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Leisure Services

Posted on: May 6, 2019

Learn about School of Dance during July 29 open house

School of Dance students perform at CPAC

COOKEVILLE – It was only a moment – but it was powerful.

“We were all in a circle, reaching up,” Aasta Thurman said. “The spotlight was on us.”

Younger sister Ruby was backstage at the Cookeville Performing Arts Center, as she and her dance group were up next. But she could see the performance. And feel it.

“I got chills,” she recalled.

It was recital night — one of many through the years for the Thurman sisters, who have been part of the Leisure Services School of Dance for around 10 years. Jazz, ballet, modern dance… they’ve done it all.

Like so many other dancers in the program, Aasta, a sophomore at Cookeville High School, and Ruby, a seventh grader at Algood Middle School, look forward to August when a new season begins. They’ll spend a couple of nights a week in the studios at Cane Creek Recreation Center taking every class they can to improve their technique and interaction with fellow dancers in preparation for their May recitals at CPAC.

That time is only a few months away, and prospective students are invited to an open house July 29 from 4-6 p.m. at Cane Creek Recreation Center.

It'll be an opportunity to meet the instructors and check out the dance studio, thus kicking off the journey that leads to that special night at CPAC.

“When you’re on the stage, you get to reach these other people,” Aasta said. “It’s not the normal way you communicate — it’s this art form you’ve worked so hard to put together, so it’s really cool. It makes you feel alive.”

Ruby agreed.

“It’s just fun to express yourself,” she said.

And make it seem effortless.

“Like, the goal in ballet is to defy gravity so that you look like you’re floating,” she said.

There’s more to dancing, however, than fancy footwork, amazing stage costumes and getting pumped up before a performance. There’s a story to tell.

“We all come together to create this little story inside of a song, and we hope someone in the audience will feel something or that it will remind them of something,” Aasta said.

The School of Dance, now in its 21st year, was created to provide quality dance education for ages 3 through adult. Offerings include Dance for Young Children, Ballet, Jazz, Modern Dance and Pointe.

Carolyn Bennett, dance coordinator, emphasized that the School of Dance is not competitive.

“I like to say we are Cookeville Leisure Services, so we enjoy dance as a leisure activity,” she said.

Bennett joined the School of Dance as an instructor in 2007 and has been dance coordinator for two years. She works with the other instructors — Jenny Thurman (who also happens to be the mother of Aasta and Ruby), Maggie Pelton, Jan Carter Stumbo and Emily Clark — to coordinate schedules, determine class placement for students and assist in the shift from studio to stage.

Chad McDonald, Leisure Services cultural arts superintendent, said, “We are fortunate to have talented, educated instructors who focus on technique and inclusion. From the inception of the program, the goal has been to provide top quality dance education. This focus is a continuation of the ideals created by the founders of the Dance Arts Center. Mickie Akenson, Hatty Gill and Deby Rossie brought dance education to Cookeville and instilled a love for the art form in the community. It is our goal to continue their work.”

And it’s rewarding for the instructors — not only on performance night when their students shine before an audience after months of hard work, but on throughout their lives.

“One of our favorite things is getting to watch the dancers over the years and see the growth and progress they make, both as dancers and as individuals,” Bennett said.

Aasta and Ruby can attest to that. Both say dance has taught them how to take care of their bodies, stay active and even handle constructive criticism.

“It’s not just for the performance,” Aasta said. “It’s for our whole lives.”

They encourage others to try it.

“It’s not easy when you start,” Ruby said. “You have to work at it and just stick with it, and eventually it’ll click with you. It’s cool when those moments happen.”

For more information about the School of Dance, call CPAC at 528-1313. 

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