Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
First-rate costumes and skilled dancing combine to bring the public William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for the May 11-13 performances at The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts. The 1500s-written comedy will be interpreted by The Dance Arts Co-op’s ballet.
Executive Director Kelly Penland helped found the nonprofit in 2021 to provide dance instruction options, with about 10% of students provided a scholarship to assist with instruction costs. “As we grow and raise more funds, we’re hoping to be able to offer even more scholarships,” she said.
Cedar Lannon and Jada Bryson had been assisting Penland in the formation of The Dance Arts Co-Op, located at Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center. The three dancers/dance instructors began offering classes for ages 3-18 in ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, creative movement, and African dance plus a few adult sessions.
“Our goal is to further dance exposure in Macon County through classes, workshops, scholarships, mentorship, and community performances,” explained Penland, who studied dance at The Pinellas County Center for the Arts, a magnet school in St. Petersburg, Fla. Her specialty is teaching intermediate ballet technique.
Lannon owned Hallomai Classical Dance Ministry in downtown Franklin from 1994-1999 and then taught ballet at Betsy’s School of Dance from 2000-2020. She has directed 20 versions of “The Nutcracker” locally and teaches advanced ballet technique. Bryson is a Macon County local who grew up studying at Betsy’s School of Dance. She graduated from UNC-Asheville with a bachelor of arts degree in theater design and production and a minor in dance.
“She teaches our younger students, along with teaching African dance, and she spent two months in Rwanda studying African dance,” said Penland, adding, “Our other teachers are Carly Moser, Brooke Banks, and Diedre Breeden.”
Last season The Dance Arts Co-op produced “A Cowee Nutcracker,” presented at Cowee School. This season’s performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” required upwards of six months of practice and choreography. Approximately 60 dancers are in the production, and the choreography was primarily choreographed by Lannon, with assistance from Penland.
“It’s our fundraiser for the year that pays for the stage and room rental fees, supplies such as barres and mirrors, sets and some of the costumes, paying teachers for their in-class time (although much of it ends up being volunteer after-hours),” informed Penland. Funds also have enabled The Dance Arts Co-op to install necessary items. “We now have five ballet barres and seven mirrors, plus we installed a new durable dance floor in the library at the Cowee School this past summer.”
Added Penland, “We have collaborated with former Franklin resident Angela Montgomery, who has made seven exquisite custom handmade costumes for the lead characters. Angela taught ballet [in Macon County] for many years before moving to Greenville, where she is apprenticing under Maxine Moehlenbrock, costume designer for Ballet Spartanburg, along with training with Elizabeth Robinson, assistant production manager for the Governor’s School. She was the dance director at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School from 2003-2005. She and Cedar and I went to the performing arts high school together in Florida, but they both moved up here to Franklin their senior years of high school. The Dance Arts Co-Op has sponsored Angela for two sessions at the renowned Tutu School in Charlotte, N.C., and will be using some of the funds raised with this production to send her to another class in July.”
Also assisting with ballet classes at The Dance Arts Co-op, pointed out Penland, is Patience Clements. “She has been playing for many famous dance schools for over three decades, and we’re incredibly lucky to have her as a part-time resident in the Oak Grove community!”
For the upcoming summer season, The Dance Arts Co-op will be offering at Cowee School ballet technique classes on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., in June and July, along with a summer dance intensive August 15-24.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” public school and homeschool show is Thursday, May 11, at 10 a.m., while public performances are Friday, May 12, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 13, at 2:30 p.m.
For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, visit email@example.com or call (828) 524-1598. For more information about The Dance Arts Co-op, visit www.coweeschool.org.
Wonderful job you all! Just what Franklin needs.
Sharon C. Meier, M.S. CCC Speech and Language Pathologist