by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Tuning Point of Dance held its annual student showcase on Saturday, June 30 at the Bolles Middle School Auditorium. Their presentation entitled “A Step in Time” included fifteen musical numbers featuring jazz, ballet, and tap dancing.
Turning Point of Dance may not be familiar to many local theatre goers, so a bit of history is in order. In 1984, Mina Nelson, who was sixty years old at the time, took over a dance studio and made it unique. Her “all adult” concept attracted men and women, young and old. Many students had taken dance lessons as children and wanted to get back into the swing of things and enjoy the benefits of dancing. Many others had never danced, but had always wanted to explore this endeavor.
Mina Nelson had danced in New York in her early years, was an inspiration to all her students, and was dancing until she passed away at 85 years of age last year. As fate would have it, Steve Gallagher, with 35 years experience as a dance instructor, director, and musical theatre performer had just moved to Jacksonville and offered to come on board to continue the studio and take over teaching Ms. Nelson’s classes.
The showcase Saturday night was his first. It was written, directed and produced by Mr. Gallagher who even appeared in the show master of ceremonies and as a dance. Anna Ehmen and Gallagher choreographed the entire show.
The audience had a lot of old favorites to tap to with their feet as they watched jazz, tap, and ballet numbers performed. Songs like “Jailhouse Rock,” “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” “All that Jazz,” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” just to name a few, were given mostly humorous treatment with some fine dancing observed. To give all the students an opportunity to perform, the selections were relatively short, so that the entire show from start to finish was just a little over an hour.
We were surprised at the production values, with colorful costumes that included yellow rain slickers and umbrellas for “Singing in the Rain.” Set pieces were moved on and off and included furniture, nightclub tables and backdrops. All the vocalists were miked, so that every note could be heard in the spacious auditorium, which has five hundred seats, at Bolles Middle School.
As a change of pace, there were some non-dancing vocal numbers. Mathew Lewis came from South Carolina and, complete with guitar, sang “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” a popular Elvis song.
Two ladies who can really belt out a song were especially good in the final song of the evening, the ever-popular “Over the Rainbow.” Trish Strain, who teaches drama in the local school system, has been active in community musical theatre over the years. Joining her was Lauren Shaw, JU musical theatre graduate, whom we remember from JU’s production of “Ragtime” several years ago.
A special treat was the performance of Marcus Thiesen and Eden Erickson from A Social Affair Ballroom Dance Studio, who danced to dramatic number called “Black Violin” which was choreographed by Mr. Gallagher.
The music was on tape, and all the lights, curtains, and backstage crew were expertly coordinated by Stage Manger Ivy Wolf.
The mix of dancers varied in age from their 20s to probably 70 plus and it was obvious a lot of rehearsal went into producing this showcase, which was wildly appreciated by the audience in the almost full auditorium.
We talked with Steve Gallagher briefly after the show, and he is a very gregarious fellow with a great sense of humor who appears to truly love his work. If you have two left feet and can’t dance a lick, Turning Point won’t guarantee you will wind dancing on the Broadway stage, but you will have a lot of fun and meet some very positive people.
We want to thank Joanne Stenski for letting us know about this delightful show. Mrs. Stenski is a member of The Vintage Players who is active with Turning Point and was one of the “Singing in the Rain” gals.
Members of this hard working cast included: Christa Aleman, Lara Aleman, Pam Amargo, Katie Bettman, Donna Boswell, Jackie Bowman, Junilyn Comunale, Anna Ehmen, Vera Gallagher, Kim Garland, Sara Hamlin, Helen Holmberg, Karen Kirk, Valerie Klacsmann, Juanelle Marshall, Christie Menciano, Roger Millo, Allison Naseri, Leila Noth, Edwina Penders, Laura Reardon, Beverly Saulter, Pat Sessions, Bonnie Spence, Danita Stokes, Suzi Stone, Andy Thompson, and Rachel Wendt.
TURNING POINT OF DANCE
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM