by Christine Cayer
“Caring, rigorous, and joyful” will be the mantra of the trio of new dance instructors at Allens Lane Art Center in West Mt. Airy as they launch a repertoire of classes in September, with winter and spring sessions to follow. Melisa Clark, Carol Ribner and Rhonda Moore bring a wealth of experience to the Center. Between them, there will be 11 new classes for ages ranging from 18 months to 100+ years old.
Melisa Clark will teach three creative and modern dance classes for children ages 18 months to 12 years. The class for the 18 month to two-year-old children will involve parents as well. Melisa had brought her young daughter to the Center for a music class last year, and thought, “Wow, I’d love to teach dance here.” A few months later, she saw a call for dance instructors for the Center on the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance website.
“A lot of spaces aren’t suitable for the creative expression of dance, but Allens Lane is. With the gallery next door to the dance studio, I envision the children expressing colors that they see in the gallery in dance movements.” Her class, “Creative Dance/Dance Making,” will focus on the specific dance concepts of body, space, time and energy over the course of a month.
Melisa is the artistic director and co-founder of PIMA group, a non-profit dance and music performance troupe. She trained at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio in New York and recently earned her MFA in Dance/Choreography at Temple University. Melisa has won numerous grants and awards for her work in both creative dance and dance education, as well as research grants for her work on early developmental movement patterns. Melisa and her husband moved to Fishtown from New York 12 years ago.
Carol Ribner, a Chestnut Hill resident, is a retired elementary school principal with considerable experience teaching dance at studios and schools in New York. Her studies of Israeli folk dancing led to choreographing an Israeli Folk Dance Festival at Lincoln Center. After retirement, Carol wanted to get back to more creative ventures. This fall Carol will teach three ballet classes and two “joyful dance” classes for children ages 3.5 to 12. Carol’s approach to teaching ballet to children is definitely not “old school.”
“In Russia”, she explains, “children do not begin ballet classes until age 9. In the U.S., we start much too early. Young children are not physically or emotionally ready for classical ballet … Many who took ballet classes as children were scarred by teachers who, though well-meaning, undermined self-esteem. That will not happen here.”
Rhonda Moore, the other new instructor, is a founding member of the Bill T. Jones/Artie Zane Dance Company and has a MFA in Dance from Temple University, where she is an adjunct professor of dance. Rhonda and her husband and three children moved to South Philly seven years ago from Italy. (“A four-month teaching stint turned into 25 years!”) When Rhonda interviewed with Craig Stover, director of Allens Lane Art Center, “I was a little taken aback when Craig asked me what I wanted to teach! How exciting is that, to be offered the chance to design your own classes?”
Rhonda will teach two classes for ages 12-100+ that, like Melisa’s and Carol’s offerings, are not standard fare. “Floor Barre and Breathing for Life” teaches what she calls “MooreBarre” (The “barre” is the rail attached to a wall used by ballet dancers when exercising.) “It’s about strengthening your core muscles and your lower back. It is low-impact but rigorous and combines respiratory exercises, imaging and floor work. You do not need to have had formal ballet training to take this class,” Rhonda insists. Line dancing is the subject of Rhonda’s other Allens Lane class, entitled “So You Think You Can(‘t) Line Dance.”
The fall semester at Allens Lane Art Center begins in mid-September. For a complete schedule or to register, visit www.allenslane.org or call 215-248-0546.
Christine Cayer, a resident of Glenside, is a volunteer at Allens Lane Art Center.