When the girls of Danceworks gave their annual recital, it was obvious from the start that this year's show was to be different. First, there was the set with a familiar sight, a "Welcome to Downtown Denville" sign and replica of the clock tower. Then, when the show started, each dance number paid tribute to a different local business.
"Sidh Beag and Sidh Mor" was dedicated to Faith & Begorra, "Broadway Baby" to the Urban Muse, "Marshmallow World" to Denville Dairy, and "Kick it into Gear" for Denville Transmission were just a few of the selections in "Dancing Through Denville."
Danceworks owner Christine Kohler explained, "Our purpose was to raise awareness about the businesses in Denville, their struggles after Hurricane Irene, and the importance of supporting our local downtown - the best in Morris County."
Just after the Christmas and New Year's holidays, the staff at Danceworks began choosing the music and working with the students on choreography. Kohler sent letters, emails, and in some cases, made a visit to the local businesses in order to get consent to use their logos. "It was a bit time consuming, but it was great to meet the other business owners that I did not already know through the Chamber of Commerce," said Kohler, a 19-year member of the Chamber.
Located at 469 East Main St., the dance school was spared from flood damage, but Kohler felt for the businesses not so fortunate and wished to send a message to the public. She wanted to "remind people of the importance of shopping local to keep our economy strong... When we are looking for a card or a gift, it's great to visit our local merchants rather than large chains. It's good for everyone and it helps Denville to remain the quaint town we all love."
She saw to it that Denville was well represented in the recital. The finale was the song "Denville" by the group Hyphen One, which named the different sections of the township. Then, there was the set.
Kohler said, "It was amazing to see it all come together. I painted replicas of the Downtown Denville sign, Rock Ridge sign, Cedar Lake sign and a Franklin Road street sign. The dancers held these up during the finale after bowing to 'Funky Town.' My husband made a 14-foot clock tower and my daughter painted the clock faces. It was a real family effort. My staff each had creative ideas about how to highlight different businesses and had fun looking for different songs. A lot of creative minds came together to make it all happen."
The show had special meaning for its young dancers. Denville resident, Rachel Lum, 17, said, "Performing in the recital this year was both phenomenal and emotional. With Hurricane Irene affecting Denville in such a devastating way, Danceworks brought awareness to the ongoing recovery in a very special and beautiful way. I'm honored to be a part of this community that comes together no matter what and part of the Danceworks family."
Kaite Pheysey, an 11-year-old from Morris Plains, offered, "Denville is a great town, and is practically my second home! By Dancing Through Denville, I felt I was doing something to help the businesses that lost everything in Hurricane Irene."
Although the business owners did not attend the recitals, they did appreciate the shows.
Susan Banks, owner of Faith & Begorra, said, "I have a huge respect for Christine Kohler and Danceworks. They have been a very involved member of Denville since the day they arrived. Along with ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop and other dances, Christine has taught her students to give back. To have such a strong mentor to the young people she teaches, is fantastic. A tribute to our town is just so wonderful for the children who danced, their parents who bring them to classes and to Christine and her staff. As a shop owner, I thank them very much for thinking up such a clever tribute to Denville."
Kristin Pamperin, co-owner of the Urban Muse, offered, "When we had heard that Danceworks was doing an homage to Denville, we thought it was an amazing way to honor the town. We were so personally touched to be a business selected as an inspiration for a dance number. Danceworks epitomized the community of this great town and its inclusive spirit. Christine has an amazing group of talented dancers and choreographers who bring to life the art of dance. Danceworks is a great asset to the town of Denville."