Dance fest grows in popularity

On Saturday dance schools from the Gulf Coastal region traveled to The University of Southern Mississippi for the Mississippi Dance Concert Festival.

The three-day festival was for dance schools and students in the region whom were interested in being exposed to different forms of dance early on in the school year.

This is the second year the dance festival has been held at Southern Miss by dance instructors Elizabeth Lentz and Julie White.

“It’s completely focused on dance and creative experiences for the kids in the schools” Julie White, director of dance education said.

This festival is touted as the only of its kind in the state. While many other festivals have competitions and lectures, none of them offer dance lessons for students.

“There was a real need to offer something that’s not competitive dance,” White said.

Since 2012, the festival has grown from 50 to 60 students, with over 40 on the waiting list.

“The list was only open for a week … It was first come first serve,” White said,

There were 30 students per instructor, and two classes are divided into intermediate and advance. There is also a third class for dance instructors who can also come to review, learn and renew their teaching license by attending workshops and panels. Students and instructors take three to four hour long courses each day for two days.

Students receive instruction from several of the professors and graduates of the USM dance program, as well as performers from studios around the South.

“We are really picky [with] who teaches the kids,” White said.

Some of the participants include students from the Mississippi School for the Arts, Power Academic & Performing Arts Complex and local dance schools from Laurel, Vicksburg, Mobile and parts of Louisiana.

“That’s why we started this, to have something local” said Elizabeth Lentz, assistant professor in the Southern Miss dance department.

“It’s really been helpful,” said Lisa Brown, instructor at Power APAC. “We never have anything that applies to us [dancers].”

“We are hoping to keep it in the start of the school year to kick off the year,” Lentz said. The event was held in the spring, which accounts for the smaller numbers during the first event.

Though both White and Lentz mentioned that they believe placing the event in fall will be most beneficial to all involved.

“It has inspired the children and the teachers,” said Brown.

Despite a waiting list two-thirds as long as the list of attendees, the founders to not intend of trying to accommodate all who want to attend at this point. “The goal is to keep increasing the quality,” White said.

The dance festival will happen annually. The festival might change its location to other parts in the state to help service students and teachers who are not in the Hattiesburg area.

“We want to make it a truly Mississippi event,” White said.

For more information about the Mississippi Dance Concert Festival, contact Julie White at [email protected]