The Fort Lauderdale Children’s Ballet Theater: Passion Beats Pandemic

What is the true illustration of passion? The definition of passion is defined as strong and barely controllable emotion. But how does one show it? For some it can be through writing, art, music or any of many other forms of expression. In the case of  the Fort Lauderdale Children’s Ballet Theater they conveyed their unbridled passion for dance by not allowing the pandemic to stop them from sharing that passion. 

COVID-19: The Conflict and Solution for The Fort Lauderdale Children's Ballet Theater

Dance Dimensions, the home of the Fort Lauderdale Children’s Ballet, had to put a halt to many of their projects and close their doors during the pandemic. However, COVID-19, was no match for Rachael Ma’s vision and her passion to dance and show it off.

Speaking with Rachael Ma, one can hear the love of dance in her voice. Racheal, is a teacher in the studio, but her resume is very impressive. As is written in their website http://www.dancedimensionsfl.com, her bio states, “Ms. Rachael, a scholarship student of Towson University with a degree in Dance Performance, is a proud Dance Dimensions Alum. She carries with her a career in Broadway Musical Theater, Film and TV, and a professional concert dance background with various ballet and jazz companies. Ms. Rachael cherishes her union status in both the Screen Actors Guild and Actors Equity Associations”

It is without any doubt that Ms. Racheal has poured her expertise and love into her dancers. When it became evident that there would be no audience for whom to dance Ms. Racheal envisioned making a film. She spoke with Artistic Director, Angela Mauti and with Head of Production Linda Grbavac and with Stage Manager, Sandy Melillo about her idea. All three gave her the green light, and a film was born. The film was an innovative and creative way to keep on dancing and breaks barriers in today’s pandemic world. Ms. Racheal says, “We did something that no one has done yet. Not Broadway, and not The Rockettes! So, we are so very proud of what we have done”.

Safely Making the Film

Partnering up with The Broward Center for Performing Arts, and with the Michael LaFrance Film Company, Dance Dimensions executed a flawless production of “Cinderella” with the many dancers in their company. But how with the COVID-19 restrictions?

So many details needed to be studied. Kinks needed to be worked out. Restrictions needed to be followed, policies needed to be adhered, and distance was to be maintained. But how? Dancers need to have proximity and stage space is limited. What about the dancers backstage and make up artists, and costume preparations? Organizing this in parts was a beautifully orchestrated dance in and of itself.

Social Distancing and Safety Measures

The dancers were all kept apart at safe distances and wore masks the entire time dancing, even up to the day of filming. They had to ask themselves how many bodies could be on the stage at once or how many could be backstage, and in each dressing room. This posed an incredible organizational challenge and a financial challenge as well. Racheal says, “There was a protocol for everything. We had to consider a space for 20 dancers could now only hold 6. We had to shoot dance routines in short sequences depending on how many dancers could be on stage at once”.

The Broward Center for the Performing Arts was instrumental in helping them follow protocol and accommodating the dancers’ needs and safety. Michael La France was also a big help. In Rachel’s words, “Michael really accepted our vision and added solutions on how they could bring the ballet to screen”. Disposable masks were worn on stage and taken off just seconds before going on stage to dance and film each scene. People waited in the wings with a brand-new mask, as the dancers came off stage after their sequence was done. The Backstage manager, Sandy Melillo, was Teacher of the Year, twice! Her valuable work made for organized and flawless transitions between acts while following CDC guidelines.

There was zero audience – not even parents were allowed to watch. In order to make the production happen, everyone involved had to abide by strict guidelines and remain fully committed to being safe and cognizant of the risks and fully comply by the rules and refrain from having contact with people outside of their home.

Until the day of the film, the children couldn’t hold hands or dance together. To rehearse apart, and then come together and perform as if there were no restrictions, is an art on its own. And they did it! The film captures the dance production from start to finish as if it were live on stage. Rachel describes filming day as an emotionally charged great day! The production lasted 9 weeks and took a one eight-hour day to film. That is an impressive and phenomenal feat to achieve!

Release Restricted to a Few

Unfortunately, we, those in the general public, will not be privy to see this performance. It will be distributed in a link to those participants in the production. They then may share with their friends and family. If you are interested in seeing the production for yourself, you may contact Racheal Ma at info@dancedimensions.com. You can see a teaser clip and photos on their Instagram at @dancedimensionsfl. It will be released to the dancers and all involved in the production before the holidays.

The Company

The studio has dancers of all ages, starting at 5 years of age to age 18 with some adult dancers. Children from local schools participate in the productions and dances, as well as children from surrounding counties. For the production of Cinderella, many people wore many hats to make this happen. Some of the key people doubled and tripled up to serve many jobs.

Congratulations to all of the dancers, staff and volunteers are in order. Despite the hardship placed before them they beat the odds and showed that passion can triumph over anything, even a pandemic. 

If Interested, Inquire

The children that dance and participate in The Fort Lauderdale Children’s Ballet Theater don’t necessarily have to come from Dance Dimensions Studios. Some of the dancers come from other local dance studios as well.

Dance Dimensions holds annual open auditions for its productions. Auditions are usually in February for dancers ages 5 to 18 and who are currently enrolled in ballet in any dance studio. If Interested in this opportunity for your child, please inquire at http://www.dancedimensionsfl.com/cbt or by email at info@DanceDimensionsFL.com. You and your child might just feel that passion for dance!

Dance Dimensions Studios are the home of The Fort Lauderdale Children’s Ballet. Located at 4801 N Dixie Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33334, they are truly an Oakland Park shinning gem.

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*LivingInOaklandPark.com is an independent publication, not affiliated with the City of Oakland Park.

About the Author

Anamaria Moreno

Anamaria Moreno

Anamaria Moreno is an Elementary school teacher. Born in Costa Rica, but mostly raised in Venezuela, Ms. Moreno came to South Florida in 1996 where she has resided ever since. She graduated from Lynn University, with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She has taught in the classroom for 18 years, most recently teaching the first grade for the past seven years. Before becoming a teacher, Ms. Moreno was involved in volunteer work with the Child Life Specialists Department at Miami Children’s Hospital. She also served as member of the Board of Directors for “A Caring Pregnancy Center” in Miami. Most recently, Ms. Moreno has taught at an elementary school in Oakland Park. Ms. Moreno also teaches ESOL to Adults in Night School. When Ms. Moreno is not in the classroom, she enjoys baking custom specialty cakes, face painting, and enjoys creating Arts and Crafts.

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