On their toes at camp

MARSHALL – “Thumbs. I don’t want to see your thumbs,” Annie Deutz exclaimed to her jazz class students Monday afternoon.

The students, who hurriedly tucked in their thumbs while practicing their kick ball change moves, were taking part in the annual week-long dance camp provided by Prairie Dance Alliance of Southwestern Minnesota at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“We have 44 girls from the Marshall area enrolled in the program, ages 6 1/2 up to 17,” said Ann Schlenner, the PDA coordinator. “Because we have so many girls we’ve added a fourth instructor.”

In addition to Deutz, who is originally from Marshall and now lives in Chicago, the instructors are Ellie Potts Barrett of Jacksonville, Fla.; Zac Hammer of New York and Diane Cheeseman of Los Angeles.

The dance camp offers classes in ballet, jazz, modern, musical theater and lyrical as well as a tap class.

Cheeseman performed last year in the annual PDA presentation of “The Nutcracker” with Hammer.

“They will be back to perform in the 2015 ‘Nutcracker,'” said Schlenner.

Dance camp is an opportunity for dancers to learn from different instructors, said 2014 Lakeview graduate Sydney Matthys, who has attended dance camp for the past 10 years.

“It’s a break from the normal instructors,” she said. “One person will explain a dance move and you don’t understand it and another person will explain it differently and then you get it.”

Matthys appreciates the caliber of instructors that PDA provides.

“There are big, top people coming to Marshall, Minnesota,” she said.

Alyssa Ahmann, a Marshall High School junior, is taking ballet and jazz classes. She said the two genres aren’t mutually exclusive.

“What you learn in ballet goes into jazz,” she said.

She said she doesn’t have a preference for any particular kind of dance.

“I like all of them,” she said.

Ahmann enjoys attending dance camp.

“It’s a good experience,” she said. “You learn different moves every year.”

The dance camp week ends with a showcase performance at 6 p.m. Friday at the SMSU theater. The show is open to the public and is $5 at the door.