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Dancing works to cheer audiences

Danceworks’ Moving Company will not help you to get your furniture to your new house, but they will bring cheer into the lives of those who need it most. Founded in 2004, the troupe has performed at schools, YMCAs, libraries, theme parks, hospitals, community events and retirement communities. The primary mission for these young dancers is to give back to the community by using their skills learned at the Denville-based Danceworks. In 2005, the company held a benefit performance in Dover and raised over $3,000 for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, the girls hosted a benefit and raised close to $2,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Members of Danceworks’ Moving Company performing at Care One in Livingston are: Kaitlyn Decker of Mountain Lakes; Sarah Ross, Rockaway Township; Rachel Lum, Denville; Marissa Gabel, Denville; Morgan Dickerson, Mount Tabor; and Annie Giercyk, Parsippany. As Christine Kohler, Danceworks’ director noted, the company is a way for the students to participate in additional performances while making a difference for others. The current troupe, which recently gave its final performance of the season, consists of 30 girls aged 9 to 18. There is no audition process, just the understanding that the girls are willing to make the commitment of time and effort.

The Moving Company performs about seven times from November through February, when participation in school activities such as sports and spring musicals, is at a low point. For this past season, the dancers were seen at the Denville Holiday Open House; the Denville Historical Society's holiday pageant at the Church of the Savior; the Actor's Fund in Englewood, which is a home for retired people who have worked in the arts; Franciscan Oaks in Denville; twice at Care One in Livingston; and most recently, at the Country Home, a retirement home in Morris Plains. A Danceworks student for 13 years, Morgan Dickerson, 17, of Parsippany has been with the Moving Company for the past three years.

She said, "I love being a member of this company because it allows me to learn additional dances and perform more often, all while sharing my talents with those who really appreciate it." Morgan added, "The audiences we perform for are great. We can really tell that they appreciate us coming. As soon as we walk out on stage, you can hear people clapping and cheering, even before we begin to dance. I’ll always remember after one of my first performances with the Moving Company, a lady dressed in her nice sweater and her beautiful pearls approached me and my friends to tell us how much she enjoyed the performance. With a huge smile on her face, she started dancing herself. And while shimmying a little, she told us ‘this was my favorite part!’ Moments like those define what the Moving Company is truly about. I feel it is so important to share our gifts with others and the Moving Company provides the perfect opportunity for that." Kaitlyn Decker, 17, of Mountain Lakes, offered, "I have been dancing for 13 years at Danceworks. I was inspired to join the Moving Company after performing at a fundraiser to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2006 as a part of the company, an experience I greatly enjoyed. I wanted to be a part of this group because of my passion for dance. I always look forward to getting on the stage in June for our recital and by joining the company, I have the ability to perform on stage multiple times each year and share my talents while being alongside my friends. "It means a lot to me to share dancing with the older audiences. Their reactions are always fun to see because everywhere we go to perform is like a new adventure. We meet new people and put smiles on new faces even by just saying hello."

Danceworks' adult tap students frequently join in the performances.

Kohler explained, "Tap dancing is extremely popular with the seniors that the company visits, so we try to bring along a tap piece whenever possible. This season, our advanced and adult tap classes have been working on recreating the historical Shim Sham Shimmy, credited to Leonard Reed. Dancers have been studying this particular style in class and can easily transition to the stage with choreography that has been passed from one tap dancer to the next for nearly a century. Our teen and adult tap dancers have also prepared a waltz clog study which I adapted from the Dance Masters of America syllabus. This catchy partner dance is performed in 3/4 time and is popular with senior audiences."

Denville resident MaryEllen Lavery, a self-described "interested, ex-dancer mom" joined the company when her daughter did. At first, Lavery was "reluctant and shy" because she had not performed publicly for a while, but her interest in sharing the experience with her daughter won out. Even though her daughter is now in college, Lavery continues to dance, but for the "sheer joy of dancing and seeing our audiences clap to the music and smile as we bring a little sunshine to their day." Lavery said, "Many of the residents we meet tell us of a time 'back in the day' that they themselves danced or they share a memory of their own children or grandchildren. Seeing our young performers handle themselves with grace and poise is an added bonus. It is a truly rewarding use of my time!" As for Kohler, she said of the Moving Company, "I'm so proud of their efforts and their genuine affection for the people we visit. One of the things I admire most about the company members is their ability to adapt to new settings and situations. I frequently see the dancers adjusting their choreography in the middle of a performance to accommodate their surroundings (to avoid a potted plant or a wheelchair for instance). There are no divas in our company ... just kids who love to dance and want to share that with the community. They are a really wonderful group of young people with whom I am honored to be affiliated."

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