DENHAM SPRINGS — Working on the assumption that children are almost never too young to learn, dance instructor Misty Bibby-Hardy recently led eight girls through three days of learning the fundamentals of classic ballet and jazz movements associated with musical theater at the Summer Dance Camp sponsored by the Arts Council of Livingston Parish.
The dance camp, a repeat of last year’s successful inaugural effort, was expanded this year to give the budding ballerinas more time to learn the skills it takes to eventually master classical dance. Last year, the camp was limited to two hours of instruction. Because of its popularity with the dancers, the program was expanded to 41/2 hours this year.
“I find that young people are very much into the performing arts if they are given the opportunity to try the various skills involved," Bibby-Hardy said. "These girls are absorbing everything I am trying to teach them, and they are having fun dancing. They enjoy this so much that it makes me enjoy being their teacher. There is so much reward in seeing children grow in any field, and this is especially true with the performing arts.”
The instructor added, “We frequently hear that young people spend too much time with their telephones and electronic devices … well, dancing gets them away from that. You can’t dance and work a telephone at the same time.”
The camp was open to children ages 6-9 and the number of participants was limited because of space considerations. The camp was held at the Arts Council Gallery on Hummell St. near Historic Downtown Denham Springs.
Bibby-Hardy said the girls were eager to learn all about ballet. “They showed up in their proper dance attire …leotard tights and ballet and jazz shoes … and they were ready to go. I challenged them from the start to learn all about dance and they responded in a most positive manner,” she said.
Bibby-Hardy said she opened the camp with a lesson on the history of ballet, and the girls were eager to relate some of that history when asked to do so. She also taught them the names of the five classic ballet moves, and the young dancers quickly mastered each step, she said. When called upon to state and demonstrate the five classic ballet positions, the dancers eagerly demonstrated each position.
Dance is a valuable part of the development of a child, the instructor said.
“Dance does so many wonderful things for children," Biddy-Hardy said. "It teaches them self-confidence, proper posture, motor skills, balance, and it gives them a chance to exercise and build their bodies. There are other benefits from being part of this effort. The girls are learning social skills and how to interact with one another and how to work together. It’s a beautiful thing to watch them grow as they quickly learn skills that add value to their lives,” she said.
The instructor said she has been dancing since about 3 years old.
"Dancing has always been an important part of my life. Sharing my love of dance with these young girls is a thing of joy," she said.
Bibby-Hardy earned a degree in English and Theater at LSU and a professional dance certificate from the University of Nevada. She teaches dance full time at the Odyssey Academy of Dance and is an instructor in the Tri-Parish Ballet. She also teaches dance in programs supported by the Livingston Parish and East Baton Rouge Parish Library Systems.
Molly Powell, one of the young dancers, said of the experience, “Dancing is exciting and I really enjoy it. When I’m sad, I feel much better when I dance.”
Tobi Foucha dance can tell a story that others can enjoy.
“I just love to dance and here at the camp I have learned some new moves that I didn’t know before. I like all kinds of dance, especially hip-hop, but I am learning ballet and I like that too," Tobi said.
Twins Grace and Ella Smith said they enjoyed learning ballet and other dances. Both said that they look forward to “dancing for the rest of our lives.”
Dixie Rigsby was looking forward to the dance revue that would end the camp. “We will get to show our moms and dads what we have learned and I think that is cool,” she said.