Gladwin County dance

GLADWIN – Gail Wildfong started a Dance Studio in Gladwin over 30 years ago and it is still going strong today. Though Gail has passed away, the current group of instructors see it as their mission to keep Gail’s vision alive. She believed that dance was for everyone and the current staff works to achieve that goal.

Over the next several months we will be doing a feature story about one of the senior dancers that studies at the studio. These young athletes also had their season cut short last year due to the pandemic. In the interest of transparency I want to admit that I know nothing about dance. To do justice to the dancers I will be interviewing; I took a crash course (phone interview) from Vreni Graveline, who runs the studio and is one of the instructors.  

Vreni studied dance at the studio as a child and while she did not major in Dance at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) she was involved in dance while in college. She auditioned for many performances with the dance program. She also took some dance courses at EMU and various studios in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area. Her love for dance drove her to keep training while away at school. She graduated with a degree in Education, as did over half of the current instructors at the studio. “We work with a lot of kids so having that kind of a background is helpful,” said Graveline.

Dancers at the studio generally fall into two categories. Recreational dancers are those that just want to dance and have fun. They attend classes as little as once a week. Team dancers want to take their dancing to another level. Everyone is welcome to compete as long as they understand what is expected of a member of the team. The main prerequisite is displaying a commitment to improvement. There is a level for almost everyone.

Ballet is the backbone of dance and the studio teaches the Cecchetti Method. Other types of dance taught at the studio include; Tap, a rhythmic based dance in which the dancer make sounds with their feet that go along with the music. Jazz adds more style to the dance usually using upbeat music. Hip Hop started in the streets and is about funk, style and culture. 

Lyrical style combines ballet and jazz dancing to the lyrics of the song. Modern is an artistic interpretation done to music that doesn’t have lyrics. Musical Theater is a Broadway Style of dance involving lip-syncing incorporating jazz theatrical movements. The studio also offers Creative Movement for young dancers just getting started.

The teams generally compete three times in a season. A panel of three judges adjudicates every dance performed at a competition looking for characteristics that are important in a given form of dance. They are looking for things like musicality, style, technique, choreography, and stage presences when rating a performance. Dancers are grouped by skill level and style of dance so that overall ratings are comparable. The girls also put on a recital in June before their short summer break.

This week’s dancer is Mikayla Petherbridge a senior at Gladwin High School.

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