Posts Tagged ‘Debi Irons’

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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 Debi@artmovesdance.com. For additional information and on-going news; Like Art Moves Dance Studio on Facebook or go to artmovesdance.com

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 Expansionartsdance.com, go to Facebook. You can also send email to expansionarts@gmail.com

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 DanceCircus.org or email Nettieegentempo@gmail.com

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