Home Around Town Woodlawn Proud of Student Performances Amidst Pandemic-led Changes (photos)

Woodlawn Proud of Student Performances Amidst Pandemic-led Changes (photos)

Members of Woodlawn Dance Academy’s 2019-2020 Competition Team leap together during one of only two competitions they were able to attend this spring before their season was cut short. Pictured (l-r) are Kaydence L., Marisa S., Taylor B., Sara H. and Danae P.

Submitted by Janel Stahr

While 2020 has had its challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, Woodlawn Arts Academy went to work this spring and summer to continue its mission of providing quality arts education and events.

The Academy’s 2019-20 dance competition season was cut short, with competitions all over the nation being cancelled. But before the closures, the team of 24 dancers, ages 6-18, made their mark by bringing home awards for Ultimate Elite, high scores and precision from the Groove and CRU competitions in Oswego. Students interested in joining Woodlawn Dance Academy’s 2020-21 Competition and Performance Team can participate in an audition workshop on Thursday, Aug. 6. Tuition is $20. Call 815-626-4278 or stop in the main office between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday or between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday to register.

Music instructor Mardi Huffstutler wanted to give her vocal students a chance to perform their spring recital numbers. Instead of performing on stage for family and friends, 18 students turned in videos of their solos along with their part of a group piece. The songs were combined into a video, and are available for viewing on the Academy’s YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/3078HyJ.

17 of Mardi Huffstutler’s vocal students participated in a virtual recital. Pictured performing their group piece in the video recital are (top row, l-r) Mackenzie A., Logan M., Elsie G., Cory M., Brady P., Makaylee P., (middle row) Gavin F., Morelia V., Mardi Huffstutler, Elliot L., Avery M., Kathleen K., (bottom row) Ian G., Leah B., Taylor F., Sean S., Mackenzie W., and Remington C.

The Academy’s sixth annual preschool graduation was much different than it has been in the past. The families of the 19 graduates were invited to come in one at a time for their student to receive their diploma and a small gift, and to see their teachers, Julie Kirchhoff and Bobbie Bardier, one more time before moving on to kindergarten.

Rehearsals for “Peter Pan Jr.” were well under way when the statewide closures occurred, with the cast and crew being just two weeks away from originally scheduled performances. Under the direction of Faith Morrison, Mardi Huffstutler, Dawn Arndt and Ashley Aurand, the cast shifted to Zoom rehearsals for about three months, coming together in July for a couple of weeks of in-person, socially distanced rehearsals in face coverings. The directors helped rework the choreography and the cast of fifth through eighth graders performed for a much smaller audience than usual in early July.

More than 100 Woodlawn Dance Academy students’ dance years were also cut short. The Academy quickly turned to YouTube to provide students with rehearsal and dance warm-up videos, followed by weekly Zoom rehearsals. At the end of June the dancers had the option to return to in-person classes for three weeks, then had the opportunity to take the stage at Centennial Auditorium to perform the dances they’d been working on since January. Registration for the first session of the 2020-21 dance year is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 8. Current students will receive information on their registration times. Students new to Woodlawn Dance Academy can begin registering between 1 and 3 p.m. that day by entering the east doors of the J. Mark Beaty Performance Center at Woodlawn Arts Academy. Please send only one family member to register, and it is recommended to not bring children that day. After Registration Day, registration will be open during normal business hours by phone or in person. Online registration is not available for dance classes.

A group of 15 talented adult actors from the Sauk Valley area got to continue the tradition of the Sauk Valley Theatre Alliance’s Theatre in the Park at the end of July. Under the direction of Tori Duffin and Dylan Hinrichs, the cast performed the musical comedy “The Drowsy Chaperone” on Woodlawn’s outdoor stage for three nights. Beautiful weather all three nights allowed for larger, socially distanced audiences.

The cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” this year’s Sauk Valley Theatre Alliance Theatre in the Park production, poses after a big song and dance number. The free musical comedy drew record crowds to the outdoor stage at Woodlawn Arts Academy. Starring in the show were area adult actors Chuck Price (in chair, bottom left foreground), along with (front row) Katrina Fancher, (second row, l-r) Ashley Richter, Samantha Butts, Harrison Brousseau, Kerensa Pink, (third row) Tim Schlegel, Leah Landis, Jill Price, Erik Oberg, (back row) Nicole Oberg, Angie Lobdell, Xerah Baxter, Kendrick Fisher and Sam Twining.

Woodlawn Arts Academy Executive Director Christy Zepezauer is grateful for the hard work and commitment that goes into all of the Academy’s programming, especially with the changes that have happened this year. “I am overwhelmed with pride for the gifted students that I have watched grow over the years,” she said. “This year has obviously had a number of challenges, but my staff and our students have done an amazing job at overcoming these obstacles, and I’m so grateful for the continued support shown to us by the community.”

Fall programs are scheduled to be announced this week, and the Academy’s program guide will be available online only at woodlawnartsacademy.com. Registration for fall programming opens at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 10 in person at Woodlawn Arts Academy, by calling 815-626-4278, or online at woodlawnartsacademy.com. Online registration is not available for dance, private music lessons and other select programming. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify. Request an application in the main office, or download one from the Academy’s website. Woodlawn Arts Academy is an agency of United Way of Whiteside and Lee counties, and programs are partially funded by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency

Leona O. poses for a photo with her diploma and a gift from her instructors after graduating from Woodlawn Preschool. Leona was one of 19 graduates of the class of 2020. Each had their own short ceremony for family.
Peter Pan, played by Autry P., faces off with Captain Hook, played by Tyler Z., in Woodlawn Arts Academy’s most recent musical theater production, “Peter Pan Jr.”
Sammie P. (back left) and Macy C. perform their ballet dance to “That’s Amore” during Woodlawn Dance Academy’s 2020 virtual dance recital at Centennial Auditorium, Sterling High School.


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