Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category


Who Are They? Oxford Hills Region Part 3

March 15, 2018

Dance Studios

This blog post is the third of a series that aims to bring awareness to you about the many visual and performing art venues and educational opportunities in the Oxford Hills. The Oxford Hills Region of Maine is a perfect setting for the arts as it is centrally located where the rolling foothills of the White Mountains and beautiful lakes regions intersect. Located 45 miles north of Portland, 35 miles east of New Hampshire, and 20 miles west of Lewiston-Auburn, the region hosts multiple year-round opportunities for learners of all ages and a thriving arts community. The Oxford Hills School District (SAD17) is Maine’s largest school district in geographic area, with nine community schools, a regional middle school, a comprehensive high school and the Streaked Mountain School, an alternative school for high school students. The Oxford Hills include the towns of Buckfield, Harrison, Hartford, Hebron, Mechanic Falls, Norway, Otisfield, Oxford, Paris, Poland, Sumner, Waterford and West Paris. A great big THANKS to Diana Arcadipone for writing this series of posts.

Three Modern Dance Studios with Complimentary Philosophies

Art Moves Dance Studio

“Every kid is hungry for dance!” says Debi Irons, founder and artistic director of Art Moves, a dance studio located in Norway, Maine. In her vast experience as a professional dancer and dance educator, she laments that dance attracts mostly girls. Boys are naturally drawn to dance, but because it is culturally frowned upon, they tend not to participate without explicit support from parents and teachers.

A natural catalyst, Debi Irons wanted to offer dance programs in the schools because performing wasn’t quite enough for her. The joy of discovering a teenager who thrived and made dance her profession drove Debi to focus on dance education. When she offered dance programs in San Fransisco in the 1980’s, she found troubled youth in small alternative high schools who were passionate about dance. These urban kids taught Debi how to street dance, and she taught them self respect. She taught them how to treat each other and how to expect more from life. “Magic happens when students get to the place where they feel free and unselfconscious. Teachers of all disciplines already have the tool kit within them to ignite their students’ creativity”.

In 1988, Debi moved back to the Norway/South Paris area where she had grown up, and opened Art Moves. For thirty years, Art Moves has provided an environment in which students can discover their own self expression. The dance studio, located at 13 Cottage Street, occupies the entire third floor of a grand historic building where dance technique is taught and performances are held. Variant Dance is a developmentally appropriate technique that combines with creativity and self expression. Teaching variant dance could be perceived as the mission of the studio. Art Moves provides opportunities for students who may not easily have access to such a sophisticated and professional experience.

The other driving force behind Art Moves is music. As a dancer, Debi’s preference is improvisation to live music (jazz, hip hop, classical, Afro-Brazilian, etc.) As a teacher, combining music that students have never heard before interspersed with music that they love, is the most effective tool to getting kids to move and grow outside of themselves. The body is the instrument.

Art Moves also hosts a group of Brazilian dance companies annually to tour Maine and conduct workshops and performances in the schools.  Last year, they visited Oxford Elementary School, Hebron Station School, Hartford-Sumner Elementary School, Buckfield High School and various community centers. The Brazilians perform with visual artists and musicians as well. This program also offers a dance exchange for Art Moves Dance Ensemble to visit Brazil for up to one month to study, create and perform.

Currently Art Moves offers variant dance and technique classes for kids, teens and adults at the studio. Art Moves serves hundreds annually between the studio, public schools and private dance studios. Art Moves holds two studio shows annually in collaboration with Expansion Arts and offers a summer dance intensive, Art Moves offers visiting performances and workshops through daily, weekly or long term dance residencies in the schools, in-house field days and/or after school programs. If your school is interested in inviting one of the Brazilian dance groups, Art Moves Dance Ensemble, or Debi Irons to your school, or any other in-house programs, contact For additional information and on-going news; Like Art Moves Dance Studio on Facebook or go to

Expansion Arts Dance Studio

“High standards of training and professionalism” are attributed to my early studies with ArtMoves says Sasha Richardson, Owner and Creative Director of Expansion Arts dance studio. Sasha grew up dancing in the Oxford Hills, starting at the age of 6. While attending Oxford Hills High School, Sasha discovered Debi Irons and ArtMoves which were a major influence on her career path.  She would later join the ArtMoves Ensemble as a professional dancer, and collaborate with ArtMoves to combine studio performances and shows. 

Since Dance was not a part of the curriculum at OHCHS, Sasha Richardson studied music, drums, band, choir, music theory and more.  Devoted to pursuing dance in college, Sasha chose Long Island University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree that integrated dance, anatomy and wellness. All of her professors were artists and performers from the dance world in NYC. She tapped all available resources including entering her work at NYC’s Dance Theater Workshop, to help shape her philosophy that combines performing, choreographing, teaching and strength training. Sasha was starting to define a style with a modern base and technique base yet with an eye to strength development. “We must work with what we are given in terms of our natural talents, and start from where we are”, Richardson says.

After college, Sasha returned to the Oxford Hills because she “needed her Maine people”. In New York, you stay in one path to specialize, and are not able to branch out so easily. Sasha was determined to dance, train, take classes, create work, rehearse work, perform, teach and choreograph. In Maine, you can branch out.

In 2015, Sasha opened Expansion Arts and soon needed to move to a larger studio. She started with a condensed schedule of 8 classes per week (Tap, Modern, Jazz, Ballet, Zumba and Hip Hop, for kids and adults with age breaks 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, 13 and up) and Creative Movement (for ages 3-5).  The age distinctions are important from an anatomy standpoint and physical development standpoint. Expansion Arts now offers 13 classes per week and has grown from serving 35 dancers to 60 dancers, most of whom are taking 2 – 6 classes each week).  Expansion Arts teachers include Sasha Richardson, Kim Hamlin, Tegan Bullard and Karianna Merrill.

Through Expansion Arts, Sasha has refined her philosophy of training, performing and teaching with a focus on dance anatomy (basics of how the body functions and the kinesiology of how the body moves). She expanded her dance anatomy background to combine with a massage therapy training program to inform teaching dance with additional knowledge of the muscular skeletal system. Student injuries are extremely rare.

Sasha has served the local schools by choreographing for musicals in schools, drama clubs, and community shows. She works with guidance counselors to help students who are having trouble in school and has taught at the Oxford Hills Middle Schools in their “Quest” day for four consecutive years, (where students get to study dance for a longer period of time and visit a real dance studio). Expansion Arts offers choreography and residencies to schools within a 30 mile radius of South Paris, ME. For additional information, contact, go to Facebook. You can also send email to

Neveah Dance Circus and Dance Studio

The Gentempo sisters started Nevaeh Dance Circus and held their first practices in a church basement in Oxford, Maine because they wanted more opportunities to perform. Nevaeh is heaven spelled backwards. Nettie and Hannah grew up in a home filled with dance and music; their mother formally trained in ballet and their father playing the piano. As a young child, Nettie studied ballet in her mother’s studio Green Mountain Ballet in Poultney, VT and later trained with Art Moves. As teenagers, the sisters started a performing group. Nettie studied in Portland, ME after winning a Maine based So You Think You Can Dance competition.

Currently 9 dancers perform with Nevaeh Dance Circus. Their Concept is unique as it combines performance art with dance, incorporates theater, magic, live music, singing, the spoken word, poetry, and interactive segments with the audience. Their Performance season is primarily in summertime as their outdoor public performances focus in unique locations such as Norway Lake, Portland Art Walks, Longley’s Square, Moore Park in South Paris, Old Port Music Festival in Deering Park, Portland.  They also perform in outdoor festivals such as Great North Music Festival, Green Grass Jubilee Festival, Norway Art Festival, Westbrook Together Days. Dance Circus also performs at private camps such as Fernwood Cove, Camp Wigwam with specific programming for youth. A recent project presents a performance to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” soundtrack that will collaborate with visual artist, A Minor, and incorporate projections.

A 2017 project grant from the Maine Arts Commission enabled Nevaeh to produce 3 summer performances in Longley Square with guest performers Fred Garbo, Debi Irons and  (Ripleys Believe it or Not) Sword swallower Nick Penny. Nevaeh Dance Circus serves an audience from 25 people up to 200. Shows produced by Nevaeh are contribution based (all are welcome regardless of ability to pay).

The dance studio offers classes in ballet, Hulaloops (hula-hoops), Dance fusion, Creative Lyric (storytelling and dance that follows the lyrics of a song), Juggling and Improvisational Theater (taught by Steve Corning), Dance Games (30 minutes that gets kids moving and using their imaginations), Baby and Me (multi-generational ages), and Belly Dance (taught by Tegan Bullard).   Classes and workshops coincide with the school year and serve approximately 50 students annually. HulaLoop classes have beeb offered at Guy Rowe School, West Paris Elementary, Paris Elementary School, Otisfield Elementary, Raymond Elementary School (and most schools in SAD 17).

As of the Spring of 2017, Nevaeh Dance Studio is based on the second floor of 290 Main Street, Norway. Classes serve 18-month olds up to adults.  For more information about classes, workshops or performances, go to Nevaeh or email


MALI Winter Retreat

March 14, 2018

Amazing opportunity to learn and exchange

Winter Retreat participants. photo credit: Chris Pinchbeck

Thirty Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders met last Saturday for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) winter retreat. It was a great opportunity to gather with friends and colleagues from across Maine.


    • To provide an opportunity for the MALI community to come together to listen to and learn from each other
    • To review the work that has taken place during the phase underway
    • To address ideas and the latest topics in education/research and respond to timely issues relevant to Maine teachers
    • To provide information and/or context for participants 
    • To consider topics for the next phase of MALI

We accomplished the above and a whole lot more. There is nothing that compares to coming together with visual and performing arts teachers who have so much in common. So many topics to discuss and listen to what each person has to offer. “Getting off our islands” and coming together with “our community” on a winter day in March is refreshing!

The agenda was filled with art making from the Growth Mindset opening session to the finishing session that concluded with a meditative heart exercise.


  • Growth Mindset review and revisit with Lindsay Pinchbeck
  • MALI This We Believe statements review
  • MALI collaboration with art teacher Hope Lord and music teacher Dorie Tripp
  • Ukulele’s with music teacher Kate Smith
  • Update on Proficiency Based from Department of Education Diana Doiron
  • Looking ahead and considering ideas for Phase 8

If you are considering applying to be a Teacher Leader or a Teaching Artist Leader for MALI in Phase 8, please send an email to me – stating your interest. Applications will be available in May 2018.


Dance Ed Grant Story

February 28, 2018

Hebron Academy

In December I traveled to Hebron for a visit with Teaching Artist, dancer Karen Montanaro and Director of Drama, Sarah Coleman, Hebron Academy. Hebron Academy received funding from the Dance Education grant from the Maine Arts Commission. I really appreciated the opportunity to see the dance residency in action. I was reminded of what dance education provides that is unique to the discipline. The list of skills students have a chance to develop is very long. Thanks to Sarah and Karen for providing their reflections on the residency.


Hebron Academy was pleased to receive a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to support a residency with Karen Montanaro over two weeks in December. The goal of this residency was two-fold. First to provide an opportunity for students in the classes to experience the art form of dance/movement. Second, for the school to offer a dance/movement opportunity with the hope of continuing to develop interest in after-school opportunities, and eventually classes in dance.
Karen worked with three high school performing arts classes on movement, presence, and performance. Students were challenged to use their bodies in ways that were very different from their daily routine – to move, to improv and to explore. At first, this was an extremely challenging and uncomfortable experience for students, but as they became more familiar with Karen they were able to release some of their self-consciousness and participate with more freedom. In writing about their experience students shared reflections such as,
  • ” I truly believe that she opened a door to an unknown side of myself. Through the unusual games and dance movements, she helped me gain confidence moving and using my body as a tool.”
  • “Having Karen in our class was definitely a fun and relaxing experience…with her there [were] no expectations or even limits.”
  • “From that week I explored [a] part of myself [that] I usually don’t.”
As a former teaching artist for many years, the experience with Karen was both typical and special. It was typical in that with anything new, different and disruptive to the traditional approaches to class participation (sitting) many students are resistant. It was special because with Karen, who brings her open, honest, authentic self to every class, students can’t help but release and play. Most importantly she challenges them to practice vulnerability – something we talk about often in our arts classes, but is hard to highlight daily. Even with the large amount of resistance she faced with our 9th graders, she continued to support and gently nudge them to let down their guard at a pace that was more comfortable to them.
A fellow 9th-grade teacher shared the other day that music was on in another class setting and a number of the students starting doing the movement sequence Karen had taught them. That feels like a true moment of impact, and success.

I taught three very different classes and each class had its own positive aspects and signs of success. Two of the classes were electives. These two classes were positive experiences from start to finish. Each student came in ready to learn and try new things. Shyness and self-consciousness showed up in various ways (i.e., moving tentatively rather than boldly, speaking softly rather than speaking to be heard), but all of the students in these classes began to move with more authority and confidence. They willingly stepped beyond their comfort zones — where real learning takes place.
Success in these classes took the form of an enlarged movement vocabulary, more skill and precision in mime and dance techniques and an improved ability to access their own, truly original movement impulses. A lightness-of-mood “greased” these steep learning curves.  With each new skill, students progressed from tentative awkwardness to almost stage-worthy performance.
The more challenging class was the ninth grade arts class with thirty six students. About a third of the class was fully on-board from the beginning, but the remaining two thirds were almost paralyzed by self-consciousness. I told them that I was caught “between a rock and hard place” because the only way my class was going to work was if they agreed to be there. I couldn’t do anything without them. On the last day, all the students danced! They ran and leapt into position and we went through the choreography full tilt. By now, they knew the steps and I was thrilled to see even the most reluctant students moving with more energy and precision. It was clear to me that they had found themselves on the other side of a very threatening learning curve; a learning curve unique to the dance-experience that involves visibility, spontaneity, energy and expressive risk-taking. Watching this class move with willingness and assertiveness, I had a revelation that I shared with them. I told them that my highest hope for this class is that they will experience a type of movement that makes them feel so good inside their skin, they won’t need outside approval.  Paradoxically when you lose this sense of need, thats when you gain real friends  friends that will help you rather than hold you back
I learned invaluable lessons from all the students. They reinforced the importance of what I do and why I do it. My goal is to create a safe environment where they can take huge emotional risks; an environment that allows them to step out of the digital world and into the full light of day — to experience their energy, visibility, intelligence and originality working together in profoundly expressive ways and to love presenting themselves to the world this way.

The Maine Arts Commission will provide the dance grant once again this year thanks to a generous donation from a performance put together by a collaborative group of dance educators. Two other locations are enjoying this funding, I will provide information each of them after my visits to the schools.


Dancing Color

February 24, 2018

Slow motion movement of drowned color

This is pretty amazing – something you may want to share with your students.

Experimental musician and artist Kamiel Rongen of Water Ballet captured the graceful slow motion movement of drowned color as it formed vivid threads and shapes that danced their way up to the surface. Rongen stated that this was all created in his Amsterdam studio for his original song “Barbapapa“.


MAC Teaching Artist Roster

February 15, 2018

7 new artists

Seven Maine Artists Added to Arts Commission’s Teaching Roster

Maine Arts Commission’s roster provides additional resources for teachers and schools

AUGUSTA, ME, February 8, 2018—The Maine Arts Commission is pleased to announce the addition of seven new artists to its online Teaching Artist Roster.  Selected by the Arts Commission through an application process, teaching artists provide greater access for teachers, schools, and community groups to area artists who are trained and knowledgeable in classroom requirements throughout Maine. The following teaching artists have been recently listed on the roster:

  • Nicole Cardano

    Nicole Cardano, an actress who teaches elementary and middle school improvisational skills as well as theatre productions and show choir. She lives in Seal Cove.

  • Emilia Dahlin, a musician who teaches students to explore literary devices in songwriting to create powerful imagery and foster a strong sense of authorship. Emilia resides in Gorham.
  • Rob Duquette, a musician and songwriter whose lessons teach themes of resilience, compassion, kindness, gratitude, and a sense of purpose. Rob is from York.
  • Emilia Dahlin

    Kal Elmore, a printmaker who collaborates with teachers to develop lessons that help students experience a new media, a new technique, and/or a different way of thinking about visual art. She is from Old Town.

  • Russell Kaback, a musician and a storyteller who writes songs that tell the story of his grandfather’s life as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor.  Through lyrics and song, students make a lasting connection with the experience of a concentration camp survivor from the Nazi era to the present. Russell resides in South Portland.
  • Dana Legawiec, an actress whose recent teachings involve grade 3-5 students in mask, improvisational, physical theatre, and yoga. She is from Bowdoinham.
  • Rob Duquette

    Tom Luther, a musician who teaches piano and multimedia art. Tom applies traditional composition, improvisation, generative, and interactive techniques in his teaching, drawing freely from his experiences in numerous musical forms.  Tom is from Union.

“We are really proud of the learning opportunities that each artist on the roster provides to our schools and communities in Maine,” said Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education at the Arts Commission.

In addition to overseeing the teaching artist roster along with many other arts education programs and services offered by the Arts

Kal Elmore

Commission, Argy organizes the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Mega-Regional Conferences. Maine educators from PK-higher education are invited to participate in this year’s professional development opportunity at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, Friday, March 23 at 8:30 – 3:15 p.m.  The workshop facilitators are Maine arts educators who will have dynamic ideas to share.

Since 2011, MALI has provided opportunities for hundreds of educators with inspirational workshops, presentations, and webinars at the school, district, regional, state, and national level. More information and event registration for the 2018 MALI Mega Regional is available here.

Russell Kaback

The Maine Arts Commission currently administers the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative as part of one of its five priorities, fostering PK-12 lifelong arts education programs, in its five-year cultural plan, Fortifying Maine’s Creativity & Culture. To learn more about any of the Maine Arts Commission’s arts education funding opportunities or programs, please contact Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education at or 207/287-2713.

Dana Legaweic

Tom Luther

The Maine Arts Commission supports artists, art organizations, educators, policy makers, and community developers in advancing the arts in Maine. For more than 50 years the Commission has encouraged and stimulated public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and cultural programs of our state; has worked to expand the state’s cultural resources; and encouraged and assisted freedom of artistic expression for the well-being of the arts, to meet the needs and aspirations of persons in all parts of the state. Additional information is available at



In the News

January 21, 2018

Karen Montanaro goes dancing

Recently over one hundred fourth grade students at Cascade Brook School in Farmington had the chance to work with dancer and teaching artist Karen Montanaro. Karen sent a letter home to parents that included: “It gives young people a chance to tap into and express what they do best, and that is MOVE. When children are allowed to do what they do best, they are allowed to be themselves, to know themselves, to feel good about themselves and to apply themselves to whatever they do.”

You can read the article from the Daily Bulldog.


Maine Educator

January 12, 2018

MALI Teacher Leader Carmel Collins

What is Teenage Stress and Anxiety? Congratulations Carmel Collins! This is the title of an article written by dance teacher Carmel for the Maine Educator, December 2017. Carmel is a Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leader and teaches dance and visual arts in Lake Region Schools.

Carmel includes a list of general behaviors and techniques that will help students manage anxiety and stress. Included in the list is: Do things you enjoy. For example: art, listening to music, being outdoors, dancing, writing poetry, reading.

READ Carmel’s article in the online version of the Maine Educator.

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