Teenagers from seven different schools took part in Dance and Dialogue’s all-city workshop for a day of master dance classes that culminated in solo breakout performances at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 10. The day began with counsel, and students then moved on to rotating dance classes taught by Dmitry Chaplin, Emmy-nominated “So You Think You Can Dance” (SYTYCD) choreographer and “Dancing with the Stars” professional, and Robert Roldan, actor and SYTYCD “All-Star.” The workshop followed the pace of a first-rate audition, where the 72 dancers performed new choreography at the Wallis theater before an audience of teachers and peers, cued in and out of center stage by Jeff Thacker, Executive Producer of SYTYCD.
Founded in 2013 by choreographer, dancer and Beverly Hills native Ricka Kelsch, Dance and Dialogue is a nonprofit arts organization that has worked with over 35,000 students across Los Angeles, offering free programs and workshops that marry dance and communication to break down social barriers.
“This morning we had an assembly where we started with our connections,” Kelsch told the Courier. “The students come from different schools, so we do some ice-breaker games and things that help them connect and meet each other.”
With each class rotation, students were presented with different techniques and new steps in a range of dance disciplines, including the Cha-cha-cha and Bollywood. In addition, the workshop also offered salsa dancing, taught by Chaplin, and a mixture of jazz and contemporary dance, taught by Roldan.
Students who were identified as creative leaders from Beverly Hills High School (BHHS), Fairfax High School, CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts, Verdugo Hills High School and Grand Arts High School danced Hip-Hop to “Lose Control” by Missy Elliott, musical theater to “All That Jazz” from the musical “Chicago,” and ballet to “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey, among others.
“If you go into this world and you audition, and they say no thank you, it doesn’t mean to say that you’re not good,” Thacker said to the group. “You may not be right for it, and that, you can’t do anything about. If they’re looking for a 6-foot-8 blond haired girl and you’re not that, you’re not going to get the job. But I would love to be able to think that you could maybe change their mind by what you show them you can do.”
After each performance, Thacker provided feedback and reminded students to take a bow before walking off stage. “Give yourself ambition, give yourself drive, inspire yourself and motivate yourself,” Thacker told the group. “And you’ll find that you give that to others.”
Now in its tenth year, Dance and Dialogue holds several leadership intensive workshops every year.
“I danced on the same floor you guys did,” Kelsch told a group of BHHS dancers who lingered after the workshop. “And in that studio was where my dream of being a choreographer was born.”
The next workshop will be on Oct. 19 at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at California State University, Los Angeles with over 400 students from 11 schools.