Cynthia Kiehnau, the Dance Coordinator for the Prince William Parks and Recreation Department, attributes a recent increase in the interest in dance to pop culture. YouTube videos and shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” have brought the art to the forefront in recent years.
“All of those things make people look at dance and say ‘Wow!’ Whether anyone wants to admit this or not, everybody likes to dance. It’s like singing in the shower,” said Kiehnau.
The increased interest in learning to dance has brought more students to the dance programs at Veterans Memorial Park, Sharron Baucom Dale City Recreation Center and Ben Lomond Community Center. Four years ago, the three centers had 75 dance students. Today, the number stands at 285 and things have changed.
Kiehnau, who has been teaching dance for more than 20 years, said the department’s commitment to revamping the dance program to bring all three-recreation centers under a single curriculum has helped shift the focus of the program from one of recitals to a one that offers productions such as the “Nutcracker.”
“Counties have a hard time making dance go, so what they did is make sure they have a dance coordinator at the helm. They opened up their ideas that this would be a program that would be opened at all sites with a consistency,” Kiehnau said of the department’s recent emphasis on creating a unified dance program. “It’s the same curriculum, the same training, the same levels. When we’re working as a team, we’re working together so that means we can offer the public something that is better than if every single site went off and did their own thing.”
Offering the classes, such as hip-hop, jazz, tap, ballroom dancing and ballet, at the recreation centers could help bring dance to students who might not otherwise have the chance to take classes.
“I like the fact that it serves the community and offers dance at a more affordable cost,” Kiehnau said. “I like the fact that there’s a whole team of support behind me. I like reaching out to a lot of people.”
Kiehnau’s team includes teachers at each site who have received instructor training and provides training to students of all levels, starting with students as young as two years old and continuing with classes for adults. Students progress to each level as they become more and more proficient. “Each of the teachers has to go through teacher training. In addition to that, the program offers an overlapping of ages.”
In Kiehnau’s estimation, dance classes offer discipline and creative thinking. Rehearsing and performing serve to build teamwork. It is also healthy and keeps children busy. “They’re here doing something good after school rather than sitting in front of a computer or the TV all afternoon.”
Students from the centers will perform a jazz show at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo building. Performances for the “The Nutcracker” will be at Ferlazzo at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 7 and at noon on Dec. 8. Tickets are $6 for students and $8 for adults. Groups of eight or more will receive a 10 percent discount on their total ticket cost.