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By Kristie Rearick
Glouster County Times
Photographs by Cathy Cramer
September 11, 2011

  

Inside an unassuming ranch-style home, Kimberly Chapman, co-artistic director and co-owner of Maxine’s Studio of Dance, holds up a photograph of a group of boys taken in 2007. “That first year I got nine boys. This year, I got 30,” she said as she pointed to another picture sitting on her desk.

Drive past the home on the corner of Garden Road and East Avenue in Vineland, and you may not realize what’s hidden inside. It’s a dance studio, where young students learn to plié and pirouette from Juilliard-trained dance instructors — Kimberly being one of them.

Today, the students — girls and boys — are getting a special treat. A guest instructor, James Ihde, a soloist with the Pennsylvania Ballet Co., is leading the young dancers through their steps. Classical music plays in the background while the class listens to Ihde’s instructions.

“Finish bold — two, three, four — and finish,” he said.

“He’s counting the steps for them,” said Maxine, studio owner and Kimberly’s mother.

There are two boys dancing among a sea of girls in this class. And in a room to the left of the studio space — a small “break room” — five boys are laughing, talking and having a quick snack before it’s their turn to practice some moves.

This year, 30 boys have taken advantage of the free lessons that Kimberly and Maxine started four years ago. Back in 2003, when Kimberly moved back to Vineland, she noticed that boys were scarce at the studio.

“I said, ‘OK, we’ve got to fill this void,’” she said. “It helps us as a studio to have both boys and girls. It’s so much more fun that way.”

The class is free for one year, but after the year is up, “if they want to continue, they are on half scholarship,” Kimberly said, meaning they can take dance lessons for half the regular price. It’s an incentive that is difficult to say no to.

“After their first year free, they are kind of stuck. Because they like it,” she said.

One student who definitely can say he liked it is 13-year-old Spencer Wetherington of Upper Deerfield. He is a mentor to the other boys, Kimberly said.

“I started dancing when I was 4. My mom asked me if I’d like to try soccer or ballet and I said, ‘Why don’t we try both?’” Spencer said. After a few years of splitting his time between the two, Spencer decided to leave soccer behind and take up dance full time.

“As an artist, you feel like you have to do it,” said Kimberly. “You get to say something artistically with your body.”

Maxine’s Studio of Dance, home of the Vineland Regional Dance Co., got its start in 1971. Kimberly began dancing at her mom’s studio and was a soloist with the Vineland Regional Dance Co. from 1979 to 1985. She continued her training at the School of Pennsylvania Ballet and graduated from Juilliard in 1988 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance.

Her passion for dance — and for her students — is obvious.

It’s the boys’ turn to go through their steps and Kim switches on the CD player. Classical music can be heard as three boys — she splits the boys into two groups, Spencer is in the first — take to the dance floor.

After they go through the number, Kimberly gives the boys some suggestions. “Know where you’re going to finish — you can’t change your mind halfway through,” she said.

The boys practice their jumps as they look into the long mirror that covers the wall in front of them.

“Take your heads up. Up, up. When you jump, your heads should be gone out of that mirror,” she tells the next group.

“Did your heads go away?” Kimberly asked.

The boys usually start out taking ballet lessons, but they also learn hip-hop, jazz and tap dances. It helps the boys improve their sports. From football to basketball, baseball to soccer, wrestling and track and field, dancing can help, Kimberly said.

“We had a whole wrestling team in here once,” Kimberly said. “Dance teaches kids body awareness, self-esteem and discipline — as well as creativity,” she said.

The free class is for boys only. Ages 4 to 7 meet on Thursday from 4 to 4:45 p.m.; ages 8 to 12 meet on Thursday, 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. If you are interested in signing your child up for this class, please call Maxine’s Studio of Dance at 856-691-6059. The studio is located at 2388 N. East Ave., Vineland.

 

© 2011 New Jersey On-Line LLC

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