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Building Lifelong Dancers

Mason Dance Center provides a strong foundation and positive environment for dancers to grow.

In 1995, Mason Dance Center (MDC) owner, Bobbi Wyatt, had two young daughters, Emily and Amanda, who loved to dance. However, they didn’t have good options for formal ballet training in the Mason area. 

“We were struggling to find a studio with a high caliber ballet program,” said Bobbi.

When the girls’ ballet program ended at a local studio, they found themselves without a dance home. At the same time, the children’s bookstore Bobbi managed closed. Bobbi herself isn’t a dancer or a teacher, but she saw an opportunity to stay in children’s enrichment and to create a place for quality dance education with a focus on ballet for the Mason community. Bobbi got together with a couple of partners and they opened Mason Dance Center in May 1995. 

Originally, Bobbi thought she would run the studio for a short time, but they are now in their 25th season. MDC has been located in different buildings over the years, but always on Reading Road in Mason. Their core is still ballet. “I feel strongly that students need ballet to learn technique and to be well-rounded dancers,” says Bobbi. “Some dancers may not think they like ballet at first, but by the time they graduate, it’s often their favorite.” 

Even though ballet is a focus, MDC offers a wide variety of dance styles from jazz to tap, and modern to hip-hop. They also offer acro (acrobatic dance) and lyrical as well as musical theater classes. They typically have one adult class per season. Currently, it’s a ballet-barre fitness class, taught by Kristi Lowe-Murphy, a former American Ballet Theatre dancer. 

“What we offer is based on what has interest, but also what will help students grow as dancers,” says Bobbi. 

For serious ballet students, they offer a Pre-Professional (Pre-Pro) ballet program. These classes are focused on the discipline and etiquette of ballet as an art form. They are filled with dedicated dancers who are constantly striving to move forward with their technique. Students join Pre-Pro classes by invitation or audition, similar to the competition and performance groups.

Even with all of these options for dancing and performing at a high level, MDC is not only focused on recitals and winning competitions. It’s one of the reasons that Laura Contreras loves having her kids Santi, 16 and Maria, 12 dance at MDC. “I love the values at the studio,” she said. “Everything from the music to costumes is thoughtful and age-appropriate. It’s about education, etiquette and the performance, not competition,” she said. 

Laura’s son Santi first got interested in dance through the TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance.” She was so happy to find a place that welcomed boys and gave him an outlet for his boundless energy. “The studio had open arms for my son,” she says. “I had concerns about how he would be treated as the only male, but the experience has been totally positive.” 

Santi started with hip-hop, but has since expanded to ballet and modern as well. Steven Evans, who has a degree in performance and choreography from Ohio University, is one of Santi’s instructors at MDC. “I really care about the kids and helping them grow,” says Steven. “Thinking about Santi when he started and how new he was, to how much he’s progressed is such an honor to be a part of.” 

Students have an opportunity to perform in the yearly holiday “Nutcracker- All Jazzed Up” performance (a benefit for Mason High School After Prom), in addition to competition groups and a year-end recital. However, there’s more to it than just learning choreography. “Competitions and performances are opportunities to get a fresh perspective,” says Steven. “They’re not being forced or pushed to extremes, and you see fewer injuries here because we’re stressing technique and using your body correctly.” 

“We like a good, traditional dance structure, it’s not just put on the music and dance,” says Bobbi. “We teach fundamentals and build from there, instead of just teaching to the recital.” 

At MDC, they create more than just great dancers, their mission is to build well-rounded, happy kids. “It’s such a confidence builder for my daughter,” says Laura, who has noticed improvements in posture, coordination and the benefits of having a supportive dance family. 

“They may not dance past high school, but they will have skills you can take to the bank like working hard, time management and working well with others,” says Bobbi. 

Twenty-five years later, Bobbi’s daughters are still in the dance world with her. Amanda is the school director and Emily is the director of the Pre-Professional program. They’re looking forward to celebrating this big anniversary by bringing back music from their many recitals throughout the years at their season-end recital at Mason High School on May 30. 

“We do have kids who stayed throughout the program and come back to teach, and we also see the next generation coming in as students,” said Bobbi. “We give kids a positive place to be, that’s welcoming, supportive and promotes an appreciation for the arts.” 

Mason Dance Center 

600 Reading Rd., Ste. B, Mason,

513.398.0353, MasonDance.com

Ballet

Kids can start with the Tippy Toes program at age three, where they learn ballet and creative movement. Students in first grade and up can enroll in classical ballet classes, which focus on body alignment, placement and correct terminology. When students reach age 10, they can stay in classical ballet based on their grade level, audition for a ballet troupe competition group or join the Pre-Pro program by invitation or audition. Pre-Pro has a defined dress code and a code of etiquette. It’s also where dancers can learn to dance with pointe shoes. These students have the opportunity to perform in the holiday Nutcracker performance in addition to the year-end recital.

Jazz

Dancers can start jazz training in first grade and continue through the teen years. There is also an option to audition for jazz competition groups. The focus for jazz students is on technique, correct terminology and performance quality. Jazz dancing is typically fast-based and uses sharp, and often syncopated movement. 

Tap 

Kids can start tap at age four in the Kidlets combo class and dancers in fourth grade and up can also choose to audition for tap competition groups. The focus for students is on technique, clear sounds, and correct terminology. Tap dancers wear shoes with heel and toe taps that are used to rhythmically strike the floor to create a percussive sound. 

Lyrical 

This fluid, graceful dance style is offered to tweens and teens, starting at age nine. Sometimes called contemporary and incorporating aspects of ballet, jazz and modern, students who take lyrical must also be enrolled in ballet or jazz as a foundation. Lyrical is also offered in competition groups.

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