By Ann Reily
---- — A new endeavor at Newburyport’s Firehouse Center for the Arts is aimed at talented young singers and dancers looking to improve their performance techniques.
As one of the mentors behind the popular Glee Club, Julie Pike Edmond said that over the past three years, she has encountered a number of “really talented kids who could go even further and be pushed more.”
With that in mind, Pike Edmond and Johanna Hoyt Kimball decided to create a program specifically for those youngsters who have already had dance and vocal training, as well as experience in choral groups or theatrical productions.
The Raise the Bar[re] Performance Project is an intensive workshop that will be held over February vacation week in the Market Square theater. Open to students in fourth through 12th grade, the four-day, 20-hour program will provide advanced training and teach participants how to work together as an ensemble.
“We tried to come up with this plan, this workshop intensive, to really give these kids an opportunity,” said Pike Edmond, who teaches ballet, creative movement, modern dance and jazz at The Dance Place in Newburyport, Ipswich Moving Company and The Governor’s Academy in Byfield. “Let’s hone in a little more on their skills and give them feedback, really pull that little star inside them out.”
“Based on the success of the Glee Club, we just thought this might be a way that we could reach out to those kids in the community who would be looking to literally raise the bar in terms of their performance as a group,” said Hoyt Kimball, who teaches music at Cashman School in Amesbury and The Musical Suite in Newburyport.
Like the Glee Club, the workshop will end with a performance that allows the students to show off what they’ve learned. Unlike the Glee Club, youths must audition to earn a spot.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for kids that are really interested in getting a little more intensive training, so they can pinpoint more of their strengths and weaknesses and how we can improve that,” Pike Edmond said. “It’s allowing them to work with everyone at the same caliber, so it’s not this mix of abilities.”
“Really the best program is a synthesis of many activities that young people do individually — music-making, dance, acting,” Hoyt Kimball said. “So we’re literally trying to combine those and see what we can put together in a few days’ time with a sort of showcase performance at the end of it.”
While they have an outline in mind, Pike Edmond said they will really work on tailoring the workshop once they have assembled the group of youths. The program has a maximum enrollment of 22, with a cost of $140 per student.
At Saturday’s auditions, which will be held at The Dance Place, Pike Edmond said she will be on the lookout for dancers who have both technical ability and creativity.
“I’m looking for that little spark in a dancer,” she said. “If I ask them a question, can they take that question and answer it with their body?”
Additionally, she wants to see students who work well with others and are willing to focus solely on the task at hand. She also thinks a sense of humor is crucial.
“I want everyone to succeed, so the biggest thing is it’s a fun environment,” she said. “I’m looking for a student that is comfortable in their skin and can show me their confidence in a very relaxed, positive way and can work with other kids, can work as an ensemble.”
If you go
What: Auditions for Raise the Bar[re] Performance Project
Who: Students in grades four through 12
When: Saturday, 2 p.m. Program runs Feb. 18-21 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: The Dance Place, The Tannery Marketplace, Mill 1, 50 Water St., Newburyport
Prerequisites: One to three years’ experience in either ballet, jazz, modern, lyrical or tap dance. Previous participation in school or community choruses or theatrical/dance productions.
More information: For an audition slot, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 978-499-9931.