Students from PMPA had the time of their lives when they visited America recently, with the opportunity provided to perform at Disneyland California … Stacey Morgan shares some of the highlights of their journey.
PMPA students have recently returned from an amazing opportunity dancing over in Disneyland California; can you tell us how this all came about?
This was the second USA tour for Port Macquarie Performing Arts. With this tour we gave our dancers the opportunity to perform in both Los Angeles and New York City. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity; the experiences the dancers had, the teachers they took class with, performers they met and stages they performed on will make memories that they will never forget.
What were the ages of the students who travelled to the USA, and how was it decided which students would be given the opportunity?
We had 67 travellers in our tour group, with our dancers ranging from seven years to 17 years of age. The opportunity was open to all of the dancers who train with us at Port Macquarie Performing Arts. The dancers didn’t need to audition; they just had to commit to their weekly classes and attend all of the rehearsals in the lead up to the tour.
As the show we performed featured many styles of dance, the dancers all got a chance to shine in their preferred genre, whether that be Jazz, Tap, Lyrical, Contemporary or Musical Theatre, and we got to show off how well rounded and well trained our dancers are!
How long was the trip for, and what was the itinerary for the dancers?
Our first stop was Los Angeles, where we performed our show Dance through the Decades, which I choreographed along with two of our dancers who toured to the USA with us in 2013, Kristi Gee and Teghan Johnson. We rehearsed the show here at home for the 18 months in the lead up to the tour. We performed this 25 minute show at Disneyland, Universal Studios and Disney’s California Adventure. The dancers joined dance studios from all around the world to dance down Main Street in the Dance the Magic Disney Parade, a definite tour highlight!
Then it was on to New York City, where our dancers took class with industry professionals at Broadway Dance Center. We saw a number of Broadway shows (I managed to get in 12 in 9 days!) and danced on the stage of the famous Radio City Music Hall.
We toured the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and took class in Beyoncé’s NYC rehearsal studio, with one of her dancers, yes THE Beyoncé! We ventured to the Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre and posed for arabesque photos near the famous fountain. We toured the New Amsterdam Theatre, home to Broadway shows such as Mary Poppins and Aladdin, we tried on costumes from famous Disney Musicals like Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King and our dancers tapped down the real 42nd Street.
I travelled with my (patient!) husband, Heath, and our three year old Lucinda and eight month old Patrick, and we were away for just on three weeks, as we extended our time in NYC. Some families extended their tour and have only just returned now after visiting Las Vegas, San Francisco and driving cross country. Many families came home via Hawaii – jealous! The tour itself was 18 days and included a good amount of free time amongst all of the performances and masterclasses.
And the girls also had the opportunity to dance at the Abby Lee Dance Company in Los Angeles and meet the girls from the famous TV show … was this pre organised, or a complete surprise?
A complete surprise! As most of the show is filmed in Pittsburgh, we were blown away when we hopped off our tour bus to see film cameras, personal assistants running around and bright lights filling the studios. So many of our dancers are fans of Foxtel’s DANCE MOMS and the Abby Lee Dance Company, so they were already looking forward to this part of the tour, but meeting them in person was something else! We were told that from the footage they took, there was a high chance we will be on the show, so keep your eyes out for our bright blue PMPA dance gear!
I got to chat to Abby Lee (who was lovely, by the way!) our students got to have photos with the dancers, and then we got to take contemporary and tap classes from the show’s teachers in the Gold Oscar and Silver Emmy studios. Jojo and Kendall actually watched parts of our dancers’ class; this was a real buzz for our dancers! Some of them loved this almost as much as they loved Harry Potter World!
What was the highlight of your trip, and what do you think the students took away from the experience?
I can’t rave more highly about the tour or the amazing dancers and dance parents we took with us. Some families travelled with just Mum and dancer, some took Mum, Dad and siblings, others took Grandma and Grandpa too. It was a real family affair, which is so in the spirit of our school and the values of friendship and teamwork that we base all of our studio activities around.
Our dancers have all come home inspired and are working so hard in the studio, and that’s awesome to see. They are taking the knowledge they took on whilst on tour and they’re sharing it amongst all of their classes here at home, and it’s created such a positive energy amongst all the dancers at our studio.
For me, I had two highlights. The first was watching our dancers come around the corner as they approached Main Street during the Disney Parade. With Sleeping Beauty’s castle as the backdrop, just like at the start of all those Disney movies we love, our dancers’ smiling faces as they performed for over 5,000 people who were cheering them on … It gets me every time. The video footage I took just has me sobbing with pride in the background!
The second highlight was taking the kids to Broadway, the centre of the dance world. I have come home so inspired from all of the shows I got to see, including Hamilton (which will win all of the Tony Awards this year and is rumoured to be coming to Australia in 2020!) and I am loving using all of that inspiration in class with my dancers.
So, what’s next?
As far as international touring, our next Port Macquarie Performing Arts America tour will be in July 2020, where we hope to visit Disney World in Florida and then head back to NYC. This will be open to all of our students, as long as they are seven years old by the time we get on the plane! I have Twinkle Toes who are already telling me they are coming along! We hope to offer our senior students the opportunity to travel to NYC in 2018 as an intensive tour focusing on masterclasses and shows, and for all of our students who want to stay closer to home we are cooking up something special for 2018 that involves a little bit of national touring – more on that as we get closer.
For this year, our Intensive Performance Programme students are off to the Australian Dance Festival to compete in the Australia’s Best Dance Crew competition in September, and we perform Giselle at The Glasshouse in December. It never stops … and I love it!