Dance

The Nutcracker: A Holiday Tradition

The Nutcracker, al holiday tradition that has been a part of our family since, well, before we were a family! My first year in the Nutcracker was 1985.  I was 16 and a scrawny, confidence lacking mouse who thought she would NEVER get to wear a tutu and a tiara.  My husband worked back stage and my mom helped with costumes.  It all started there. I made all of my best friends that year, and it started a lifetime of traditions.  I have taught many generations of dancers that have also adopted The Nutcracker as a family tradition, so I thought it would be fun to share some of our former SD dancers cherished memories.

My favorite Nutcracker moments were always the ones leading up to the show during tech-week. Everyone would arrive, claim their spots at the makeup mirrors, and the dressing room would become full of life. There was such a sense of community as everyone got ready for warm-ups, and tried to help each other get their homework done before the rehearsal. From fastening tutus to helping each other do winged eyeliner, it was always amazing seeing the transformation as the girls became ballerinas, and the ballet started to come to life. —Emily Standley

Marzipan was always one of my favorite variations so performing it with my best/oldest friends in the company during our senior year performance made it so special! Plus, I always loved be “buddies” with the little ones and watching them grow into beautiful ballerinas! —Becky Gowin

-performing Spanish variation with my bff Bailee 

-NOT getting stuck in the doll box

-Secret Snowflake and the ample amount fuzzy socks I acquired over the years 

-quality bonding time during hours of rehearsals and tech week 

-the snow dump after the final show —Jaelin Heavisides

My favorite nutcracker memory is being able to get the opportunity to dance my dream roles of sugar plum and snow queen. They both challenged me in many different ways and pushed me to become a better dancer and it also helped be gain partnering skills. I also loved all the shenanigans and inside jokes that were created backstage with my best friends —Bailee Brinkman

I can’t even begin to recount my Nutcracker memories, as they include so many generations of friends, dancers and families.  I remember going on tour and having to stay with a host family and they thought since we were dancers we should watch Giselle on video. I remember all the crazy antics backstage, and someone laughing so hard they wet their pants on the party scene couch (It WASN’T ME!) Being in the party scene these last 20 years or so has built an actual “Nutcracker Family” that comes together for a few rehearsals every year to reenact our story every year.  

That young, inexperienced, confidence lacking teenager did get to wear a tutu and tiara.  The fact that I had to work so hard to get it shaped my future in dance and this community.  I have watched many of my dancers grow to be Clara, Dew Drop, Snow Queen, Sugar Plum Fairy and also Mice…just like me.

Join our Nutcracker Family this weekend at Sangamon Auditorium.  Saturday, 2:00 and 7:00 pm, Sunday 2:00. 206-6160.


Sarah (Genin) Leaf

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Feet. This is the first memory I have of little Sarah Leaf. She was a quiet, dedicated, hard-working child, but oh-my-gosh THOSE FEET! When she was 6 years old, I noticed what talent she had and knew I had to give her a really good experience so that she would want to dance as long as she could. She was flexible and ballet just came naturally to her. I remember the day that she called me and told me she was no longer going to be able to continue her professional career because of several, severe injuries. I cried. I cried UGLY tears. This was a child with a dream. This was a child with a major talent in an art form that is VERY picky. By the end of the conversation, she calmed me down, assured me that she was fine and that she had a plan.

SD: How do you incorporate dance into your adult life?

SL: Although I’m no longer able to actively participate in dance due to injuries and a busy schedule, the lessons I learned through dancing are still incorporated on a daily basis in my adult life.

SD: What is a life lesson that you learned in dance that is applicable to your adult life?

SL: It’s hard to pick just one, but one of the main lessons dance taught me is discipline to work towards my goals.

SD: What does your exercise/stretching regimen look like today?

SL: One of the reasons I really enjoyed dance was because it was great exercise, but it was fun and didn’t feel too much like work. I try to find that same sort of enjoyment in my current exercise routines. I get bored with doing the same thing regularly, so I try to switch it up often. I’m open to trying almost any fitness routine at least once. I typically rotate between yoga and pilates, but also have a gym membership where I use many of the basic machines and light weights. While these are great during the winter months, I much prefer outdoor adventures. It’s sometimes hard to find scenic places locally, but I love a good road trip to hike, kayak, or bike.

SD: What is your favorite memory from your dance days?

SL: Oh wow, this is a tough one! Too many to count, but one of my personal favorite memories would be dancing Clara in the Nutcracker.

SD: What made your family choose Springfield Dance for you?

SL: This is a terrible answer… but I’m fairly certain it had to do with location! 🙂

SD: If there was one thing you would change about your dance experience, what would that be?

SL: Looking back, I wish I wouldn’t have taken things so seriously. At times I put a lot of pressure on myself to do my best, but it made me miss out on having fun! Also, I so badly wish I would have had the opportunity to dance Sugar Plum!

SD: How did dance shape you as a person?

SL: With complete confidence, I can say that I would not be where I am today without dance. I started dancing when I was just 3 years old, but quickly fell in love with the art. I was a very shy child, and was uncomfortable in many social settings, but dance gave me an outlet to express myself in a positive manner. It taught me discipline, which helped me to excel in my academic and professional work. By performing group pieces, I learned to work together as a team.

SD: What is one piece of advice that you wish you could go back and give to your younger self?

SL: Everything happens for a reason!

SD: Do you think dance is important for children; if so, why?

SL: Yes. Dance provides an outlet for self-expression and energy-release. It teaches the necessary skills to develop a disciplined, cultured, and athletic individual, all while being disguised as a fun activity.

Yes, Sara, everything does happen for a reason, and I am so very proud of the woman you have become.

❤️❤️❤️

#WhyWeDance episode: 4

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Cassie Bax started as a competition dancer at a very early age and came to Springfield Dance to improve her ballet skills. I remember little Cassie as this smart, spunky, energetic kid that had the drive to accomplish anything. She was more than a dancer. Cassie was a PERFORMER. She was a kid who didn’t exactly have a ballerina body, but didn’t let that stop her from achieving her goal of dancing in the Springfield Ballet Company. She realized that SBC was not really her path, as Cassie was SO MUCH MORE than a ballet dancer. She continued to take ballet class, but went on to continue competing because it was filling a void in her NEED to perform A LOT. Having Cassie in class was always inspiring, but also fun. You see, we shared another passion: Disney. Shortly after going to college, Cassie was accepted into the Disney Internship program and the rest is history!

SD: How do you incorporate dance into your adult life?

CB: I am a performer at both Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, FL so I dance almost every day! Disney offers a few free classes throughout the year for entertainment cast members that I love to attend when I’m not working. There are also a few dance studios around Orlando that provide adult classes and I try to go whenever I have free time. I really enjoy watching performances, whether local or traveling artists, around Orlando. This city is bursting with talent and I try to support the arts in general every opportunity that I get!

SD: What is a life lesson that you learned in dance that is applicable to your adult life?

CB: Work hard, play harder! Dance teaches work ethic, discipline, time management, and gracefulness. But it’s also important to live in the moment and enjoy every class, every performance, and don’t take any role for granted. Dancers put their bodies and mind through some difficult circumstances but that only shows just how strong you can truly be.

SD: What does your exercise/stretching regimen look like today?

CB: At both Disney and Universal, we start every day with some basic exercise and stretching to prepare for our day and obviously the job itself is very physically demanding. I like to do some yoga whenever I’m sore to help relieve tension. I also take an aerial silk and lyra class once a week, which is the hardest workout I have ever done.

SD: What is your favorite memory from your dance days?

CB: Saturday morning pointe class was always my favorite! I remember that because it was usually a smaller class and longer than classes during the week, we were able to really dive into learning more specifics like “how” and “why” our bodies work the way they do, and those lessons are ones that still stick with me today.

SD: What made your family choose Springfield Dance for you?

CB: Springfield Dance has always been known for the strong emphasis on proper ballet technique. I hopped around with a few different studios in the Springfield area, but Springfield Dance is where I credit my love and appreciation for ballet. And all the teachers are so passionate about what they do and I love the personal connection I made with each one throughout my life.

SD: If there was one thing you would change about your dance experience, what would that be?

CB: I wished I stretched more when I was younger! Haha! Flexibility was something that never came easy to me and because I didn’t like the pain, I didn’t stretch nearly as much as I should have. It would have made my older life much easier if I had worked harder at a younger age.

SD: How did dance shape you as a person?

CB: Miss Ronda has always been a wonderful role model for me. She taught me just as much about life as she did ballet. One of the most important lessons she taught me was that there’s nothing wrong with being the understudy. Not everyone has to be the star and that’s okay. I believe that is one of the reasons I thrive in theme park entertainment. I often cover many different roles throughout each week, so adaptability is crucial. When I am in rehearsals for a new role, they are very fast paced and our directors are specific about every movement and intention. Quick learning and attention to details is extremely important.

SD: What is one piece of advice that you wish you could go back and give to your younger self?

CB: I wish I had known back then to enjoy the journey. I will never stop pushing to achieve the dreams I have, but I know now that occasionally you need to look back at where you have come from because hard work is not just about the end goal, every obstacle and achievement along the way is just as important. I am incredibly blessed by all the opportunities I have been given and I have learned not to take any role or show for granted.

SD: Do you think dance is important for children; if so, why?

CB: Absolutely! Dance is so much more than simply performing, it shaped me into who I am today. My confidence and work ethic all stem from my time in the studio. I believe the arts should be a part of everyone’s life.

SD: What would you love to see Springfield Dance do more?

CB: Maybe an alumni reunion? I would love an excuse to come back and dance with my friends again! Dance friends are the best friends!!

Cassie, that is an excellent idea. A Springfield Dance reunion with dancers from the last 23 years would be more than an ultimate dance party! It would be so inspiring to have you all back, if even for a short period of time!

❤️❤️❤️

#WhyWeDance episode: 3

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Jaelin Heavisides became a student of Springfield Dance when she was ten years old.  She was an avid distance runner which made her hamstrings VERY tight, putting it mildly.  She could not bend over to touch her toes or her knees, for that matter.  She really wanted to learn to do the splits. I gave her LOTS of stretches and continued to encourage her, thinking the whole time that this poor child may NEVER learn to do the splits because of her tightness.  She worked hard--very hard.  It was about three years later that she sent me a picture of her in her front yard doing the splits. Saying that I was proud was an understatement. Jaelin has continued to work that hard through her entire dance career, and I expect her to go to great heights.

SD: How do you incorporate dance into your adult life?

JH: I am pursuing a career in dance and am still taking classes to prepare me for auditions. I also work in administration to the learn the other side of the dance world, as well, so that I can keep dance in my life post performing!

SD: What is a life lesson that you learned in dance that is applicable to your adult life?

JH: Dance taught me many life lessons at a young age, from discipline to time management to working with others. I value and use all of those skills everyday. A life lesson dance taught me, which many people might not learn, is how to deal with rejection. Not getting the part you wanted, or not getting a part at all, can be heartbreaking, even it’s for a reason beyond your control, such as height or hair color. However, being rejected only taught me how bad I wanted to dance and encouraged me to work harder. This applies to adult life through auditions for dance jobs or even interviews for unrelate dance jobs. Dance has taught me to never give up and always work hard!

SD: What does your exercise/stretching regimen look like today? 

JH: Along with taking class, I try to keep myself in a routine of stretching and working out. As far as conditioning is concerned, I incorporate cardio and pilates based exercises into my routine. I have my foam roller and thera bands in my room, so at the end of my busy active day, I remember to be kind to my muscles!

SD: What is your favorite memory from your dance days?

JH: SO many memories! The people!!! The bond I built with my fellow dancers and teachers is truly something special. A specific memory I have is when we all were obsessed with the tv show dance moms, we decided to plan a day and surprise Miss Ronda and show up in “dance moms” attire, aka breaking dress code, dancing in shorts and sports bras!! I remember it being a super fun day filled with lots of laughs, as we channeled our favorite dance mom divas.

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SD: What made your family choose Springfield Dance for you? 

JH: A friend's mom reccomended Springfield dance so my parents signed me up for a hip hop class. After the first class, I fell in love! After being in the studio for a year it made me want to try all styles of dance. I did! The rest is history. :)

SD: If there was one thing you would change about your dance experience, what would that be? 

JH: Hmmm there isn’t really anything I would change about my experience other than, maybe, wish I would have started earlier! I started at the age of ten which to some people consider “late." I had a lot of catching up to do, but, thanks to my great teachers, they were encouraging and got me up to speed!

SD: How did dance shape you as a person? 

JH: Dance truly has played a major part in shaping me into the adult I am today. As I mentioned earlier, it has taught me how to be disciplined and work with others. Dance brought me out of my shell. I was a VERY shy kid and being in dance class helped me break out of my comfort zone, encouraging me to put myself out there and installed a sense of confidence with always remembering to be humble and grateful for opportunities.

SD: What is one piece of advice that you wish you could go back and give to your younger self?

JH: I would go back and tell my younger self to kick self doubts to the curb... confidence is key!

SD: Do you think dance is important for children; if so, why?

JH: I truly believe dance is important for children as it teaches many life skills and gives kids an outlet.

SD: What would you love to see Springfield Dance do more?

JH: I would love to see dancers share their growth by encouraging the younger kids, making them excited about being the next generation!

We are always so thrilled when you come back and share your talents with our little dancers. Come home soon, Miss Jaelin!

❤️❤️❤️

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#WhyWeDance episode: 2

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There are some students that just remain in your memory. Students come and go, some stay longer than others and they all have their own agenda. As a technique studio, we get students that want to learn classical dance in order to get into a ballet company. Other students are interested in enhancing their techniques for competitive gymnastics and iceskating. Another group of students enroll to get dance skills in order to make themselves competitive in the musical theatre genre. Enter stage Leftt: Caroline (Freedlund) Arapoglou. She was always a beautiful, friendly, PASSIONATE student who had a zest for musical theatre and dance. I was uplifted by her contagious laughter every time she attended class. After she moved, we kept in touch and I have followed her unbelievable career in film and theatre. Her resume is quite impressive, including a recurring role on the series, The Resident. Here is our interview with the amazing Caroline Arapoglou!

SD: How do you incorporate dance into your adult life?

CA: As an actor, my dance training is pretty important in my day to day work life. Since my body is my office, it’s really important to stay in great physical and mental shape. I also learn the blocking of a scene the same way I learn choreography, so it’s important to keep my muscle memory and body awareness sharp.

SD: What is a life lesson that you learned in dance that is applicable to your adult life?

CA: I think that growing up in dance class taught me discipline and sacrifice. When you really want to excel at something, it takes commitment. The same way I used to have to prioritize ballet over other sports or parties, as an adult I sometimes have to prioritize work and rehearsal over vacations, events, etc. I learned at a young age that those sacrifices are worth it in the end!

SD: What does your exercise/stretching regimen look like today?

CA: I take barre classes as often as my schedule will allow! Usually 5 days a week. Even if I have to be on set really early, I will take a class at the crack of dawn because it always sets me up for a happier, more productive day. If I’m actually dancing as part of my job (like if I’m working on a musical), then I make sure I am always at the theater early to warm up my muscles and do a core workout to avoid injury and fatigue.

SD: What is your favorite memory from your dance days?

CA: Too many to count! If I had to choose, probably trying on my first pair of pointe shoes. I never took my first pair off! I would put socks over them and practice in the garage. My first ever pair ended up with grass stains on them! I also distinctly remember my first Nutrcracker performance. I was an angel and I still remember shuffling through the dry ice and the scrim rising and the light hitting my face. I was immediately hooked.

SD: What made your family choose Springfield Dance for you?

CA: The emphasis on classical ballet and a strong technical foundation was really important to us. And I remember seeing The Nutcracker and Rock Ballet and all of my favorite dancers took at Springfield Dance! Plus, Miss Ronda was so nice and approachable and fun, it was just a really natural fit.

SD: How did dance shape you as a person?

CA: Dance taught me discipline and an appreciation for so many different art forms. I feel like it was the beginning of my understanding and love of music and story telling. Springfield Dance shaped me as an adult because Ronda was such a great role model. I remember her performing in Rock Ballet and The Nutcracker, teaching classes every day, running her business, and being a hands on mom all at once. And she really made it look easy. It showed me that you don’t have to limit yourself if you are willing to put in the work. Not to mention she made it look fun and always had such a positive energy.

SD: What is one piece of advice that you wish you could go back and give to your younger self?

CA: I would go back and tell myself that the path you envision for yourself and set off on will change along the way, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t end at the same place you hoped. I had my heart set on getting into a big university known for their acting and musical theatre programs. I worked towards that goal all through high school and when the letters came in, there were a lot of rejections. I could have taken that as as sign that I shouldn’t be in this industry, but instead I just tweaked my path and figured out a different way to reach my goals. Don’t let small (or big) disappointments keep you from going after your dream.

SD: Do you think dance is important for children; if so, why?

CA: I think it is important for children to have something that teaches them hard work, determination, and self expression. Dance is a great way to emphasize the importance of physical health and exercise at a young age. Plus it instills perfect posture that lasts forever!

SD: What would you love to see Springfield Dance do more?

CA: Open up a branch in Atlanta so I can take adult classes!!! 🙂

Well, Miss Caroline, I wish we could do that too! We love following your journey and wish you the best of luck in the success of your future.

❤️❤️❤️