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Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

Dance fever

Thursday, July 27, 2006

(Photo)
Alyx Taylor, 3, mimics the moves of Melissa Seiler, owner of Patti Simmons School of Dance, during a camp for beginning students
(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Dance is filling up the media. Movies such as "Shall We Dance," TV shows like "So You Think You Can Dance," and MTV music videos and Barbie dance videos making the art more popular and appealing.

That craze is what encourages many to enroll their children or even themselves in dance classes, said Melissa Seiler, owner of Patti Simmons School of Dance in Sikeston.

"But after they get in there, we do such fun things that all dissolves," Seiler said. "A lot of them put even more effort out than when they are trying to be like someone else."

That's not all that attracts dancers to the studio. Some are following in others' footsteps, while, some are fulfilling a dream.

"I always looked up to it," said Katie Old, 15. She plans to attend Mizzou or Southeast Missouri State University and join a dance team, while studying education.

When she told her parents she wanted to take lessons at 3, they thought it was just a child's dream, said her mother, Elaine.

"As she grew up, we encouraged her more-- dancing is the sole thing she does," Old said. "She really gives all she has to her dancing."

Three-year-old Audra McMillen began walking when she was 2 months old and loves to dress up in high-heeled shoes. So her mother, Katie, decided to let Audra try out dancing.

"It was something I wanted her to do," McMillen "I know other kids who do it and like it so I thought we'd give it a try. I always wanted to (take lessons) but never got to."

Lauren Vowels, 8, has been dancing since she was just one and a half, said her mother, Melissa Vowels. She looked up to her sister Hayleigh, 12, who was taking the classes, so mother and infant signed up for a "Mommy and Me" course.

"It was a good mother-daughter bonding time," Vowels said. The experience helped her understand what her daughters are doing, too. "I'm nervous when they're nervous, I'm excited when they're excited," she said.

Parent's experiences also yield some business. "There are parents who come in who took lessons with Patti," Seiler said. "They would like for her or him (their children) to get a taste of it, too."

Few, but some, boys take lessons. Seiler acknowledged many people may think dancing is "girly" but said it is quite the opposite.

For instance, a four-year-old boy did routines to "Hit the Road, Jack," and "Born to be Wild." "His dances tend to get a lot of attention because he is a boy," she said.

At the school, Seiler teaches "just about anything" -- modern, ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hip, ballroom and other types of dancing. She attends competitions, conventions and master classes to keep up with what is popular, and encourages her students to focus on more than their favorite style of dancing.

"I don't just want my kids to leave as good hip hoppers because it's in style now," she said. "I like for them to be well-rounded when they leave."

The bulk of the students may be children, but Seiler has adult classes, which she said are "very laid back." She plans to add a teacher next fall and offer more classes.

Although the main focus of the classes is learning to dance, the students learn many other things.

"We really push self-esteem and trying to feel good about yourself no matter what," Seiler said. Students learn to be less timid and sell themselves, plus hard work and dedication.

"You have to have a lot of concentration," Katie said, adding that she has learned to add in facial expressions for judges. A student assistant, Katie is learning "a lot of patience," and giving her practice for becoming a teacher.

Old said the classes have helped Katie mature greatly, and give her discipline and poise. The hectic dance schedule can be demanding, and Katie has learned to schedule and manage time to balance homework and dance.

It can teach children to make friends and form lasting relationships. "I thought it would be good to get around other kids," McMillen said of her daughter, who has not gone to day care and will be started preschool in the fall.

McMillen's children have learned time management, balancing two nights of practice a week with homework, and responsibility. "You have to keep up with the dances, remember all the steps and make sure that you come for practices and have to be on time," Hayleigh said.

"You can't come one week and then not the next and expect to be good at something," Seiler added. "If they don't leave sweaty, I tell them they haven't worked hard enough."