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Just a Summer Day at Danceworks

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The students at Danceworks always inspire me—the variety of ages and backgrounds creates a fascinating mix of individuals. I see the glow of movement, and it brings back memories of summers long ago when our shoes would fill with sweat because there was no air conditioning. We never minded. Sweat meant dance—warm muscles, flexibility, strength and fatigue, freedom and energy. It still does.

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I peeked through the door of a 50+ Ballet Class last week. Above the music, I heard Melissa Anderson giving instructions to the students who stood in front of rows of barres. It’s a 50+ class, but you don’t have to be 50. The classes include students who just appreciate a little more explanation and a friendly pace. This class included an entire family—both parents and two daughters—dancing at the barre together.

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“Do you love to dance?” Melissa was asking. “Let it happen in the face. We get too focused in class like we do in life. Smiling will change your outlook on life, it releases the endorphins.”


Melissa is as good at making you feel good inside as she is at getting you to move, and her students love her. I hung around and stayed afterwards to chat. I especially wanted to meet the woman who hummed along with the music during class. At first I thought there were new speakers in the room!


I asked the students what dance meant to them. If you’ve ever thought about taking a class and wondered if you would fit it, read on…

Jennifer: “I love music, and I’ve loved dance for a long time. This ballet class is a nice way to get your whole body moving no matter your skill level. (Melissa) helps you find it in yourself even if you don’t have rhythm. I teach music. When I feel comfortable I start singing along.”

Jeanne: “It’s the fun of dancing. This is a childhood dream fulfilled. I didn’t start dancing until I was 40. I did three recitals when I was 45. It was terrifying!”

Tom: “(Dance is) redemption. I did sports, got injured, found dance after that, didn’t have the basis for what I needed and injured myself worse. I was headed to being a cripple but found yoga which healed me of those problems. I had to heal physical and emotional wounds of not being able to go into professional dance… Coming here is like my church. I’m 55 now. I’m not broken anymore. My family and I performed in Fairy Queen Fantasy [DPC’s recent concert] together. We came to class together this week. It’s redemption.”

Janice (Tom’s wife): “What makes Danceworks so special is the relationships. You have company members teaching, and then you get to see them perform. You go back and talk about it (with the company members).”

Katrina (their daughter):  “I’ll meet people here once and it feels like they’re my friends. Everyone here is like a family member you haven’t met.”

Keith: “I took classes when I was seven. I was the only boy in the class so my mother took me out of the class. When I was 43, my 12-year-old daughter told me to get a hobby. I called the Makaroff Studio in Appleton, and the director answered the phone. I asked her if I was too old. She told me to come in, and I signed up for the Adult Beginning class. She took me very seriously. Twenty years later, I still can’t quit. You choose your addiction or it chooses you.”


Some of our 50+ class students. 2nd row L to R: Tom, Sryena, Janice and Katrina Hjelmgren, Jennifer Sweetland, Jeanne Kollemeyer, Keith Knox. Front Center: Bob Balderson

Janice: “Melissa has taught me you don’t always have to do movement full out. The simplest moves can look like a dance.”

Tom: “It’s about living fully every day. Opening up your spirit to what the day offers—body, mind and spirit. Movement goes into your spirit. You come back around and integrate it all.”

See what I mean? If you want to try a class, join the family and come to our Danceworks Free For All on August 16! You can find out more information about this day of fun for the whole family here: Danceworks Free For All.


Melissa Anderson center with students


About Our Blog

Welcome to the Danceworks blog, where we're hoping to share a little bit more about the heart and soul behind Danceworks… what made us join the dance and keeps us dancing, what keeps us inspired, and where we can share some of the stories worth telling.