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‘It’s About The Music’

Dance Instructor Teaches Area Students How To Move

Jill Keating in her dance studio, Pointe Chautauqua Dance!, in Mayville. Submitted photo

As the pandemic keeps all nonessential businesses shutdown in New York state, a dance teacher keeps educating her students through email.

Jill Keating doesn’t hold dance classes at her studio, but rather, she makes a video of each recital dance, and then emails it to each student.

“This way, they don’t forget what they have already worked so hard to learn and they get a chance to see the dance done in a uniform manner. The students can copy me and dance along with the music. This way they are all practicing the same thing the same tempo,” Keating said.

The dance instructor said she also has held private classes with Skype to check on her older students’ progress with their pointe work where a ballet dancer supports all of her body weight on the tips of fully extended feet within pointe shoes.

“Normally, students are forbidden to wear their toe shoes at home for the first year they have them. Injuries and deformities can occur with the wrong training or no training. I have been checking with them and watching what they do and giving corrections or praise accordingly,” Keating said.

In addition, she said she has recommended Youtube sites where dance teachers give ballet, tap or jazz classes so students can keep in shape.

Keating noted that by now costumes would be ready and a theater would have been reserved. Students also would be cleaning dances for technical details and practicing bows. “Since we have no idea if the recital will be in the summer or fall now, I have held off ordering the bulk of the costumes. No school wants to schedule the use of their auditorium at this point so we continue to wait…like someone has pushed the pause button on my cassette player,” Keating said.

With the spare time, Keating envisions alternatives by finding a small theater in a church or elsewhere and having “mini recitals” of only two or three dances so everyone has space to be distant from one another. She said she could hold one class in the studio with parents as a kind of lecture demonstration with the dance at the end.

“Even before we had to close I already had been changing choreography to eliminate holding hands or any other contact,” Keating said. “Dancers and actors are used to changing or adjusting, even at the last minute, so my thinking went to that place when I saw the schools planning to close.”

Keating, who owns Pointe Chautauqua Dance! in Mayville, studied dance at the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto, received the Chautauqua Women’s Club scholarship in dance from Chautauqua Institution, and was the principal character dancer at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre under the direction of Nicolas Petrov. Keating holds a bachelor’s degree in Dance from Pittsburgh’s Point Park University. As an actress, singer and dancer, Jill has performed in musicals on tour, in regional theatres, and in New York City, including “Big River,” a Tony award-winning musical by Roger Miller.

She spent a year touring with the show and appeared with Roger Miller at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. Most recently, she spent the last six years commuting between Pittsburgh and her dance studio to teach at Point Park University and to perform as an actor/singer on quite a few Pittsburgh stages. She has performed “Damn Yankees” with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, “Born Yesterday” with Pittsburgh Public Theater, “Souvenir” with Pittsburgh Playhouse REP Company, and “Jane Eyre” with PICT Pittsburgh Irish Classical Theatre.

Keating said one of the most positive things she has experienced during the pandemic is how parents and caregivers develop more of an appreciation of teachers. “The teachers work so hard and try to tailor the education to each learner,” Keating added.

The instructor said step one is just to put on the music and dance, then step two is to find movements that are appropriate to the level of the class meaning what do students already know how to do?

In Keating’s class, the first half of the year is teaching movement vocabulary and the second half is putting that to music.

“It’s all about the music,” Keating added. “When I teach the choreography of a dance and the students look challenged, I always say ‘The music made me do it.'”

Pointe Chautauqua Dance! is located at 36 W. Chautauqua St., Mayville. For more information visit facebook.com/pointechautauquadance, email pointechautauquadance@gmail.com or call 753-3456.

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