Thursday, June 30, 2011

NGB guest blog

By Amber Shriver, NGB dancer and Patel Conservatory marketing intern.

June 27, 2011

This summer has been really exciting so far. On Saturday, I rented a car for the first time by myself (since the rental age in Maryland is 20 years) and drove down from Jacksonville to Tampa. It was around a five-hour drive, but the scenery was really beautiful, except when it rained. After I arrived at Tampa, I met all of the other Resident Assistants and checked into my room. I also got to meet my roommate, Taylor who is also an RA and a former apprentice with the Alabama Ballet.  
On Sunday, I went to the airport to meet the students who were flying in for the intensive. There were 20 students flying into Tampa from around the country! I was really excited to meet several people who I knew from former summer intensives and from other studios. I was also excited to meet other students from Butler University, which I attended during my freshman year of college. After picking up students from the airport, I came back to the hotel to meet my residents. I have 10 children who are between the ages of 14-16. 
After meeting everyone, I took them on tours of the Conservatory and the hotel and then we had dinner and hall meetings. Our hall meeting was a lot of fun and made me look forward to the other excursions and activities over the next five weeks which include a trip to the beach, trips to the mall, watching Mamma Mia (which is coming to the Straz Center very soon), watching Pretty Little Liars and a trip to Magic Kingdom.

NGB guest blog chronicles our summer intensive

“We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”  ~Japanese Proverb

Hi everyone, I’m Amber Shriver, a dancer at the Next Generation Ballet (NGB) Summer Intensive and I’m going to be guest blogging until August. I am 20 years old and from Washington D.C.

At home, I take daily ballet classes at the Maryland Youth Ballet and the Washington Ballet.  I am also a junior at University of Maryland, College Park where I am majoring in business. In my spare time, I serve as the artistic director for Connect the Dots Ballet Company, a non-profit ballet company in D.C., which performs at local hospitals and preschools.

I'm very excited to be given the opportunity to train with Peter Stark this summer and to be part of NGB’s first 5-week summer intensive.
In addition to dancing six hours a day with classes in Ballet, Pointe, Variations and Modern this summer, I am also working as a Resident Assistant (RA) and a marketing intern for the Patel Conservatory. Although I am going to miss my family a lot (I have 4 brothers and sisters who are still living at home in Maryland), I am super excited to both improve my technique and to learn more about the business aspect of dance this summer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Guest artists to appear with students in NGB's Summer Fantasy

This week we welcome nearly 200 dancers from around Tampa Bay and around the country to our first five-week summer ballet intensive! Did you see us in yesterday's Tampa Tribune?
These dancers were picked from more than 500 young dancers from around the country who auditioned for the Next Generation Ballet intensive. Students will get the opportunity to train with both NGB instructors and guest instructors from top ballet companies.
Guest instructors for our intensive include Lia Cirio, principal dancer with the Boston Ballet, Jeffrey Cirio, soloist with the Boston Ballet, Dylan G-Bowley with the Trey McIntyre Project, Eran Bugge of the Paul Taylor Dance Company and more.
Not only will the students get the opportunity to learn from and train with guest instructors, 150 of these advanced pre-professional level students will get the experience of performing along with these artists. Five weeks of classes will culminate in a final performance titled Summer Fantasy.
Featuring guest artists Lia and Jeffrey Cirio and G-Bowley, the show will display classical ballet standard pieces alongside cutting-edge contemporary work. Emerging young talent will share the stage with leading American dancers.
Don’t miss this amazing performance Friday, July 29, at 7 p.m. in Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center. Click here for tickets or more info.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Music opens the mind

For Ximena and Alejandro Rojas, music means more than just learning how to play an instrument.
“We think that music is very important,” said Alejandro Rojas, whose children are part of the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra (PCYO). “We’re convinced that having music as part of their every day life helps them in other areas in terms of education, art and culture and athletic activities.” 

The Rojas family has been part of the Patel Conservatory since they moved to Tampa from Chile four years ago.

“Music is a good way to communicate our feelings. There is definitely no language barrier,” said Alejandro, a former athlete who competed on the Chilean Olympic row team.
“I had the honor to represent Chile in many international championships including in two World Championships and two Olympic Games,” said Alejandro. “Rowing is about constancy, discipline and team effort...The reward is enormous and it gives you tools for life.”
Alexia Rojas
His wife, Ximena, took years of piano and also enjoyed chorus and dance. The two have passed their love of both athletics and music to their children with the belief that both provide lifelong lessons of teamwork and discipline.

Alexia and Leonardo Rojas, 13-year-old twins, play competitive soccer and have played with Coleman Middle School’s orchestra for the past two years. They will both be joining PCYO this fall.
“My two brothers play violin, so I wanted to do something different,” said Alexia, who plays cello. “It can be a lot some nights when we have concerts and practice, but I enjoy it. I don’t like having extra time on my hands."

Mauricio Rojas

Her older brother, Mauricio Rojas, 15, a sophomore at Plant High School, started in PCYO’s String Sinfonia. This year he’ll be joining the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra, the PCYO’s senior level.

Alejandro feels his kids benefit from being part of an orchestra because they thrive on being part of a team.
“When you have just private lessons with an instrument, you don’t see the long-term picture,” said Alejandro, a veterinarian who specializes in aquaculture. “When you combine private lessons with orchestra, they get to see where it’s going...When they play together, you can see in their faces, they have a greater sense of accomplishment.”
Leonardo Rojas
Alejandro says it’s important for them to provide opportunities for their children because it helps them learn. “Music helps open their brain to absorb not just music but other things as well.”
Educational or not, for the kids, it’s just plain fun. Leonardo’s excited to be challenged in PCYO’s Intermezzo Orchestra.

“I like faster music,” said Leonardo, who also plays classical guitar. "At school, not all the kids can play at the same level, so they can't teach harder pieces. The [PCYO] is more formal and organized. It teaches students better music."

The next auditions for the 2011/12 Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra will be August 22 and 23. E-mail or call 813.222.1273 for an audition appointment.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Free dance classes August 13

The Patel Conservatory in Tampa will host free dance classes on Sat., Aug. 13, 2011.

The following ballet master classes are a great opportunity to receive free training from our instructors. It's also the perfect time to check out the dance program at the Patel Conservatory, located at the Straz Center in Tampa. We offer dance classes for adults and children of all ages and skill levels.

Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet (PCYB) program is the official school of Next Generation Ballet. Next Generation Ballet and PCYB recently won “Outstanding School” at the New York finals of the Youth America Grand Prix.

These master classes are free, but pre-registration is required:
Intro. to Ballet Master Class
Age 3-K
9-9:45 a.m.

Explore the joy of dance with Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet’s faculty! No previous training is required, but all students must be at least 3 years old by Sept. 1, 2011 in order to participate. This class offers the opportunity to be placed in the 2011-2012 school year program with PCYB.
Current PCYB students who have completed Dress Up & Dance and Creative Movement 1 are welcome to take this class as part of their training program.

Beginning Ballet Master Class
Grades 1 - 8
10:15-11:15 a.m.

Learn the fundamentals of ballet technique with Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet’s faculty! No previous training is required, but students with some prior experience may participate. This class offers the opportunity to be placed in the 2011-2012 school year program with PCYB.
Current PCYB students who have completed Creative Movement 2, Primary, and Preparatory are welcome to take this class as part of their training program.

Elementary/Intermediate Ballet Master Class
Grades 4 -12
1 - 2:15 p.m.

Take a class with Next Generation Ballet’s award-winning faculty! This class is designed for students with at least two years of consistent ballet training. Students have the opportunity to be placed in the 2011-2012 school year program with PCYB.
Current PCYB students who have completed Levels 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 3 are encouraged to take this class as part of their training program.
To pre-register for any of the above classes, please call 813-222-1263 or email

Hannah Bettes wins silver medal at the World Ballet Competition

It’s been a winning year for Next Generation Ballet (NGB) new artist Hannah Bettes.
The 15-year-old dancer recently won the silver medal in the pre-professional category at the World Ballet Competition (WBC) in Orlando. In March, Bettes beat out all other dancers in her division to win first place in the Junior Women’s category at the international Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) in New York City.
As the youngest in her division (ages 14 to 17) at the WBC, Hannah consistently scored the highest in every round, said Stacey Bettes, Hannah’s mother.
The WBC scored competitors on a scale of 1 to 10, similar to the Olympics, and the scores were made available right away at each round. 
“The whole process was different,” said Hannah. “It was more intense because you knew going in what score you needed.”
Hannah competed against dancers from around the world, but with all of her competitions and performances this year, she’s become adept at handling the pressure of going against top talent and being subjected to the judging process.
“This past year, she’s become more confident,” said Stacey. Hannah joined the full-time dance program at the Patel Conservatory as a NGB new artist last fall.
“I’ve improved so much this year with Peter [Stark] and Ivonne [Lemus],” said Hannah, “Every day the classes get harder. Your’e always challenged. You’re never not improving.”
The program provided Hannah with many performance opportunities including the Straz Center's productions of The Nutcracker in December, 2010 and A Midsummer Night's Dream in May, 2011, and an appearance at the YAGP Gala in New York. “The more you’re on stage and the more performances you do, the less nerve racking it becomes,” Stacey said.
At the WBC, “We were forced to change her final round variation with just 24 hours notice,” said Peter Stark, dance chair of the Patel Conservatory and artistic director of NGB, “Hannah handled it like a professional, and received the highest marks in the entire competition for that piece.”
With her success this past year, Bettes has garnered attention from many top ballet schools. Despite worldwide scholarship offers, including from Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Fla., Princess Grace of Monaco School in Monte Carlo, Monaco and Kirov Academy in Washington D.C., Bettes will continue with the Patel Conservatory/NGB this fall. 
At only 15, Bettes is poised for a career with a professional ballet company. In the ballet world, a professional career means starting young and going where the opportunities are.
Her parents are happy to have her close to home for at least one more year. With Hannah living in Tampa,  and her family in Orlando, they visit weekly and make it work. “I want her to succeed...It’s definitely a passion for her,” said Stacey.
Hannah is presently training at the Houston Ballet summer intensive, and will then attend the CarreƱo Dance Festival in Sarasota for four weeks. She received full scholarships for both programs.
She's humble about her success and the attention. “It’s good to know that my hard work is paying off.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Booster Club news

The next meeting of the new Patel Conservatory Booster Club will be this Thursday, June 23 at 6 p.m.
Anyone interested in joining this volunteer organization to support and promote Patel Conservatory programs and classes is welcome to attend. We’ll be planning for the upcoming 2011/12 season.

On-camera student lands lead role

Congratulations to Patel Conservatory student Ashlie Stevens who recently finished filming as the lead role in the independent film Mr. Engagement.
Stevens signed up for an on-camera workshop at the Patel Conservatory last fall in search of finding inspiration. As a single mom, “I’ve always been busy working and taking care of kids,” she said.
Now that her kids, Jessica, 17 and Nick, 20, are grown, Stevens says she finally had the time to do things for herself. After working the same sales job for years, she was ready to tap into her creativity.
“I took the [on-camera] class because I was hoping it would help me find my direction,” said Stevens. “I’ve always had writing goals, but I never thought it was a realistic goal and I never knew how to go about it... The class helped me get me out of my shell because I’m really an introvert. I discovered I like acting as well.”
Through instructor Eugenie Bondurant, Stevens found out about other workshops and auditions websites. She signed up for a 40-hour acting intensive in Miami, and shortly after came across an audition notice for the independent film Mr. Engagement.
“I auditioned and got a call back, and landed the lead female role,” she said. “We filmed three- to four-day weekends, 8 to 16 hours a day."

As her first acting role, Stevens found the experience both fun and exhausting. "During filming, I’d feel this adrenaline of the challenge.”
The film, expected to be released in 2012, is a romantic comedy about about a playboy who thinks he has life beat until his girlfriend breaks up with him. “He tries to win her back and wants to prove that he’s ready to commit,” said Stevens, who plays the girlfriend, Jamie.
New to the acting scene, Stevens said that to prepare for the role, she’d record herself and study her movements.
“I learned so much from Eugenie. She really did inspire me,” said Stevens. “I’ve always hated being in front of the camera and she made it so much fun.”
Now that she’s done filming, Stevens said she’ll continue to take classes and go on auditions, and she’s started working on a novel. Her daughter Jessica also wants to get into modeling and acting the two are looking at taking classes together.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Theater camp offers an education in reading and writing!

Hey moms, are you looking for something fun and educational for your kids to do this summer? Check out our Page to Stage summer camp!
Kids in grades three to six will learn how to take a story book and turn it into a play. Working together as a team, students will focus on reading, writing and acting. They’ll write, cast, design and mount their own show, culminating in a final performance in front of an audience.

Page to stage is just one of many summer theater camps and classes at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, including our youth theater productions of Seussical the Musical, and a playwriting and performance experience, LOL: the Musical.
There's still time to register! Page to Stage will be June 20 through July 1, 2011 and is open to anyone in grades three through six. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interview with guest director Rob Nash

According to Rob Nash, just about everyone you know has a dream to do something creative.
Nash, a veteran actor, writer, director and stand-up comedian, didn’t wait for his breaks in the entertainment industry to make his dreams come true. He wrote his own one-man plays and managed to maintain a career as a stand-up comedian for the past 24 years. In two free workshops this week at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, he shows you how to get your creative ideas out of your head! (The workshop is free and open to high school through college-age students.)
Get to know Nash and hear how he got his start in the business in the following interview with Beth Miller, Patel Conservatory Community Ambassador/blog writer/part-time novelist...
Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I started doing musical theater at age 11. I started writing and doing stand-up when I was 20 while I was still in college. I think I was the first out gay comedian doing mainstream clubs outside of New York or L.A.
My first one-man show was 12 steps to a More Dysfunctional You at Off Center [now the Shimberg at the Straz Center]. It was like: gay, 12 steps and AIDS 101. None of that was talked about at the time. I think it was one of the first plays outside of New York or California to talk about AIDS .
I was on the road for 21 years, and I’ve been on VH1 and Comedy Central.
Q: You wrote material that was edgy at the time. Was that something you struggled with?
A: No, I’ve never been able to keep secrets. I‘ve always been kind of out there. I was the black sheep of the family; they were all very conservative. I was the underachiever at school, but I was funny. In the 70’s, in school we always heard, Be yourself. I really took those mantras to heart.

Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Houston, TX. I’m now living in Austin.
Q: What inspired you to become an actor?
A: When I was seven years old, I memorized The Chicken Heart by Bill Cosby, and everyone loved it. I always wanted to be a comedian after that.
Q: What inspired you to start writing one-man shows?
A: The stand-up comedy world was dying in the late 1980’s. Clubs were folding all over the country. I was a feature act, which meant I’d come on second. I thought I’d jump over the headliners spot and go right to a one-man show. I was very much inspired by Lily Tomlin.

Q: How did you get your first show produced at the Off Center Theater [now Shimberg]?
A: Wendy Leigh [now the Vice-President of Education for the Straz Center] was booking the Off Center at the time. She watched the video (yes video!) the day I came through Tampa with a stand-up comedy tour, we met and she booked my first play, 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional You.

Q: What was it like having a successful show off-Broadway? [Holy Cross Sucks!, 2005]
A: It was so great. It was eight years of work to finally get to that point. It was rated in the Top 10 Broadway and off-Broadway shows of 2005 by Time Out New York Magazine, so that was exciting.
Q: Do you have a favorite actor or comedian?
A: Lily Tomlin. She is the mother of my kind of work, playing all characters and changing characters on a dime. She saw my play Senioritis! (about 12th-graders’ irritation with their last year in high school) at the West Beth Theatre in Manhattan around 2000/2001. I told her I do what I do today because of Appearing Nightly and Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. She told my manager she loved [my show]. Yay!
Q: As a writer, I struggle to make the time for my personal creative pursuits. How did you make that work before you were able to do this for a living?
A: You need a deadline. With 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional You, I booked the theater before I even wrote it. I had no idea what I was going to do. I thought I’d do some stand-up and monologues, but then I started writing the characters and it turned into a play.
Just about everyone you know has a dream of writing a book or something else creative. There’s nothing like the support of a workshop to inspire you: having to show up for it forces you to be creative.
Q: Tell me about Cindrella, from which you'll be performing excerpts at your workshops?
A: It's a 10-minute play showcasing my kind of work for all audiences. Cindrella is Spanish for Cinderella. She's a young Latina girl whose ugly step-mother and ugly step-sisters won't throw her a quincinera and try and keep her from the skater prince's ball.

Q: You’re directing LOL: the Musical this summer at the Patel Conservatory. What can students look forward to with this production?
A: The ride of a lifetime! I'm bringing 10 years of teaching, 34 years of musical theater, 24 years of standup and improv and 21 plays worth experience. We're gonna make some great art!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Spotlight on Lizzie Kehoe

Congratulations to Patel Conservatory acting student Lizzie Kehoe who will be attending the prestigious Stella Adler summer intensive program next month.

Kehoe got her start in theater when she was just four years old in a theater summer camp at Performance Preparatory in Hyde Park.
“I played a mean dog in Lady and the Tramp,” laughed Kehoe, 14, of South Tampa. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked theater. My dad’s a big theater person, I’ve been to shows on Broadway.”
Kehoe continued with Performance Preparatory summer camps until she was 12 years old. She started voice lessons when she was in the fifth grade.
A couple of years ago, her friend told her about the Patel Conservatory summer theater camp. Kehoe auditioned for the role of Grace for our youth theater production of Annie, and was excited to land the role of her choice. She recently played the Queen in PCYT's production of Alice in Wonderland, Jr. She's also been taking some dance classes.
“Everyone was so supportive, and they’re always rooting for you,” said Kehoe of the staff at the Patel Conservatory.
She began private acting lessons with instructor Emilia Sargent. Through that experience, Kehoe says she really grew as an actor.
“Having the same teacher for about a year, you become more comfortable, you can experiment more,” said Kehoe. "I feel like I can take more chances now. I’m not shy anymore, I can be more honest."
She remembers the moment she realized that theater was more than just a hobby for her.
“I was watching Billy Elliot, and I realized...This is what I want to with my life,” she said.
Through a friend, she learned about the Lee Strasburg technique and the Stella Adler school in New York City.
Kehoe had to get two recommendations, write an essay and go up to NYC for an audition.
She performed two monologues, including one from the play Eleemosynary, which she had worked on with Sargent.
“It’s about this girl whose mother left her. She doesn’t think her mother loves her anymore, ...but she just wants her be proud of her this one time,” said Kehoe.
A week and a half later, she got the call that she’d been accepted to the month-long summer theater intensive. It’s a 30-hour a week program which includes the study of Shakespeare.
She’s thankful to the Patel Conservatory for their guidance, and offers advice for others to pursue their dreams.
“I think you should put yourself out there,” said Kehoe. “To be fearless doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid. You’re afraid, but you jump anyway.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

New music intensives offered this summer

Looking for an enriching music experience this summer for you or your kids? The Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center in Tampa offers a variety of summer music lessons, including new summer intensive programs. Our programs feature group performances that let students apply the skills they’ve learned in class.
These intensive programs are new this summer:
Jazz Ensemble – Students will further their understanding of various styles of jazz music, studying music theory and refining technique. (also offered in fall and spring)
Grades 7 - adult
Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m., June 6 through Aug. 13, 2011
Summer Pit Orchestra -  This summer music intensive is your chance to compose an original score and play in a pit orchestra as the accompaniment to the Patel Conservatory Summer Theater production created by theater students, LOL: the Musical, Jr. (summer addition to our Youth Orchestra program)
Grades 7 - college
Monday through Thursdays 6 to 9 p.m., June 27 - July 15
Summer String Intensive – Experience private and group instruction with professional musician Catherine Michelson. Focus on music theory, string technique and orchestral literature. (summer addition to our Youth Orchestra program)
Grades 7 - 12
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m., June 13 - 24. 
Vocal Arts Academy – A vocal experience unparalleled in the Tampa Bay area. The Senior Academy (grades 9 - college) explores voice, movement, acting and ensemble classes, as well as individual and group lessons from working professionals. The Junior Academy (grades 5 - 8) provides vocal training specific to the needs of their age group, along with a traditional and a show choir experience. The Vocal Arts Academy is coordinated by Gregory Ruffer of the Patel Conservatory and Opera Tampa, and Robyn Frey-Monell of Fullerton College and Opera Pacific.
Grades 5 - college
Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., July 25 - August 5. 
The following music classes return to the Patel Conservatory this summer:
Beginning Guitar – Introduces the basics of playing guitar using a variety of music and songs to teach techniques, chords and tablature.
Grades 5 - adult. 
Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m., June 6 - Aug. 13
Beginning and Intermediate Piano Lab – Students are introduced to piano basics. Previous piano study is not required. Students participate in class exercises but are allowed to progress at an individual pace. Beginning Piano Lab will be taught on Wednesdays, June 27 through Aug. 11; Intermediate Piano Lab will be taught on Thursdays, June 27 through Aug. 11. These classes are for students in grades three through adult.
Rock School – Rock School brings together adults and students in fifth grade or older to develop rock bands, utilizing electric guitars, bass guitars, drums, keyboards and vocals. The session culminates with the fully-produced Rock School Blowout concert on Aug. 14, at 1 p.m.
Tuesdays or Saturdays, June 6 - Aug. 13, 2011
As part of the non-profit Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the Patel Conservatory offers summer camps and classes for children and adults of all experience levels in dance, music and theater.
For registration or general information, call 813-222-1002, or visit

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Free performance workshops

Ever see a movie or play and think to yourself, I can do that! Want to learn how to feel more comfortable in front of an audience? Is your brain buzzing with great ideas that you just can’t seem to get on paper?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you won’t want to miss our free performance workshop!
The Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center in Tampa will host two free workshops next week for high school and college students interested in acting, performing, writing or public speaking.
The workshops will be taught by veteran off-Broadway actor, director, comedian and teacher, Rob Nash, guest director for the Patel Conservatory’s summer theater program.
Nash has written 21 plays, many of them one-man shows, including his off-Broadway show Holy Cross Sucks!, and, So a Lawyer, a Priest and an Atheist Walk into a Bar at the Off Center Theater (now the Shimberg Theater) here at the Straz Center in 2003.
The Patel Conservatory is thrilled to have Nash as a guest director this summer! Anyone in grade nine through college is welcome to come try one of his workshops next week.
At the workshop, Nash will perform excerpts from his multi-character one-man show Cindrella, a modern telling of the classic tale, Cinderella, with a Latina heroine, in which Nash plays 12 different characters.
He’ll then lead participants through exercises designed to help actors, writers and performers develop and refine their comedic and dramatic talents. 

“This workshop will stress getting your dreams out of your head and in front of an audience, and breaking down barriers and blocks,” Nash said. “This will be a very supportive and encouraging environment, open to everyone with an interest.”
If interested, participants will be able to further explore writing and performance skills with the guidance of Nash’s expertise in our summer youth theater program, in which students will collaborate to create an original production, LOL: the Musical.
The free workshops will be Thurs., June 16, 2011 from 6 to 9 p.m., or Sat., June 18, 2011 from 1-4 p.m.
To register, call 813.222.1002.