Young dancers learn more than ballet, tap and tumbling

News-DemocratFebruary 2, 2014 

Princess Quinn posed alongside princesses Naomi and Kennedy before dance class. Moms aimed cell phone cameras.

The preschoolers got to dress up for ballet at Dance Encore Too in Swansea. It's one of the ways teacher and co-owner Gabrielle Goewert Bockewitz makes lessons enjoyable for her youngest students.

"The main thing I want to instill in them is love for dance," said Gabrielle, 25, who teaches 2- to 19-year-olds. "Keep it fun. Keep it current, as in new methods, but also give them a sense of dance history. Even when they are young, you can teach them the importance of teamwork, hard work and dedication."

The youngest start with the basics -- a half-hour of ballet, a half-hour of tap and a half-hour of tumbling.

"You would be so shocked how much they can learn," said Gabrielle. "They listen better than anyone would think. They are so eager and excited to do anything. 'Oh yes, I will do that.' It makes my job so fun."

It's what she learned from her mom, Cheryl, who operated Encore Dance Academy in Belleville and Shiloh. Cheryl, now semi-retired, still teaches tap and does choreography for the studio's competition team. Gabrielle co-owns Encore Dance Too with Nikki Easter.

"Mom, she worked me hard and pushed me along the way," said Gabrielle. "I would be nowhere without her."

Cheryl took Gabrielle to see her first Broadway musical, "Beauty and the Beast" at the Fox when she was 5.

"I remember the costumes. the dance, the songs. The way they brought it to life was incredible. It made me love dance that much more. I thought, 'I want to do something like that when I'm older."

She's been teaching since she was 15.

"Can we come in and sit down in our circle?" said Gabrielle, leading eight princesses into the mirrored ballet room. "Everyone looks so beautiful today. Let's sit down and stretch."

The girls practiced ballet positions, pointing toes, looking in the mirror and stretching their legs behind them at the barre. There were beautiful arabesques and graceful plies (PLEE-ays).

"Let's go over our curtsies," said Gabrielle. "A princess always curtsies. We are going to dance to 'A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes.' Who sang that song?"

"Cinderella," said a chorus of princesses.

"Start with big smiles."

It's probably not too far from the way Shannon Brueggeman started. The Freeburg mom took dance lessons for 12 years from Cheryl Goewert. She remembers Gabrielle as a baby.

Now, her 3-year-old daughter is the one wearing the dance shoes.

"Quinn loves to dance at home all the time," said Shannon. "I knew I wanted her to come here. She started in September. She was excited. She wanted to know if she could wear a tutu. Of course. It's kind of full circle."

"When I was young, I liked the costumes and dances. It gave me a lot of self-confidence. It's a good experience for little girls."

Kimberley Criss, of Swansea, has two little girls enrolled, Sydney, 4, and London, 3.

"She started lessons here before she turned 2," she said of London. "She was 21 months. (Sydney) moved to the competition team. You can't have one start without the other one wanting to do it."

Moms notice improvement.

"It's a nice opportunity to listen to directions," said Erin Keefe, whose 3-year-old daughter Kennedy dances. "It's a fun environment."

They definitely are better listeners this year," said Jessie Cope, of O'Fallon, who started when she was 2.

Her daughter Lucy, now 3, followed suit.

"The second she popped out of my belly, I was waiting for her to start dance," said Jessie. "We started last year. She liked it. We just continued to come since the day we started. We took summer classes. We haven't stopped."

For information on Encore Dance Too, call 660-6752 of visit its Facebook page. Dance lessons are $30 a month for a half hour, $50 for an hour and $75 for 1 1/2 hours. Family discounts are available.

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