by Jessica Golding ‘11
Due to the acclaimed Sherwood poms and a plethora of unaffiliated dance studios, dance has come to play an important role in Olney. These studios include Berrend Dance Center, Citydance, Olney Studio of Dance (OSD), Savage Dance Company, Elite Dance Studio and Studio of Ballet Arts (SBA), to name a few.
Olney dance has grown in the past few years, prompting differentiation, whether in ballet, pointe, jazz, modern, hip-hop, contemporary or tap.
Olney dance studios have also differentiated based on level. “Olney area dance is so popular that it needs multiple studios [to compensate for the different] levels of dance,” said junior Alex Mazzeo, who has been dancing at SBA since childhood. The Olney area offers competition teams and advanced programs, which can be found at Berrend, Citydance, Elite, OSD and Savage, but there are also more recreational studios, like SBA.
Most of the Sherwood poms got their starts at local dance studios. Senior pom captain Ilona Szeless began her dancing career at OSD and switched to Savage for a more competitive program, where she danced over 20 hours weekly. “I have nothing but good things to say about my time [with Savage],” said Szeless. “Yeah it was really hard and far away, not to mention very expensive, but I would not be anywhere close to where I am now if I hadn’t danced there.”
Senior pom Emily Mills also got her start at OSD, specifically with their locally well-known competition team. Mills credits most of her poms success to her competition team experience, as it pushed her to improve as a dancer.
Senior Bridgette Barnett, a long-time dancer trained primarily in ballet and pointe at Berrend, knows exactly what it takes to be a serious dancer. Barnett started training seriously from a very young age in classical ballet at Berrend and now spends at least 20 hours a week dancing, plus rehearsals for upcoming performances. “At crunch times, my dance schedule has had me taking six days of classes per week, in addition to rehearsals Monday through Sunday that stretched at times [for over six hours daily],” said Barnett, who has even traveled to Aruba to perform in “The Nutcracker.”
Junior Milka Trajkova also specializes in ballet and pointe, usually for two to three hours daily. Born in Macedonia, Trajkova has had a truly unique dance experience, learning dance from the Macedonian National Ballet as a young girl, then moving to the United States and dancing with Berrend and Citydance. She is now preparing for her performance in “The Nutcracker” with the Moscow Ballet.
Trajkova understands the rarity of her dance résumé and appreciates it for all it has added to her dance experience. “I enjoyed dancing in Europe because it opened the door to the Russian style of ballet to me. The Macedonian Ballet School [gave me a huge opportunity and] took me to a competition in Bulgaria,” said Trajkova.
These serious dancers truly love what they do. “Dance is how I define myself. It makes up who I am and allows me to express myself in such a unique way,” said Barnett. “Dance is great because it branches off into endless possibilities.”
Many parents also realize that they have to start their children early in dance to optimize their success in the sport. In fact, senior pom captain Ashleigh Cecil’s mom first signed her up for classes at age four.
Some dancers can recall the exact moment they realized that they were meant to dance. Senior pom Kimm Chidel had this realization when she first put on her Elite competition team jacket, while Trajkova and Barnett realized this when they fell in love with ballet, which came most naturally to them, and the music to go along with it.
There is definitely some competition between the pull to be a pom verses the pull to continue dancing competitively. “It’s funny because when I was little I swore up and down that I would never, ever in a million years be a pom because I saw girls quit the Olney Studio of Dance competition team, join Poms, and worsen at technique,” said Szeless. However, she is now a pom captain after being on the squad for her entire high school career.
Although extremely different from competitive dancing, poms clearly benefits from these strong programs. “Classical dance training, like what I had, definitely prepares you for the technical elements of poms. You have to apply the fundamentals of dance–timing, counts, control–to this whole new athletic thing that is poms,” said Mills.
Dancers have great pride in their sport and understand the sacrifices it takes to be successful. “Kids these days have to choose at such a young age what they want to be when they grow up. As things get more competitive, kids have to specialize early if they want to do well, especially in dance,” said Szeless. “It’s not just something you pick up in a few months. It takes years of serious study, dedication and hard work to be a dancer.”