For parents of little girls, there's cute, then there's sweet and finally there's oh-my-God-that's-so-adorable.
Every Saturday morning at White Rock School of Music & Dance, the last description is played out in two half-hour classes.
As dance instructor Karolynn Fisher hits the play button on the CD player, a small group of girls dressed head to toe in pink, complete with mouse ears, can't help but smile excitedly. A familiar voice echoes instructions as Fisher leads the class through a series of simple ballet moves.
Kodak may have gone the way of the eight-track, but moments like these last a parent's lifetime.
The students at Saturday's class are part of an official Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy. Originally created by author Katharine Holabird in 1983 as a series of books, the wildly popular dancing mouse even has a musical in New York. Now, the "little star with big dreams" is sharing her love of dance with children in the South Fraser region. White Rock School of Music & Dance joins the more than 120 studios throughout Canada and the U.S. that offer weekly classes based on the adorable dancing mouse. The school offers a 34-week program inspired by the animated series Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps. The classes at White Rock School of Music & Dance focus on one storybook per month.
Fisher, who has been dancing for more than 10 years and teaching for the past five, said incorporating the popular kids books and TV show into a dance academy seems like a natural fit.
"From what I've seen, it really strikes a chord with the kids. They can relate to the character and kind of put the two things together. They love the classes," said Fisher.
She said the theme of the show, where Angelina struggles and sometimes fails, is a great teaching tool. She said it's not about perfection at this young age, but rather the process of learning and sharing.
Targeted at children age three to six, the program teaches beginner ballet at two levels. The Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy curriculum was developed by dance education specialist Beverly Spell, who has more than 30 years experience as a dancer and teacher. A graduate of the National Academy of Arts in Illinois, Spell's Leap 'N Learn program was developed in 2004 is a highly respected early-childhood dance program. Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy in the U.S. and Canada was launched by HIT Entertainment in partnership with AB Studio Licensing. The program already exists in the U.K. and Ireland, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Sam Beckford, who with his wife Valerie have owned White Rock School of Music & Dance since 1995, said having Spell design the program (now also available at their Guildford School of Dance location) increases the enjoyment for both kids and their parents.
"It gives us so many resources for the kids to learn from. It's hard not to enjoy it," noted Beckford. "It not only teaches dance, but encourages literacy. So many other kids programs only encourage them to watch TV. This does so much more."
For Denise Phipps, the chance to enroll her daughter Elle was too much to pass up. Her older daughter Mila has already spent time at the dance school, and Phipps was impressed with the calibre of teaching. Having the popular kids show as an added feature to the dance class made the decision an easy one for Phipps.
"It's definitely a good reference point for her. She knows Angelina Ballerina and loves it, so it seemed natural to sign her up," she said.
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