by Sheryl Young
Do you or your kids love to dance or watch professional dancers? Do your kids twirl around the house or mention wanting dance lessons?
If so, move your feet over to the New Tampa Dance Theatre (NTDT), located in a free-standing building on Cross Creek Blvd, just three minutes east of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. NTDT currently is accepting enrollment for their fall 2012 season. Classes began August 13, but the studio is still enrolling new and returning students.
NTDT was established in 1995 in the Pebble Creek Collection as New Tampa’s first professional training facility for dance and it has become a name synonymous with excellence in education, trust, and integrity.
In 2002, Artistic Director and owner Dyane Elkins IronWing purchased land to build a free-standing, state-of-the-art training facility specifically designed for dance. In January 2006, the school moved into its beautiful 7,500-sq.-ft. home, which includes floors properly made for dancing, large locker rooms, a café, faculty lounge and even a costume warehouse. The building offers unique vistas, with its 24-foot-tall ceilings, 10-foot-high windows overlooking the wetlands, and a performance space large enough to seat an audience of 250 people.
“Once I purchased the land, I never looked back,” Dyane says. “And, the school continued to flourish, so the dream of having my own facility quickly became a reality.”
She takes note of a quote she has posted in the lobby: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?,” and says. “I truly live by this and ask the students regularly, so they, too, can see their dreams become reality.”
NTDT and its affiliated nonprofit company, the Dance Theatre of Tampa, have an additional goal, a community mission. “Connecting and sharing with New Tampa and the surrounding communities through the art of dance is an important part of our mission,” Dyane explains. “We do many free public performances and help develop outreach programs that provide exciting and valuable cultural experiences for people of all ages.”
NTDT’s outreach program has grown to serve 10 local schools, reaching 1,000 children in the New Tampa area to enrich their lives through dance. In the past season, their community performances have exposed more than 7,000 children (and many more adults) to dance productions – some for the first time.
For small children, NTDT is the official dance school for Bright Horizons Family Solutions child care centers in New Tampa and Wesley Chapel.
NTDT also is well-known in the area for its annual local production of “The Nutcracker,” which has sold more than 1,500 seats per season for the past 13 years. All major NTDT performances, including Spring Productions and Summer Concert Series, are held at venues on the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus.
Dyane says dancing was always in her blood. “My aunt was a professional dancer,” she says. “I started at age 5 along with trying many other sports, but I never quit dancing and soon realized it was my passion. I couldn’t imagine life without it.”
Over the years before opening NTDT, Dyane performed professionally with Dino Anderson’s Dance America, toured nationally with magician Tod Bucanon, trained under scholarship in New York City for two years, and performed with several professional NYC companies, including Ballet Metropolitan and Jazz Met.
Dyane and her husband Troy IronWing have been performing nationally and internationally for the past 10 years with the bi-coastal based group, Rhythm Extreme, which is a high-energy, Stomp-like show including drumming, tap dancing, and just about anything that can create rhythms. Troy, who has been NTDT’s Tap Director since 2003, began playing the drums at age 6, and found his passion for tap in college. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Musical Theater with a minor in Dance and has had the privilege to train with tap masters Savion Glover, the Nicholas Brothers, Derrick Grant and Ted Levy, to name just a few. Both students and parents enjoy his fun-loving personality and ability to connect with children.
Dyane, as the Artistic Director, still does some substitute teaching at NTDT when needed. “I have nine strong, well- educated and very talented faculty members,” she says. “Our staff is dedicated to the development of the students. We don’t only teach dance. We give students the self-esteem they need to be successful in life.”
A Wide Range Of Classes
Classes at NTDT start with very young children and go all the way through senior adults, with everything from classical ballet, modern, tap, jazz, creative movement, and hip-hop.
“Children as early as age 3 can begin with creative movement,” Dyane says. “At every age level, whether it’s the recreational or pre-professional programs, our faculty follow a prepared syllabus to ensure that each student learns the proper techniques.”
In fact, Dyane urges parents of young children to ask about her staff’s training and the syllabus so they can be confident of their kids’ dance education. Each spring, families can see the culmination of what their children have learned in two separate Spring Productions – one for ages 3-8 and another for ages 9 and up.
NTDT also offers a concentrated Boys Program on Saturdays (12:30-1:30pm), for boys ages 5 and older. With more than 35 students attending, these classes improve athletic balance and help build coordination for all sports. Dyane says dance is a great skill for both cheerleaders and school dance teams to study, and it’s the perfect adult activity for staying in great physical shape; it also allows adult students to meet new people with common interests.
For students who want to be professional dancers, there’s even a class to train them in auditioning skills.
“With older children and teenagers aspiring toward a dance career, we coach them through the professional audition process, which can be quite grueling,” Dyane explains. “We’ve taken groups to New York for ‘cattle call’ auditions (which are open to the general public). We teach them how to present themselves. This usually starts at age 11 or 12, and they’re ready for formal professional auditions at 15 or 16.”
As a result, NTDT students are regularly accepted into prestigious summer programs including the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and the Joffrey, Boston and Kirov Ballets. Many NTDT alumni have received college scholarships and moved on to dance professionally.
“We take pride in treating and training each student as an individual,” Dyane says. “It’s a private school mentality. We’re not obsessed with numbers. We know each student’s name.”
Lisa Laches, the mother of two NTDT students, attests to the great training. “My daughters, Rachel (16) and Elizabeth (14) have been dancing since 2002,” she says, “and with the New Tampa Dance Theatre since 2004. Under Dyane’s guidance, they have grown into confident, mature, strong dancers, with discipline and respect, not only for their dance instructors, but for their peers as well. The friends they’ve made at dance are their closest friends, and they thoroughly enjoy their time in the studio. They feel privileged to perform in the community, and look forward to ‘The Nutcracker.’”
Speaking of “The Nutcracker,” NTDT allows children from other dance schools to audition for the studio’s biggest annual show. “Dancers who are at least 8 years old and taking ballet class somewhere are eligible to audition,” Dyane says.
Still not sure you want to enroll? Take a trial class. Children and adults are both welcome to try any class in their age group at NTDT for free. You can even try multiple classes to discover which dance styles are your favorites.
“We also stay very involved in community and charity projects,” Dyane adds. “We support the South Tampa Ronald McDonald House with a portion of the proceeds from our most popular fund raiser, the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy Tea.’” This year, the Tea is scheduled for Sunday, December 2, 2 p.m.-4 pm, at the USF Alumni Center. Attendees will get a sneak preview of “The Nutcracker,” which will be performed December 14-16. Ticket sales begin October 15, through Ticketmaster or the NTDT box office.
For more information or to enroll in classes, visit NTDT at 10701 Cross Creek Blvd or call 994-NTDT (6838). The studio is open Monday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-8 p.m., and 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday. Visit NewTampaDanceTheatre.com.