Friday, March 29, 2013

Dance class of the month: Jazz

Julie Kierstein describes herself as a bunhead.

A dancer since she was nine years old, at 43, Julie still reads Pointe magazine cover to cover.

“I just absolutely love dance, it’s something I’ve done all my life,” she said.

Originally from Naples, Julie is an occupational therapist from Clearwater who minored in dance in college. She also performed with a local modern dance company while in school.

After college, she taught ballet, jazz and modern in the Naples area for a number of years, but when her studio got sold, she felt she lost her dance home.

“As a dancer, the studio you belong to becomes your second home,” said Julie.

Sad and discouraged, she quit dancing for long while.

A friend encouraged her to open her own dance studio, which she did. But being an owner didn’t allow her much time to teach or dance, so she sold the business after a year.

She traveled the country as an occupational therapist for a few years, and ended up in Clearwater three years ago.

When she moved to the Tampa Bay area, she missed dance and searched for a studio, but didn’t find that sense of “home” until she found the jazz class at the Patel Conservatory.

An avid ballet fan, she attended the Youth America Grand Prix competition and Ballet’s Greatest Hits, held in conjunction with one another at the Straz Center in January. When she was here, she picked up a schedule for our Patel Conservatory open dance classes.

Julie in a dance production several
years ago.
"I knew the Straz Center had shows, but I didn't even realize they had classes," said Julie. She tried the jazz class and she was hooked.

“The teacher [Susan Downey] is phenomenal,” said Julie. “The first thing that struck me is that she really seems to enjoy teaching adults.”

In Julie’s experience, many dance studios specialize in children’s classes, and it was hard to find a studio with classes tailored to adults.

“Susan brings a high level of professionalism that I’ve never had before as an adult dancer. She’s very respectful of us. She relates to you as a person, and she’s very approachable,” said Julie.

The jazz class is open to students from grade nine through adult, from beginners to experienced dancers. Downey helps students adjust to their own level and take it at their own pace.

“She brings that level of perfectionism, but in a nice way. I respect her so much. She’s so skilled as a dancer and a teacher,” said Julie.

The Open Jazz Class enhances students' skills in popular styles of jazz dance, including lyrical jazz, Broadway/Fosse and jazz funk. Students work out to a variety of music, from contemporary pop to Broadway.

Mondays from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m.
Current session runs through May 18
Summer session runs from June 3 - Aug 5, 2013

For more information, or to register, please call 813-222-1002.

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