Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NGB Guest blog: hardest thing I've ever done...but worth it!

Guest blog by Lauren Blakeney, New Artist with Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory.

These past few weeks since Labor Day weekend have been quite busy, so this is the first chance I’ve had to write a blog entry!
Everything at Patel [Conservatory] is going great; I seem to be learning something new every day. We’ve already started and finished Waltz of the Flowers, in which I’m so honored to be Dew Drop. This is my first Nutcracker ever so I cannot wait to do my first full length ballet.
We’ve also been hard at work on Snow, in which I’m a Snow Maiden, and I have to admit, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We haven’t even finished it yet and I’m already rushing to catch my breath as soon as the music stops.
We’ve also started our intensives where we are working on variations from YAGP [Youth America Grand Prix], and I have to say I love my variation. It’s from Paquita, and it’s only the third variation I’ve ever learned in my life, so I’m excited to be learning more. It’s a very hard variation, but I know with Ivonne’s [Lemus] help and coaching that I will be just fine.
So besides the daily two ballet classes we take, there have been a lot of rehearsals each day. I come home exhausted every day, but it’s all worth it!
Being with new friends all day is something that definitely helps as well, even though we’re tired, we all seem to push each other which is great. I’m so happy to be a part of Next Generation Ballet, and can’t wait to see what else is in store.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Karate champ pursues musical theater

Whether getting ready for a karate competition or a theater production, 11-year-old Tyler Luginski knows the importance of solid training.
“I’ve been in karate for 5 or 6 years. I love the sport. I’ve competed nationally and won,” said Luginski, who took time out from a workout to chat with me.
“I have to train cardio because when you’re sparring you have to have a lot energy,”  said Luginski. To train for karate, he runs and practices his “kata” techniques at home.
A Karate kata is a pattern of movement, that includes stepping and turning. The idea is to perfect form and technique.
“It’s like a dance,” said Luginski. Given his kata experience, theater isn’t a huge leap for this karate champ.
Though he has a black belt in traditional karate, he also has a love for music and performing and recently joined the Patel Conservatory musical theater program.
“I got into musical theater in 5th grade. I got the lead in Compose Yourself, a play about how famous composers come to life.” Luginski's role as Beethoven for the school production at Veteran's Elementary included solo performances, which made him want to pursue music and acting classes even more.

"I started researching places [to study performing arts]," said Lugnmski’s mom, Angel. "The Patel Conservatory is right there at the theater [Straz Center], so I thought we'd check it out."

Lugimski signed up for our summer Vocal Arts Academy.
“I liked that I got to learn a bunch of different styles, like show choir and more traditional choir,” he said.
He enjoyed the experience so much that he signed up for the musical theater class, which meets once a week for three and a half hours and includes training in music, theater and dance.
The new curriculum of our musical theater program includes training from different instructors in each discipline in order to help students become well-rounded, and ultimately more prepared for Broadway-style roles that require singing, dancing and acting.
“I’m getting all of it, so if I were to perform, I’d be more prepared,” said Luginski.
“His dream is to be on Broadway some day,” said Angel. With his dedication to training, he’s sure to be on his way.

Theater guest blog: learning design concepts and how to direct actors

Guest blog by Ian Burns, Theater Apprentice for the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center.

I have been involved with the Patel Conservatory since 2008. I do enjoy dance and singing, but my true joy is acting. I am very excited to do Our Town, because it is a classic American play, and not a musical. Don’t get me wrong, I love musicals, but it’s nice to just act and work specifically on that, rather than vocals and choreography and acting. Currently at the Patel Conservatory, I am an apprentice with the theater department. In this program we learn the non-performance aspects of theater such as design, makeup, direction and dramaturgy.
In design, what we have learned so far is a design concept with nature. We were tasked to go out in the world of nature and bring back something that we felt embodied the play. I got a very pretty prairie grass; it had some purple needles and a very picturesque look. The concept made me think of the play in a deeper way, about the play as a whole and its themes. 
Dramaturgy is a funny word meaning the research of the play. For example, I looked up the history of the play. Furthermore, I took a list of buildings that the stage manager describes in act one and I got a picture of the buildings and a little definition of what their function is. These are the types of things that help people really get into character and make a performance great.
As far as direction goes, we have a book called A Sense of Direction by William Ball. In this book we learn things that directors use to create shows. One example is nature; this means letting the actor’s natural instincts come out and how it may benefit the production. Another example is intuition, which is an actor’s first inkling, and the idea that the first thing they do or say is right. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

This year's NGB New Artists

Here are the 2011-2012 New Artists of Next Generation Ballet, the resident pre-professional ballet company at the Straz Center in Tampa.

Back row (from left to right): Calvin Farias, Kamron Vaziri and William Dugan
Front row (from left to right): Marta Kelly, Lauren Blakeney and Hannah Bettes

Friday, September 23, 2011

Theater guest blog: Improv and pantomime

Guest blog by Braxton Perry, cast member for PCYT's production of Our Town
Hey, this is Braxton here. Glad to see you back (Well, of course, I can’t actually see you, but I’ll just have to pretend I can). This blog is about my second week going through the Our Town classes and rehearsals.
Last week we did a couple of new and fun things. We did a bunch of theater exercises – like leading people around the room in different ways without running into anyone. One of the theater exercises was where we split into two groups, and had 30 seconds to get an idea, and get into position while the other group had their eyes closed.
Everyone in my group decided that we should be in a plane, So we were all taking positions, and I whispered that I’d be the pilot. The problem was, when I went to go and sit down to be the pilot, I looked behind me and someone was standing behind me with their hands in the air. We were out of time, so I quickly scooted on the floor behind the rest of the passengers.
When it was asked what we were and why almost everyone was a passenger and where was the pilot, I was confused. Who was the person standing? Then I took a better look, and she was handing out invisible drinks! She was a stewardess! Oh well.
The next day we read the script as our casted parts (if you don’t remember, I’m Professor Willard and Constable Warren). The following two days we worked a lot on pantomiming.
Now, I’m not sure how much you now about Our Town, but if it isn’t a lot, here’s an interesting bit of information (shameless plug: what better way to find out than actually coming to see the performance?). It doesn’t have any scenery.
Well… I wouldn’t say it doesn’t have any, but it doesn’t have an awful lot. So when working with things that don’t actually exist, it can get hard… as you could imagine (heh). In that case, practicing pantomiming is essential.
On Monday of this week we worked on character bios. That means you come up with a back-story for your character(s) and sort of build them up. It’s kind of fun doing that. It’s sort of like meeting the person you’re acting.
Well, I think that’s about it. Thanks for reading! It wouldn’t really be blog with out you. There’s tons of other stuff I could write, but that’d take ages. Overall, I’m having a pretty great time. If you want to get notified next time I post a blog, you can “like” Patel Conservatory on Facebook. See you (metaphorically) next time! 
Things I like:
Trying to push pins back into place on a PS/2 computer mouse
Gustavo Dudamel (conductor…er… musical – not electrical)
Writing these blogs

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spotlight on Calvin Farias

Today’s spotlight is on Calvin Farias, one of this year's New Artists with Next Generation Ballet, the resident pre-professional ballet company of the Straz Center.
Farias joins us this year from Ellenton, Florida, where he began dancing at the age of eight at the Diane Partington Studio of Classical Ballet. Over the years, as his skill increased, so did his time in the studio.
At the age of twelve, with four nights a week of dance and a heavy academic workload, Farias decided to take a break. “I loved it, and it felt like what I wanted to do, but I didn’t think I could make it,” said Farias.
His story seems to be another lesson in learning not to mistrust our ambitions.
“When I did some community theater my sophomore year in high school, I started missing ballet,” said Farias. Though he regrets taking that four-year break, he's made up for it through hard work and perseverance.

"Sometimes it’s good to take some time to see if it’s what you really want."
He again began training and earned a spot in Sarasota Ballet’s summer intensive. He returned to the Diane Partington Studio last year, and this past summer joined us at the Patel Conservatory for our five-week summer intensive.
“It stretched me in ways that I didn’t think possible,” said Farias. “It made me stronger, and I realized I could push myself more than I thought.”
Chosen as one of only six New Artists for Next Generation Ballet, he's now immersed in NGB’s rigorous training program and feels consistently challenged. And he loves it.
“Having two technique classes a day was hard at first,” he said, but now, “I enjoy working hard towards the end of the day, you feel so much better about yourself and the amount of work you’ve done.”
When not dancing, Farias’ favorite academic subject is history. He could maybe see himself being a history teacher one day.
He enjoys a wide range of music, from classical to Adele to Michael Buble. 
“I’m excited for this year," said Farias. "It will push me and help me pursue my dream...I’m excited for The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Theater guest blog: Our Town

Theater guest blog by Braxton Perry, cast member for Our Town
Hey, my name is Braxton and I’m 17 years old. I love all things that have to do with the performing arts (music, theater and dance thanks to the Patel Conservatory), but this blog isn’t about all of those disciplines (that would take too much space). Each week, I’ll write about my previous week’s adventures during rehearsals for Patel Conservatory Youth Theater’s (PCYT) production of Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town. (Showing November 17-19, 2011, so don’t forget to buy tickets!)
My first run-in with Patel Conservatory was actually through dance. My sister wanted to take dance with my brother and me. My brother suggested doing tap dancing since he’s had his eye on it for a while. We looked around at different dance studios for a few weeks, until we came across the Patel Conservatory and the tap teacher, Ms. Susan Downey (just a brief side note, Ms. Susan is one of the best teachers in the world, and if you’ve never taken dance, you should try out tap just to have her as your teacher!).
After doing dance for a few months, Ms. Susan encouraged me to also try out in theater. Since it was right after summer, PCYT was just starting placements for Our Town.
It was really interesting going to the musical theater placements. I have to admit, I was pretty scared, but it turned out great. We did everything from singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to running around a room, and then reading a monologue and acting really angry. The funny thing is I actually got higher marks in both music and theater than I did in dance; and I didn’t even have experience in either of them before that day!
Just last week we started classes for Our Town. Kerry Glamsch is the director. I hope he doesn’t mind, but I thought I’d put a few thoughts on him. To be honest, I couldn’t really see any one else teaching the class and being the director. He’s eccentric in a good way, and totally makes the whole class laugh at any moment.
On Wednesday and Thursday, we read through the entire script and Kerry had us act out different parts. I was nervous since I’ve never acted, but after some time, I felt myself warming up. On Friday, we played some theater exercises that built trust and unity and did some final casting. If you’re wondering, I was cast as Professor Willard and Constable Warren, which aren’t leading roles, but still important and I’m really happy about it.
I’ve only been around Patel Conservatory for a few months, but I’m already having the time of my life and making great friends. Fun stuff, huh?
Don’t forget to check back soon for my next blog about my adventures! If you want to get notified when I post a new blog, all you have to do is “like” Patel Conservatory on Facebook. They post a bunch of other cool things as well.

Things I like:
Being silly
Writing these lists
Doing headstands (Trying)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Try a class for free before you register

Try Before You Buy
Did you know that you can always try a class for free (for most classes) before you sign up?
Check out the adult acting class on Wednesday nights, or Stretch and Strengthen on your Monday lunch hour. If you’re looking for music, dance or acting classes for your child, please feel free to Try Before You Buy at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa!
We understand that classes are an investment, and we want you to be completely happy with your experience. That's why you're always welcome to try a class before you register. We know you’ll be more than thrilled our studios and instructors.

And our open enrollment allows you to sign up any time.
We know you love our classes, so tell all your friends and you’ll reap the rewards! When your friend signs up for any of our classes, you’ll earn one free month towards your classes.
Be sure to include your friend’s name on your registration!
We know adults and college students are inundated with obligations. Take advantage of the dance card so you can join our classes when it’s convenient for your schedule! Purchase a 5- or 10-class card to pop into class when you can, or use it try a variety of adult dance classes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

NGB dancers perform at galas

Bravo to the Next Generation Ballet dancers who performed at two different galas over the weekend!
Hannah Bettes performed at the Young Stars of Ballet Gala in Indianapolis, and Kemper Cassada, Hannah Stanford and William Dugan performed at the International Ballet Festival of Miami.
“I’ve never done a gala before. It was a really good experience,” said Cassada, 13, of Jacksonville.
“You meet new people, and international dancers,” he said. “You’re there to show off what you’ve done the previous year, and you get to see other dancers who’ve won finals in New York.”
Cassada recently moved to the Tampa area with his mother and sister in order to work with Peter Stark as an NGB trainee at the Patel Conservatory. His dad visits on weekends when he can.
Cassada gets up at 7 a.m. every morning and does schoolwork, then gets to the Patel Conservatory at 11 a.m. to train all day five days a week. It’s a rigorous schedule, but this well-spoken young dancer enjoys the challenge.
When he wasn’t training with Stark, “I was not to the level where I wanted to wasn’t hard enough,” said Cassada. “The thing I enjoy most about being here is taking class with all the instructors.”
He appreciates their different styles of teaching, he said.
For the gala, Kemper performed a contemporary ballet piece choreographed by Jeffrey Cirio over the summer for the NGB summer intensive showcase.

The experience of meeting other accomplished dancers and watching award-winning performances was both inspirational and motivating for all who attended.
"The gala was an amazing experience,” agreed Hannah Stanford. “I was honored to perform with so many talented dancers."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Conservatory student lands two new roles

Congratulations to Patel Conservatory student Elizabeth Harvath who recently booked two professional theater jobs!
Elizabeth Harvath in PCYT's
Alice in Wonderland, Jr.
Harvath was recently cast in Ruthless at the Winter Park Playhouse in Orlando, and as Clara in A Nutty Nutcracker at the Orlando Repertory Theatre.

Since winning the 2010 Tampa’s Got Talent competition, the past year has been an intensive one, according to Meredith Harvarth, Elizabeth’s mother.
Elizabeth studied dance and theater last year, was in Alice in Wonderland, Jr. in the spring, and, this summer, took part in the Next Generation Ballet Junior Summer Intensive. She also takes dance classes at another studio.
“On top of that we went to every audition for film and show we could manage,” said Meredith.

Elizabeth even auditioned in NYC, Atlanta and North Carolina. In Atlanta, she got a call back for the tour of A White Christmas. Locally, she was an extra in the upcoming movie A Dolphin Tale, filmed in Clearwater.
Elizabeth gets ready for an audition for
Annie in New York City.
Finally, dedication and hard work paid off for the 12-year-old performer with her two new roles. She has solo songs in both shows.
Despite her busy travel and rehearsal schedule coming up, Elizabeth is currently enrolled in both our youth theater and youth ballet programs and takes classes when she can.
“Her ballet training and musical theater training from the Patel Conservatory continue to prepare her for opportunities like this," said Meredith.

Spotlight on Diane Andrieux

Ever since she was little, Diane Andrieux has loved to sing and write music.
“I started singing in church when I was nine years old,” said Andrieux, one of the winners of Patel Conservatory's recent Tampa’s Got Talent competition.
Andrieux, 26, originally from Miami, has been involved with choirs ever since. She graduated with a degree in music education from the University of South Florida, where she sang with choirs throughout her years of undergraduate study.
She joined a study abroad program through a master choir at USF which brought her to Austria.
“We performed with master choirs from other cultures, so that was a great experience,” said Andrieux, who currently works as a financial aid adviser at Everest University in Tampa.
She heard about the Patel Conservatory and the Tampa’s Got Talent Competition through a voice teacher at USF years ago, but, busy with studying, never got around to looking into it... that is, until this past summer.
“My cousin emailed me about the competition, and I thought, ‘Let me try it,’” said Andrieux. “The judges were very welcoming...I liked the feedback that I got.”
Andrieux’s performance of Summertime from Porgy and Bess won her a scholarship for Patel Conservatory’s Musical Theater Cabaret class.
Surprised to discover that she was the only winner in the adult category, Andrieux is excited to explore various styles of vocal performance. From Broadway to opera to hip-hop and R & B, she enjoys performing a wide range of music. She plays some piano and writes her own music and would ultimately love to be a solo artist, or even compose for film and video production.
“Even though I studied music, there’s always more you can learn as an artist,” she said, “The sky’s the limit.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Patel Conservatory veterans perform at local benefit

Several Patel Conservatory veterans performed recently at a benefit concert for the Arts Council of Plant City.
“It was a fun, enlightening experience with such amazing talent,” said Ryan Caudill, former Patel Conservatory administrative assistant.

The concert, at the Red Rose Inn in Plant City, was part of the council’s annual banquet. The show was directed and produced by Cheryl Worsham, who saw The Wiz at the Patel Conservatory and got the idea to ask the students if they wanted to perform at the banquet.

Several past and present Patel Conservatory students performed, including Ian Burns (The Wiz), Gigi Burns (Adult Jazz Voice Ensemble), Luis Colon (T.A. for Seussical the Musical, Jr., choreographer for LOL: The Musical), and Ben Mercado (The Wiz, Adult Jazz Voice Ensemble, Fame).
“What made the rehearsals fun was the hands-on process of our meetings,” said Caudill. “As a team, we searched several song selections until we found the right ones for each individual artist.”

The group sang danced to a variety of songs including My Girl, You Should Be Dancing, Living La Vida Loca and Total Eclipse of the Heart. The pieces were choreographed by Luis Colon and Ben Mercado.
The venue was beautiful and the audience responded enthusiastically, said Caudill. “It reminded me why I love being a performer so much!”

Registration still open for Our Town

Registration is still open until Sept. 9, 2011, for the Patel Conservatory Youth Theater (PCYT) production of Our Town. This production-driven theater class brings students from the classroom, through the rehearsal process, and to the stage.

Intended for students in grades nine through college, Our Town will be directed by guest instructor Kerry Glamsch.
Glamsch has a BA in theater from USF and earned an MFA as a Michener fellow at the University of Texas, Austin. He worked as an Equity actor for years and has taught at the Patel Conservatory from its inception until 2007.
He taught theater at USF from 2003 until 2010. He directed a number of critically acclaimed plays, was a Fulbright lecturer at University of Craiova, and has taught acting workshops in Tazania, Bucharest, Bali, and New Zealand. His screenplays have won numerous awards, and his fiction has been published extensively.
Under Glamsch’s tutelage, students in the PCYT program will build acting and performance skills, and gain the experience of being part of a pre-professional production.
Our Town has been translated into hundreds of languages and performed worldwide, being the most produced play ever, next to Shakespeare.

To register for this class and performance, please click here.

Our Town reminds us to appreciate the miracle of everyday life

Kerry Glamsch
By Kerry Glamsch, guest director of PCYT's production of Our Town, playing Nov. 17 - 19, 2011 at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa.  

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?”
In the early 1980s, I saw a production of Our Town at The Tampa Players, one of two now-defunct Equity theaters in Tampa. Too punk rock and self-absorbed to appreciate it, I thought the play nostalgic, and walked out of the theater unaware that a seed had been planted.
A lifetime later, on a plane to Romania in the fall of 2008, I read Our Town for the first time and wept.
This is not a quaint slice of Americana, a look back into some idealized past. Written in 1937, the staging of Our Town radically broke standardized theatrical conventions. Its playwright, Thorton Wilder, borrowed ideas from Greek and Chinese theater.
In a 1938 New York Times article, “A Preface for Our Town,” Wilder stated that his avant-garde approach was an attempt to “…restore significance to the small details of life by removing scenery. The spectator, through lending his imagination to the action, re-stages it inside his own head.”
While teaching the play at Craiova University, I focused not so much on its staging, but on the content and theme. And the students got it. They loved it! As did students at Dominguez High in Los Angeles’ notorious Compton neighborhood when they staged a production in 2002 that was later turned into the award-winning documentary OT: Our Town.
Our Town transcends, literally “going beyond” time and culture, speaking to a part of us, if we are ready to listen, that is universal. As the Stage Manager character remarks, “… there are some things we all know but we don't take ‘em out and look at ‘em very often.”
Since 1960, Our Town has been produced in at least twenty-two languages in twenty-eight countries. It is performed at least once every night somewhere in the U.S.
How, after 74 years, does the play still speak to us? What themes remain relevant to our very modern world?
“It goes so fast,” the play’s protagonist Emily says, that “We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed!”
In focusing on the everyday, the things we take for granted, Wilder suggests that the miracle of life is right here in front of us, if only we would take the time to really look and listen.
In the moments leading to her epiphany, Emily observes, “From morning till night, that's all they are--troubled.”
Freed from her earthly obligations, Emily experiences a moment of illumination. In an epiphany of joy and sorrow, she exclaims, “Oh earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you!”
This production of Our Town at the Patel Conservatory will be much more than just a rehearsal process. In addition to thorough text analysis, building characters, blocking and lines, our actors, through improvisational games, ensemble-building, trust exercises and journaling, will go on a life-changing journey. Together, we will bridge boundaries and take the time to explore, look and listen so that we, and our audience, might better appreciate our brief time here together.

The seed is now sprouting. Let the blossoming begin!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

NGB Guest blog: first week of NGB's 2011/12 season

Back by popular demand, our NGB Guest Blog continues as we follow Lauren Blakeney, New Artist with Next Generation Ballet, through a year of training at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa.

By Lauren Blakeney, NGB New Artist

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where I started out doing gymnastics and taking a few dance classes because there was a dance studio right upstairs. Around the age of 10, I decided that dance was something I loved and quit gymnastics to stick with dance.
I've trained with many teachers around the Houston area, mostly in contemporary, jazz and modern. It wasn't until I was 16 that I really wanted to get into ballet. I was a little late but fell in love with ballet and everything about it. I graduated high school a year early at 17 and attended Point Park University as a dance major for a year, but decided I wanted more focused training in ballet.
After being accepted to and attending the Next Generation Ballet Summer Intensive this summer, I completely fell in love with the program and the teachers and felt like it was the right place for me to be...and that's a little bit about me!
The first week at the Patel Conservatory has been great, I've already learned so much! We learned a Christopher Fleming piece called Cafe Musica, which is very fast with fancy arms and footwork, but very exciting. I really enjoyed learning this piece and can not wait to perform it!
We also learned Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker. This is completely opposite from the Christopher Fleming ballet, but they are both beautiful and challenging in their own way.
On Friday we had a guest teacher, Tatiana Tchernova who was a first soloist and principal dancer with the National Ballet of Uzbekistan and also a guest soloist with the Bolshoi and Kirov ballets in Russia, and is now a very renowned teacher across the world and teaches at CPYB. Her class was amazing! I really felt like she gave everybody corrections and attention and had a very meticulous way of teaching that I loved.
It's been a very eventful week, and I can’t wait to see what's next!