Local dance studio ready to bring back culminating performance after 2-year break – The Daily Gazette

ALBANY – It’s been two years since the little high runs and ron de jambes of a local modern dance studio have gracefully swept across the Hart Theater stage.

But this year, the dancers will finally get to have the proper final bows they deserve at The Egg in Albany — a traditional location chosen by the company’s founder, Ginny Martin, some 45 years ago.

Martin passed down her company to Dana Yager, an upper level class instructor at the time. Now, Yager runs the whole production himself, teaching almost 25 different classes. While not a competitive-based studio, students at Modern Dance with Ginny Martin and Dana Yager are encouraged to challenge themselves as dancers. Each dancer is placed in a level based on their skill and will advance to higher the next when Yager sees significant growth.

Improvisations are another key part of expanding creativity in the studio. Through this, dancers are encouraged to move their bodies in new ways and tell stories through movement.

Dancers spend a year learning two or three choreographed dances at what is formerly known as the Glenville Grange. The recital is split into two nights, with half of the students on one and the rest on the other, an experience Yager provides to prevent the show from going on too long.

The recitals provide a bittersweet moment for “dance babies,” a title given to those who started at the earliest level when they were about 4 years old — and other graduating seniors. They are each honored by walking across the stage and stopping in the middle to meet Yager, who shares where they are headed next in their studies.

The “walk across the stage” tradition just wasn’t the same for 2020 seniors, who didn’t get the same closure from the studio’s rite of passage moment. Although, the 2020 seniors did create the new “senior dance” tradition in which they choreograph a performance together. In the summer of 2021, the graduates were given the opportunity to come back and perform their dance and walk the stage at Tawasentha Park in Altamont as an alternative.

Sarah Bedore, a senior at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, has attended the dance school for 13 years, making her a “dance baby.” She is sad to walk away from something she has been so devoted to for so many years.

“I’m so upset, but I’m really grateful that I got this opportunity for 13 years and even during COVID I was still able to dance,” Bedore said.

As such a devoted dancer, Bedore was saddened when the pandemic prompted her class to be conducted over Zoom. But, she used it as an opportunity to grow in new ways — including participating in class while outside.

Bedore applauded Yager for still keeping remote classes engaging.

Yager felt it was important to still hold her classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if just remotely, so her students could have one consistent aspect of their lives to grasp onto during a time when their lives were turned upside down.

Last year, Yager installed air purification systems and touch-free sanitizing stations in her studio, along with enforcing masks. Students were each assigned an 8-foot by 8-foot taped square to socially distance from their peers. This limited another crucial aspect of her business, collaboration and contact with other dancers.

Even though it was an exhausting process, Yager felt it was important that the children’s parents felt comfortable sending their kids to dance class during a time where everything felt unsafe.

Despite the changes in their typical environment, Yager’s pupils adapted well.

“I think it shows the resiliency of kids that a lot of adults didn’t give them enough credit for,” Yager said.

The ambitious instructor was not discouraged when she saw a 30% drop in enrollment during the pandemic, instead, this year she offered a new choreography workshop class that gave students the opportunity to create two dances of their own. The dancers got to pick their music, costumes and learn how to teach each other and collaborate in a new way. The class became so popular that Yager now has a waitlist for it next year.

Additionally, two students in the choreography class are currently in the process of setting up an organization called the Upstate Youth Choreographer Showcase in which they will coach kids from other studios as well as their own to ultimately perform a student-produced choreographed dance in August in the GE Theater at Proctors.

The confidence instilled in Yager’s dancers radiates off the Egg stage, much of that confidence comes from the joy of modern dancing brings them in and out of the studio.

“It’s a really good way for me to express myself … I just get to come in here and move my body and I think that’s needed for everyone,” Bedore said.

The strong sense of community is another profound principle of the East Glenville studio that sets it apart from the rest.

“I think seeing how my students grow from these little 4-year-olds into young adults is amazing and to see the confidence and kindness within each other and how they interact, considering we have so many different kids from different schools. I think the sense of community is amazing here,” Yager said.

Yager is thrilled to be back at The Egg for the performances Monday and Tuesday, without a doubt in her mind that her dancers will do great.

“It feels like a sense of accomplishment that we made it back here,” Yager said. “I think it’s really more so for the kids, that sense of accomplishment and that excitement to feel like this big, epic ending is back for them.”

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