Friday, February 1, 2013

Dance class of the month: Contemporary

Though their day jobs, ages and backgrounds differ, the students in the Open Dance classes at the Patel Conservatory share one common passion: the love of dance for the sheer joy of movement.
Adult student Harry Myer enjoys
performing in local theater productions.

By day, Harry Myers works for Bank of America as part of the social media team handling online complaints. But in his spare time, he’s an actor, singer and dancer.

“It’s always been a hobby, something recreational to do as an outlet,” said Harry, a student in the Contemporary dance class.

Harry started taking ballet and tap classes when he was about five years old at the Straz Center, back when it was called the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, before there even was a Patel Conservatory.

He moved away from the area and dabbled in various styles of dance over the years, from hip hop to salsa. He’s also studied theater and, since moving back to Tampa four years ago, has enjoyed performing in community theater productions.

He played Ren in Footloose with Masque Community Theater in 2011, and last year performed in M.A.D. Theater’s bare: a pop opera at the Shimberg Playhouse. It was during that show that he discovered, or rather re-discovered, the dance classes at the Patel Conservatory.

He chose the Contemporary class because, “I love the fluidity of the movement, and the fact that it’s a deviant form of dance in regards to ballet,” he said. “It’s enjoyable to express that type of emotion, creating a story with your body.”

The class, taught by Ashley Hilton, introduces students to the fundamentals of contemporary dance.

“(Ashley’s) ability to teach, and take the time with each individual in the class in a way that makes us feel comfortable, is bar none,” said Harry.

Through various exercises, students work on increasing coordination and agility, and building strength, flexibility and endurance.

“This is one of my favorite classes to teach this year,” said Ashley. “The students have a great energy. The best part is seeing them progress and build confidence over the weeks as their movement connections and transitions become more fluid and they take more risks.”

For Francine Romero, the class has been both physically and mentally challenging. 

Adult student Francine Romero
is finally able to pursue her dream.
“At first, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know what a pliĆ© means,” said Francine. “(Ashley) makes it very comfortable to learn. Some students have taken dance, and then there’s some, like me, who’ve never taken dance before.”

Francine always loved to dance, but she was diagnosed young with rheumatoid arthritis, causing chronic pain. Recently, she found a medication that worked for her and relieved her pain, which enabled her to do things she could never do.

“Even though I’m not perfect, or as flexible as other people in the class, I feel like I’ve overcome a big challenge,” said Francine. She’s thrilled to finally be able to participate.

“Like some people do yoga, I dance for my mind and my spiritual well being,” said Francine.

An added bonus for both Francine and Harry was performing in the fall showcase. Neither knew what to expect at An Evening of Dance, a showcase for a variety of dance classes at the Conservatory.

“It was an amazing experience...I was totally blown away,” said Harry.

He enjoyed being a part of the creative atmosphere, watching the other performers, including a piece from the Next Generation Ballet boys and being a part of the Contemporary performance, choreographed by Ashley.

It was a phenomenal piece and I was proud of it,” he said.

“My mom came to the showcase, and she was so proud of me," said Francine. "When I told her I was taking a dance class, she had no idea I what I was actually doing. She was in awe.

"The fact that I can pursue my dreams now, and get involved in some form of dance, has helped me overcome the physical illness as well as mentally. When you do these things that make you feel good, it brings you a more positive outlook on life.”


Grades 9 through adult  
Thursdays, 7:15 to 8:30 p.m.
Instructor: Ashley Hilton
Cost: $85.75/month
$65 for a 5-class card/$120 for a 10-class card

The Contemporary dance class teaches fundamental concepts of contemporary dance, including the use of the dance space, release of weight, and body alignment while traveling in space. The curriculum draws from a variety of modern and post-modern techniques.

Registration is available online or over the phone. Dance cards are also available and offer the flexibility to try an array of our Open Dance classes. For more information, or to register, please call 813-222-1002, or visit

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