Dance competition in Kansas City 2016

Just about everyone has a little dancing spirit in them. You can’t deny that when you hear a really great song, it’s hard to control the urge to bust a move. Fortunately, some of us are better at it than others and most are better than me. My lack of coordination makes me look like a fish out of water.

We are fortunate to be able to see the incredible talent of our local dancers at the dance performances during Yankton’s annual Riverboat Days celebration. I talked with Darota Dannenbring, owner and instructor at Academy of Dance and Timera & Rob Massey, owners and instructors at The Green Room, about their backgrounds and their experiences planning the Riverboat Days dance shows.

Academy of Dance

Darota Dannenbring was born and raised in Poland and trained at the Warsaw School of Ballet in Warsaw, Poland. After dancing and traveling professionally for about three years, she relocated and came to the United States in 1989, later opening her own dance studio, the Academy of Dance. She met and married David Dannenbring, a teacher at the Yankton High School and the couple have 7 children, the youngest age 10.

Dannenbring remembers the Riverboat Days dance performances starting many years ago with the Dakota Dance Association which was supported by a group of parents. As her own Academy of Dance studio grew, she was able to hold Academy of Dance performances and still support Dakota Dance performances.

The Riverboat Days performance is the grand finale for the Academy’s students to finish their summer program that begins the first week of June. It gives all of her students, ages three through 19, the opportunity to perform for the public.

With over 300 students in the Academy, it’s no small feat to pull off. There are two performances for the public, the first performance alternating on Friday or Saturday night is longer and has about 31 dancers showing their talent. The second performance on Sunday includes dancers from both Academy of Dance and The Green Room.

With every dance routine different, I asked her how she comes up with new ideas. “Music inspires me,” she said, explaining how she finds the music first, then the story unfolds and the costumes fall into place. She described how, while waiting for my visit that day, she was looking at a group of young girls and she thought of two songs for a performance. She detailed for me the theme, costumes and props for me while I marveled at her creativity.

The Academy of Dance offers several styles of dance: adult tap, athletic skills for boys, ballet, character, combination, dance team, hip hop, jazz, lyrical, modern and pointe. The Riverboat Days performances incorporate several of these styles. She doesn’t favor one style over another, stating, “I love all the styles. I appreciate the beauty of every style and I learn to respect all of the dance styles.”

Dannenbring’s favorite part of the Riverboat Days performance is that it is a dance program for everyone. She learned this emphasis years ago when she did theatre work in Vermillion and she has made it a priority in her studio.

The Green Room

Timera and Rob Massey took over Judy’s Dance Studio in 2012 and soon the studio emerged with a new name and a variety of classes. The couple met while working for Royal Caribbean cruise lines, dancing together for production shows on the cruise lines for over nine years before finding the opportunity to own their own studio in Yankton, now called The Green Room. Though they are from different backgrounds, Timera from Kentucky and Rob from the U.K., they have a broad range of dance experience between them with each having a degree in dance. Rob obtained his degree from Northern Ballet School in Manchester England and Timera’s degree is from Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma City.

The Green Room offers approximately fifty-six classes per week, the couple teaching about 35 classes and four other instructors helping with the rest while additional staff assist in the office. Timera teaches classes for the young children, lyrical dance, musical theatre and tap while Rob instructs the older girls’ ballet classes and jazz classes. They also offer acro (gymnastics), hip hop, modern and pointe classes. They offer classes for ages three to age 19 and include adult classes and a Zumba fitness class. Instructors keep busy teaching their 315 students involved with the studio.

The Green Room inherited the Riverboat Days dancing tradition from the previous dance studio. Timera explained how the two dance studios alternate every other year between Friday and Saturday evening and Dakota Dance puts both studios together for Sunday’s performance.

“It’s a cool opportunity to show the community,” she said, smiling. She continued, explaining how their Friday/Saturday performance includes every class that is part of the summer session and incorporates all styles of dance in the show. Their summer program for the students is a continuation of the spring program in a more condensed version.

I asked who comes up with the ideas for their shows and they agreed that it is a combined effort. One of them will come up with an idea and the other will add to it. She laughed and said that they are already planning their next year’s show, but it’s a secret she can’t let out. I’ll have to come to the performance to see!

Mother Nature Can’t Stop Talent

Both studios have memories from Riverboat Days performances with unpredictable Mother Nature playing a starring role.

Though The Green Room has only experienced a few years of Riverboat Days performances, they can distinctly remember Mother Nature making an appearance for a couple of shows. One year they lost power during the middle of a performance and a father of one of the students left to get a generator. They were able to hook up the generator and finish the show. They’ve learned the importance of early dress rehearsals. A rainstorm one year caused the amphitheater floor to be too wet for a dress rehearsal the night before and they had to give the show without rehearsing first. The show continued as scheduled and the dancers performed very well for a wonderful show, though they now rehearse earlier.

Dannenbring explained her most memorable Riverboat Days moment to me. As she showed me a picture hanging on the wall in remembrance of beautiful, young Tiffany Dutcher donning a green dance skirt, she explained Tiffany’s last Riverboat Days dance. The dancers had been given homemade hats made out of cardboard to wear for their performance. She explained how the clouds came during the middle of their performance and a torrential rain shower sent the audience running for cover while a massive pool of water rushed onto the amphitheater dance floor. The wonderful Riverboat Days committee let them extend their performance the next day and Tiffany and the dancers proudly wore the previously wet and now misshapen hats and gave a beautiful performance without having their spirits dampened.

Both studios have shown that the show will continue to go on despite the situation they might be given. The talent of their students is the important thing that will continue to shine through.

More To Watch

Riverboat Days isn’t the only performance that each studio holds to show off their students’ talent, both studios offer

additional recitals for the public to purchase tickets to see. The Academy of Dance offers the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty performances and The Green Room offers a spring recital, with a new theme every year.

Dannenbring explained the rewarding feeling when a production comes together and credits everyone involved, including staff, teachers, assistants and parents. She discussed the Sleeping Beauty ballet, stating “It was amazing for me to see everyone come together. I would not have been able to do it without everyone’s support. The Sleeping Beauty ballet almost felt like a miracle that took place on such a professional level.”

Just Like Family

The dance instructors are given the opportunity to watch the students as they grow from young children into young adults. The Massey’s explained how exciting it is to see the dancers as they grow, Rob stating, “It’s exciting to see the students’ progress as dancers.” Timera agreed, “It’s getting harder and harder to see the students graduate now because we’ve had them longer and longer.” She enthusiastically told me about one of their students currently attending the same college that she did, Oklahoma City University, pursuing a degree in dance. The couple beamed, just like proud parents would.

In watching the students grow, Dannenbring explained, “I love that part. I’m actually now teaching my students’ children which is amazing. I love to tell them stories about their moms. It’s a wonderful job and an honor.”

Their Gift

Rob explained how the dance production on the Sunday of Riverboat Days is a great opportunity for the community to see that they are both very different. He explained, “We are different in the style of teaching and the classes that we offer. I think it’s good that there are two studios in town, for healthy competition and to offer variety to better serve the dancers in the community.”

Dannenbring smiled and said humbly to me about her profession, “We are very, very fortunate. This is a gift we were given.” She explained how she teaches her students not to pick and choose their dance performances and stages, dancing wherever they are asked, including frequent performances for the residents at Majestic Bluffs.

Fortunately for our community, I think we are the ones who are given the gift, these studios teaching their passion to others and giving us opportunity to witness the beauty of dance expressed by so many talented individuals. We’ll see you at Riverboat Days August 19, 20 & 21 to see some fantastic entertainment!