Young dancers to take stage at Arts Center's End of Year Showcases

Thursday, May 21, 2015

If you go

What: Lawrence Arts Center School of Dance's Gala Night and End of Year Showcases

Where: Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

When: The Gala Night will be held at 7 p.m. Friday. There are six showcases in this year's event: noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday.

Cost: Tickets for the Gala Night are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for children. Tickets for individual showcases are $6. Tickets can be purchased online at lawrenceartscenter.org and at the Arts Center's box office.

More than 600 performers will take the stage at the Lawrence Arts Center this weekend at the School of Dance's annual Gala and End of Year Showcases.

Representing approximately 60 classes in the dance program, the six showcases are a culmination of dancers’ work from the last semester, and will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

The event kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. with Gala Night, a celebration of the past year in the School of Dance.

Featuring excerpts from recent productions such as February’s “Sleeping Beauty” and “Anansi the Spider,” the gala will also include performances by the Lawrence Ballet Theatre and special guests Owen/Cox Dance Group, a contemporary dance company based in Kansas City, Mo. The evening will end with an open reception for dancers and audience members, and will feature live music, cookies and wine.

“The idea was, once a year we needed to step back and see all the things we’ve done in the school for our students as well as for the community,” says Hanan Misko, director of dance at the Arts Center. “You see a bigger picture of where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

Misko, who joined the Lawrence Arts Center in fall 2013, says last year’s showcases gave him the chance to assess what makes the dance program there so “unique.”

He says the school offers opportunities to dancers just starting out (the youngest performers in this weekend’s showcases start at 3 years old), older folks who choose to keep dancing as a hobby and more career-driven dancers, who have the chance to audition for the Lawrence Ballet Theatre, the Arts Center’s pre-professional advanced ballet company.

“The notion of the End of Year Showcases is crucial to the education and training of our School of Dance,” he says. “The School of Dance classes are just one aspect of what makes up this program — part of it is being a community program for those who are dance enthusiasts as well as those who are pursuing a professional career.”

That diversity is reflected in the showcases’ lineup, which features everything from classical ballet to modern to Irish step dancing to hip-hop. The showcases will be kept relatively short, with each lasting approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Misko says the idea behind the schedule, which sees showcases mixing beginners’ classes in with more advanced fare instead of grouping performances by skill level, gives the tiniest dancers a glimpse into a potential future.

“We’re trying to make sure that the younger students have an older student to look up to,” he says.