New to SSBYD is Tamara Gallegos and you’ve most likely seen her ‘behind the scenes’ at SSBYD events. Tamara didn’t hesitate to jump into SSBYD to spearhead costuming and even traveled to Festival this year. You can count on Tamara to get the job done!!

Tamara, this is your first year as an SSBYD parent with a Junior dancer. How has it been going for you?

This is our first year with an SSBYD dancer and it has been very exciting, enlightening, and can be a bit more stressful then other times but that just goes with the territory. I am very happy to have been able to be the SSBYD costumer and have the opportunity to work with such great young ladies and their instructors.

You traveled to Festival this season. What did you experience and what was your thoughts on traveling with SSBYD and the entire Festival event?

The trip to Festival with SSBYD this year was a great one. I had the chance to see many of the dancers in their classes and hear the instructors giving very useful and important corrections and/or information to them. In my observations, I believe that allowing the dancers to have a bit more freedom and independence is good for all in the long run. The performances were fabulous and meeting the other chaperones, dancers and instructors was a great experience.

What do you foresee in the future in supporting your dancers (Emiliano and Sephie) for the rigors of SSBYD productions?

For the future of our two dancers, all we can do is be there for them in all of their needs on a personal basis and help out where we can with them, the studio, their groups and during competitions or performances . With them both being in the many productions of SSBYD and training schedule, we try and handle our time off with lots of rest, relaxation, and family activities.

As a new SSBYD mom, is there any advice you can provide to parents and potential SSBYD dancer?

Just be there for your dancer in any way possible and make sure their every need is cared for. As for the dancers, the is great exposure to many new experiences and opportunities to be had.

How are you guiding you guiding your two dancers through the challenges and triumphs of dancing in SSBYD?

As challenges may occur, we sit and discuss the situations and come up with ways to handle any challenges, then put it to use. As for triumphs, our family always have a nice dinner out, (choice of the dancers) and then of course many praises about their wonderful, great achievements or performances or jobs well done. I always tell my dancers to keep their minds focused on their tasks at hand (DANCE) and to always do their best no matter what!

You may have seen this very busy dancer mom prior to, during, and after every performance.

Marta Morando is the gal who oversees that each dancer has the appropriate costume(s), head pieces, and coordinates with seamstresses to ensure a proper fit.

We’re catching up with Marta to get her insight on the SSBYD experience.

Hi Marta! Your daughter Clara danced as Clara in the last State Street Ballet’s Nutcracker. Share with us your feelings when you learned of the casting and what you experienced watching her dance on stage at the Granada.

I was so excited, proud and grateful Clara was given the opportunity to dance the role of Clara! It was her 3rd audition for the part and her dream role. I encouraged her throughout the process that, whether chosen or not, personal growth would come from the experience. I must admit I let out a joyful shout when I heard the casting!

Truly nothing could have prepared me for the sweetness of her first few steps on the stage to the last moments, cradling the Nutcracker, as the notes of Tchaikovsky Nutcracker trailed off, it all took my breath away and left me teary- eyed. It seemed to be a miracle that the show went on with the Thomas Fire raging the day before and closing two of the shows. State Street Ballet’s Nutcracker is beautiful every year and an incredible opportunity for Gustafson Dance dancers to perform at the Granada along side the professional dancers.This year with all the uncertainties, many evacuated and not knowing if they would have homes to go home to, rehearsals and shows being canceled, not until Sunday morning did we awake to the good news the show would go on and all dancers (that were still in town) were given the opportunity to dance. The Nutcracker, if possible, became more of a connection between the audience and cast was felt and a sense of sweet relief from many real worries. Clara being part of that is a forever memory!

You wear many hats within SSBYD. Please tell us how you’ve managed costume organization of all the productions, RDA travel, and guiding your dancer through the rigors of dance training, performances, and academics.

Write everything down is my golden rule! Also I couldn’t do it without the help from a few parents, who are also amazing seamstresses and costume designers. I love to help the dancers look beautiful and confident on stage. It is really rewarding to get to know the dancers and teachers and get an up close look at productions as they are being prepared. It never fails to be magical to sit and watch the show from the audience!

RDA is a exciting busy time for all. The dancers get to experience different teachers, watch other companies perform and have a lot of fun together. I learned at my first RDA, to continually count dancers, make sure they are well fed, dinking water and sleeping!

As far as guiding Clara, I must say she is self-motivated, disciplined and organized. I believe ballet fosters and often draws this type of individual. So Clara usually lets me know what time classes are, when we need to be somewhere and what she needs to bring.

Besides watching your dancer dance the role of Clara, are there any other magical, memorable moments with your dancer?

So many magical moments through the years from the life long friendships made, to the hard work that has produced character and beauty, every performance I am captivated by the grace, passion and fun displayed by Clara and all the other dancers.

How has SSBYD enhanced your dancer physically, psychologically, and socially?

Clara has grown up in this studio with Nicole as her first teacher, then Allison, Gary and many more, who have all invested in her life. The studio has become a second home, and the teachers foster and encourage positive self image, kindness to others, work ethic, understanding your strengths and weaknesses in a healthy way, and self discipline all while teaching dance.

Would you, your dancer, and your family do it all again?

Definitely! I believe Clara is the dancer she is today due to this wonderful studio and we are blessed to have in our home town.

We are chatting with Melissa Lowenstein/Block, Company Member Sarah Block’s mom. Melissa shares some incredible insight to the world and love of dance. Thank you so much Melissa!

What elements of the SSBYD experience do you believe have sculpted your dancer (Sarah Block) physically, psychologically, and socially?

SSBYD has been a very important community for Sarah since she was eleven years old. She’s benefited greatly from the way the SSBYD administrators/teachers/leaders have created an environment of safety and collaboration. In an art form that can be punishingly competitive and that’s too often linked to eating disorders or emotional distress, these kids have been taken such good care of while also being held to very high expectations and standards in their training and performances. They are led to be extremely supportive of and respectful of one another — it’s always a joy to witness them working and playing together. Staff give youth in the Company lots of individualized attention and support, which is amazing considering the number of kids involved and the fact that they also run the entire school with its many hundreds of students! The careful selection of outside choreographers and guest teachers/Master Classes has also been a big point of appreciation for me. Kids in SSBYD are being exposed to lots of movement styles and ways of working to create pieces. Watching the Company in their Adjudication classes and then performing, I’m in absolute awe at the level of the training they receive. To the dancer, they’re beautiful to watch and versatile.

Please tell us how you’ve navigated your danced through the challenges of a very rigorous performance schedule.

Sarah has always been incredibly responsible — a natural self-starter. Sometimes I joke that I’m not sure which of us is the mom in this family. She’s always kept track of her own schedule and informed me of all I need to know. She has occasionally complained about being too busy and feeling overwhelmed with school plus dance, but she also feels a huge lack and longing when not dancing for any stretch of time.

What are a few magical and memorable experiences with your dancer?

Seeing her in pieces by Kassandra Taylor Newberry, a choreographer who deeply inspires her and whose movement she really enjoys. Seeing her play Clara two years in a row was amazing, but the best year of those two was the first, when she was picked at 13 and we were completely not expecting it because she was so young! Watching her in that role, I saw her blossom into a full performer. There were so many special moments to enjoy in seeing her up there, so self-assured and competent and in her element…I practically had to be carried out of the theater after the first show! I danced myself for a couple of decades – I am a contemporary dancer, though, who never approached Sarah’s level of skill and artistry – and I had the wonderful experience of performing with her a couple of times in contemporary pieces we made together: the first, when she was ten (“Chaperone”), and the second when she was 14 (“Of Age”). Those are moments I will for sure cherish until my last breath. Her trips to Festival have been high points in her years in the Company and although I’ve never gotten to go, I love knowing she is getting so much from those trips and having such a wild fun time.

Would you and your dancer do it all again?

Absolutely. I am beyond grateful for Gustafson Dance and SSBYD.

Can you share your thoughts, feelings, suggestions, and words of wisdom to upcoming SSBYD parents?

None of these notions will be new to anyone reading this, but since you asked: Appreciate your child for the incredibly hard work that’s required to build one’s self as a dancer. Encourage them to work with teachers and one another in a spirit of collaboration, cooperation, and mutual support. Push them, but not too hard — in the end, the motivation has to come from within. Support them as they push themselves and let them know that self-care and rest are sometimes the best thing. Encourage them as they proactively find ways to balance dance with school and their social lives.

Theresa and Charlie Lennon

What aspects of SSBYD do you believe have enhanced your dancer(s) physically, psychologically, and socially?

The rigor of the SSBYD training and rehearsals provides a great foundation for our daughter in terms of her physical fitness as well as body control. Being in shape and having better control of your body opens the door to achieving a level of competency in many other activities like skating, snorkeling, mountain biking and other fun things.

In term of psychological development the discipline learned in dance has helped in school. SSBYD dancers are introduced to choreography and are expected to learn it at a much faster pace than they would in a Level 3 class. This requires the dancers to focus on the choreography and then translate that quickly into motion. The concentration and mental discipline used in absorbing new choreography is the same skill set used is absorbing a teacher’s lesson at school. As far as social aspects, we have never really had to worry about Becca’s ability to socialize. We will say that some of the strongest friendship our daughter has developed are with her fellow dancers at SSBYD. We believe some of these relationships will continue throughout life.

One aspect of SSBYD and Gustafson dance in general that has enhanced our daughters lives are the interaction with the teachers over the years. The teachers at Gustafson have been good role models for our daughters. Two constants in our 16 year association with the dance studio are Allison and Nicole. While unique in their own ways, both have been, outstanding role models for our daughters. I anticipate both will maintain contact with Allison and Nicole as they grow into adults.

Please share with readers a magical moment or memory about your dancer.

Over the years there have been so many special moments as we have watched both of our daughters perform at Gustafson dance and SSBYD. A few that come to mind for Becca are watching her first performance when she was two years old and was a Bunny in the Spring show. She was one of those enthusiastic bunnies and she would have hopped her way off stage and into the audience if it wasn’t for the teacher catching her at the last moment. Another memorable moment was the first time we saw her perform on pointe. As the young dancers grow and begin that transition from flats to pointe, many girls worry about being able get up on pointe. When they finally get proficient enough to perform on pointe for the first time, the smiles on their faces after they are done is priceless. There is also the day they get their first SSBYD jacket. The smiles go from ear to ear. There also have been many other times that bring joy to your heart when you look through the glass wall of Studio B and see your child smiling just because they are having fun with their friends and enjoying what they love to do..

How do you guide your dancer(s) through the challenges of a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule?

In our house, school work comes first. So Rebecca must plan her week accordingly. Knowing the class and rehearsal schedule ahead of time helps her plan her school projects, study time and home work. Being in a paperless school and having Independent Study PE helps out tremendously. Being in both the Theater Arts program and Instrumental Music programs at school has created conflicts between dance rehearsals and school performances. Advanced planning and understanding teachers have helped mitigate many of these conflicts. As a parent, we also focus on making sure she gets plenty of sleep and eats healthy.

Would you, your family, and your dancer(s) do it all again?

We have two daughters and both have been members of SSBYD. While we are fresh out of kids, if we had a third, we would do it again, providing that’s what our child wanted to do.

Your thoughts, suggestions, or wisdom to current and upcoming SSBYD parents?

Make sure your child is having fun. Try and balance the rigors of school and rehearsals with other outside activities to give the mind and body a break from time to time. As a parent, take time out to enjoy watching your child dance. It’s amazing how quickly the time passes and before you know it the preschooler you enrolled in her first dance class is getting ready to go off to college.

The very first Parent ‘Pointe of View’ highlights Lisa Schaeffer, mom of Company member Nina Schaeffer.

Nina, what aspects of SSBYD do you believe have enhanced your dancer physically, psychologically and socially?

SSBYD definitely pushed Nina to the next level of commitment to dance! Being part of a group of like-minded, hard-working young people, has helped Nina further develop her work ethic. She is learning that time is valuable and that she needs to schedule, not just dance but homework, chores, and her social life. Being part of SSBYD has been a great opportunity for her to develop her skills in working with other people. There are lots of collaborative opportunities that might not be available in the regular classes. The friends that Nina has made at SSBYD are some of her closest.

Please share a magical moment or memory you’ve had with your dancer.

The choreographers show last April was really special!! Nina choreographed her first piece and I could not have been more proud. Choreography did not come naturally to her, but she kept with it and created a piece that was really special. The Celebration of Dance performance has been a fun way to share SSBYD with family and friends. One of my favorites was Peter and the Wolf in which Nina had her first solo as The Bird.

How do you guide your dancer through the challenges of a rigorous training program and performance schedule?

I try to have Nina stay on top of her schedule herself, which is helpful for everyone. There are days that she might be tired or has a lot of homework, but she is mindful to her commitment to dance. I encourage Nina to take care of her body with lots of sleep, healthy food, and also time to relax. Finding time off is probably the hardest!!

Would you do it all again?

Yes! There are very few programs that offer the breadth of opportunities of SSBYD. Nina has gained community service by being a Class Assistant and working at the Bun Bars. She has travel opportunities going to RDA. She has worked with Emerging and Guest Choreographers. And, of course, lots of dancing!  While it is a lot of work and there are some disappointments, dancing is fun!

Any thoughts, suggestions, or words of wisdom to current or upcoming SSBYD parents?

I think making sure that your dancer keeps track of their schedule is very important. Keeping the balance of family, school, and dance is vital!! Checking in with your dancer to make sure that while it is hard work and a commitment, that they are still having fun.

Thank you so much Lisa!!