had a great time hosting a group of fun, out-going theater students from Trinity School yesterday for our first Day at the Center.

The middle schoolers felt like VIPs with a backstage tour of the Straz Center and workshops at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa.

Did you know there's a small red light in the back of Carol Morsani Hall that marks center stage for the performers? Or that the person who works the extraordinary number of ropes that control the curtains and backdrops is called a flyman?

Kids found out these and other interesting facts as they explored behind-the-scenes at the Straz Center.

"I didn't know that actors sometimes have to wear more than one costume at a time [for quick costumes changes]," said one student.

Teachers, students and chaperones then had a brown bag lunch in Maestro's Cafe before heading over to the Patel Conservatory where they got to see the technical booth of the TECO Theater and then experience an  an acting workshop with Miss Audrey.

Accompanied by music director Jonathan Hack, one student
tries his hand at a solo.
Lots of laughs and giggles ensued as the kids learned how to warm up their bodies and voices. The group jumped right into an improv game that showed them how to think fast on their feet and use their imaginations. Students took turns acting out an activity on demand, like fishing or driving. It was like Who's Line Is It Anyway? and they were all eager to get their turn. For many, this was their favorite part of the field trip.

Finally, the group ended the day with a musical theater workshop, led by theater instructor Jonathan Hack. Students learned the Lambeth Walk from Me and My Girl, accompanied by Hack on piano and his amazing voice talent. A couple of boys even re-invented the song with their own rap version, but laughter and silliness aside, it was a great lesson in vocal pitch and tempo.

As one student put it, he learned that, "music can be fun."

Through their Day at the Center, the students not only got a taste of the wonderful talent of our staff at the Patel Conservatory, they also came away with some performance tips and an overall entertaining experience.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Classes for adults kick off this week

Some great adult classes and workshops start up this week! Join us at the Patel Conservatory and explore your creative side.
This four-week on-camera acting workshop series focuses on audition techniques designed to match the commercial audition experience. Learn skills in audition preparation, improvisation, character development and professionalism. The workshop can help the beginner break into the industry or refresh the seasoned pro for the competitive market. 
Advanced Adult Ballet - Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
This class is perfect for those who have an extensive knowledge of ballet technique or adults who want a class that is challenging and musical but not stressful or stern. Great for current or former dancers, dance instructors, working professionals, or anyone who wants a ballet class that will leave you refreshed and stimulated both physically and artistically .
Ballroom: Latin Rhythms - Oct. 27 - Nov. 17
This four-week ballroom dance workshop series is both a refresher and continuation of Ballroom: Latin Rhythms I. Returning and new students are encouraged to take this workshop series to expound on the principles and styles of Salsa, Bachata, Merengue Hustle, Tango and Cha Cha.

Field Trips at the Straz Center

Field Trip Performance Series
Today kicked off our Field Trip Performance Series at the Straz Center with The Hundred Dresses.

Hundreds of students got to visit the Straz Center for a live performance in Ferguson Hall, which hopefully got them thinking about their own actions towards their peers. Are they tolerant of others, or do they judge or tease people who look or dress or act differently?
The Field Trip Series, with shows throughout the year, are a great way for students to experience the performing arts and provides teaching opportunities.
Upcoming shows:
Zorro - Nov. 1
Jazz at the Straz: Blues, Bop and Hip-Hop - Nov. 2

Day at the Center

Tomorrow we host our first Day at the Center.

A Day at the Center is a new education initiative that provides students and educators with a guided tour of the public and backstage spaces of the Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory.

After the tour, students have a brown bag lunch in Maestro’s CafĂ© and participate in a workshop geared towards their grade/age level. Workshops may include dance, theater, music and production.Through these workshops, students and teachers will gain exposure to the performing arts, and strengthen the arts education experience.