Magazine article Dance Spirit

Dancemakers Inc

Magazine article Dance Spirit

Dancemakers Inc

Article excerpt

Doug Shaffer, director of DanceMakers Inc., believes that competition and convention should be an educational experience. "We encourage students to perform at their best. It's not about the prize or the trophy," Shaffer says. "It's about kids learning to set their own standards to perform the best that they possibly can."

DMI's core faculty includes Darryl Retter, Janice Barringer, Keith Clifton, Tommy Alexander, Becca Retter, Brad Taylor and guest teachers such as Rhonda Miller, Barry Lather and Debbi Dee. "I look for master teachers," Shaffer says. "I want people who really know how to inspire, who love youth and who can teach technique to young dancers." Because the faculty also sits on the judging panel, their comments reinforce what dancers are learning in the classroom. "It's not a judgmental experience for students," Shaffer says, "but a reinforcement opportunity for teachers. That's not to say that everybody gets a first place, but we're praising them for the good things and encouraging them in the places where they need to improve."

In addition to junior, teen and senior levels, DMI offers Camp DanceAdventure for pre-schoolaged students, with 45-minute class sessions. Winners of DMI's solo titles receive a scholarship to the entire year's conventions and may become teaching assistants and demonstrators. In all divisions, DMI presents an experience that is "age-appropriate in terms of music and choreography," Shaffer says. "We avoid material and lyrics that will be over the students' heads. We pride ourselves on going 'Back to Basics.' We emphasize technique and training, with the thrill of competition."

The highlight of each year for Shaffer is watching dancers develop throughout the season. "It's seeing young people be inspired to perform at levels they didn't know they could reach," he explains. "We're always impressed by how students grow through the convention. The weekend is about helping them become better people. They're going to become better dancers, but that's not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to become a better person. …

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