Local dance studio continues to share happiness

By Linda Pang 

“Come on, Tyler,” Julie Berger calls, walking through the grass to the parking lot. Tyler is sniffing the ground, but moves closer to Berger when she calls. He follows her up the dark wooden stairs of a brick building with a green awning.

“He’s my son,” she says, laughing, and tugs on the leash attached to the small white and grey Shichon. Berger adds that he is three years old and a mix of Bichon Frisé and Shih Tzu. “He’s the studio mascot,” she explains, smiling. “Students ask for him by name!”

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In a cozy waiting area, a few women are chatting with each other on wooden benches and a large, red suede couch. The large window that looks into the main dance studio shows a darkened classroom, dimly lit by rope lights, and sounds of a slow pop song wafts through the closed door. Shadowy figures can be seen inside doing cool-down stretches in their fitness class.

Paintings and posters of dancers line the walls. Nearby, a red, fabric-covered table displays tan and black ladies’ latin and ballroom dance shoes with gemstone-covered-heels that sparkle when they catch the light.

Off leash, Tyler roams the waiting area as the previous class finishes. Berger exchanges her sandals for tap shoes, grabs her pink covered laptop, and heads into the studio room, where the adult tap students are waiting.

“Welcome, it’s week one,” Berger says, motioning her students towards the center. The sounds of clicks, clacks, and taps fill the room as they make their way into a circle.

“I’m so excited for this new choreography!” Berger declares. “But first, let’s go around the room and say your name and one fun tap fact to fill the room with good vibes!”

The class of eight women and one man take turns sharing their names and facts, with laughter, cheers, and applause from their classmates. Berger instructs the class to form two lines and face the front floor-to-ceiling mirrors, which are bordered by rope lighting giving off a warm glow beneath the fluorescent overhead lights. She returns to the front of the room to begin warm-up.

“Eight shuffles front, three, four… seven, eight, side…back, now four,” Berger calls out, as she flicks her leg and taps her shoe. “Both feet now to the side… toe, heel, toe, step and clap.”

The faces in the mirror look serious as students concentrate to follow the pattern, watching her feet in the mirror. Click. Clack. Clickity. Clack. Clack. The sounds of 10 pairs of tap shoes moving in unison fill the room and echo off of the walls, mirrors, and smooth tan floors.

“It’s okay to smile and have fun,” Berger says, reminding her students with a laugh.

Berger, 34, is the founder and artistic director of Salsa in the Suburbs Dance Studio in Media, Pa., and her days are filled with both teaching and administrative responsibilities. This past May, the studio celebrated its 10-year anniversary and Berger couldn’t be happier.

The happiness shows as tap class begins wrapping up an hour later with a mini exercise. After each student gets a chance to show-off to applause from their classmates, Berger gathers the group into a circle again with their hands in the center.

“One, two, three…” she calls out.

“Best tap session ever!” shouts the entire group in reply, raising their hands into the air as a team.

After class, Berger quickly checks-in at the desk, while swapping tap shoes for strappy, satin dance shoes with gem-covered heels.

She is multi-tasking: answering questions from a student, chatting with Kim, changing shoes, and instructing her co-teacher for the next class to get the group started. Ryan Morfei, a high school student and the studio’s youngest Latin dance instructor, nods and heads to the studio, calling the intermediate bachata performance students to follow as he walks past.

“Dancers, get into two lines and look ready to warm up!” Berger says, calling out to the dancers as she closes the door. Berger and Morfei take their places in the front of the room, leading the co-ed group of dancers through bachata dance warm-ups.

Berger fell in love with dance at a young age, starting tap classes at age three. As she became more experienced, she started teaching hip-hop and tap lessons at age 14 to classes of eight-year-olds, before teaching tap lessons at a Latin dance studio later on. Berger said although she chose to study theater in college, she wanted to veer back to her first love of performing arts: dance.

Berger added that her first vivid memory of salsa was in a London nightclub, when she was 20 and studying abroad.

“It was mystical,” she says. “I wanted to understand what it was.” Her next vivid experience was in France, when she went to teach English.

“I started the studio because I fell in love with salsa dancing and wanted to share that with everyone,” Berger says. “I felt like I had to share this great secret with the world!”

Her first salsa classes were taught in a small, rented room above a pizza shop.

Today, Salsa in the Suburbs Dance Studio offers a variety of classes for adult students, mostly in the evenings and on weekends, plus special dance socials and workshops. There are Latin dance classes such as salsa, bachata, beginner and intermediate group performance classes, plus fitness classes such as Zumba and yoga. Berger adds that other dance styles, such as ballroom, swing, belly dance, ballet, and burlesque, are available currently through private lessons and half-day workshops.

According to Berger, adult tap has been offered at Salsa in the Suburbs for only the past year, after she finished creating her Latin dance curriculum, a systemized and detailed syllabus for each course from beginner to advanced dancers.

“I’ve videotaped the patterns and trained the teachers so they can all teach it,” Berger says. “It was hard before to take a vacation, now it’s so easy to just go.” She adds that the instructors can also use the videos as reference and, with new instructors to help teach, she was finally able to find an open slot to offer tap classes.

“It’s one of my happiest hours of the week,” Berger exclaims. “My first dance language.”

But Berger admits that there are still daily obstacles and running her own business isn’t always smooth sailing. “Some obstacles right now are figuring out where the company should go,” Berger says, adding that another challenge is setting long-term goals for the company’s growth and future vision.

Back in the classroom, Berger lets Morfei takes the reins as he explains the next section of choreography. At times, the class splits into two groups, based on gender, to work on footwork and arm styling for specific sections, Morfei leading the males.

“It needs to be a cross, step-out, and lunge,” Berger instructs, demonstrating at the same time. She adds choreography and then isolates just the arms for practice.

During the last minutes of a two-hour class, Berger calls out the choreography they have learned while the dancers walk through the steps. The dancers try it twice before she adds the music, encouraging them to try it at regular speed.

“It’s fast!” exclaims a student in surprise as the selection ends.

Berger agrees, reminding them that there are still many weeks until their upcoming performance to get it perfect, as they exit the studio room.

While she is still thankful for finding the current location, Berger adds that she has big dreams for her company. Berger explains that initially she was renting a private space by the hour and is now renting her own space with two studio rooms. “I wanted my own space in Media,” she says. “But I didn’t even know what that meant.” Now that she’s been in the current space for a few years, she says she has an idea.

“Maybe form another studio location or find a place to have a bigger studio” she says, explaining that it would require having a completely full program to fill the studio with classes all day.

“We have a successful daytime yoga program finally,” Berger says. “In the day, you’re really limited to your audience.” She adds that she hopes to fill all of the quiet time, so that she can feel like the studio has truly outgrown its current space, while continuing to pursue its mission of using dance as a “vehicle to enhance and change lives.”

“There’s a quote about if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life,” Berger explains. “I sometimes wish I could see more friends or have evenings free, but I really love it here. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”

Contact Linda Pang at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

 

DCCC students join thousands for CollegeFest

By Victoria Lavelle

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Thousands of college students gathered at Philadelphia’s Dilworth Park for the 10th annual CollegeFest, a city-wide festival full of giveaways, entertainment, free admission to museums and more on Sept. 9th.

Produced by Campus Philly, the event welcomed college students with a valid college ID to explore 14 city exhibits, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, and Eastern State Penitentiary.

More than 30 students from Delaware County Community College registered for the event which cost $5 to cover transportation. Organized by Breanne Rogers, assistant director of the Campus Life office, the group gathered outside the Marple campus main entrance early Saturday and filled a local school district bus to near capacity.

“We have a large group of DCCC International students who I am pleased to have join us for CollegeFest this year,” Rogers said. “Today’s event will be a beneficial occasion because it will introduce them to the city of Philadelphia, while comfortably being surrounded by their peers and friends.”

Event organizer Campus Philly is a nonprofit organization that fuels economic growth by encouraging college students to study, explore, live and work in the Greater Philadelphia tri-state region. According to their mission statement, the organization “helps college students find that moment when they fall in love with Philadelphia.

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For once that moment occurs, students will begin to think of building their futures in Philadelphia.”

A 2010 Campus Philly survey of 4,600 undergraduates, graduate students and alumni reported 48 percent of all non-native area college alumni stayed in the greater-Philadelphia area after graduation, a sharp increase compared to the 29 percent findings from a 2004 survey conducted by Knowledge Industry Partnership (KIP).

“CollegeFest has evolved over the years, even before Campus Philly was a full-fledged organization,” said Brynn Monaghan, the Campus Philly communications manager. “Introducing students to the area has become our focus, while making it the best five hours in Philly with the help of local museums, exhibits, vendors, and entertainment.”

With an autumn breeze in the air, the venue kicked off with a wide range of activities. Students downloaded new mobile applications, competed in relay races, spun game wheels for prizes, and explored the city by riding the Philly PHLASH Downtown Loop tourist trolley for free.

An array of businesses partnered with CollegeFest for exclusive setups in the tent village, which included the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) student lounge, the AT&T cellular charging station, the Capital One photo booths, and the Vanguard dunking station.

“I am excited to be attending CollegeFest because it offers a chance to meet students from other universities and colleges throughout the Delaware Valley, and Eastern State Penitentiary tops the list of places to visit today,” said DCCC nursing student Rebecca Bennett.

Philadelphia’s native hip-hop artist Chill Moody headlined the entertainment with a live performance on the mainstage at noon. The crowd cheered as he sang chart topping songs including “Home Again,” “Never Fall,” and “Inhale, Exhale.” Afterwards, Moody stepped out into the audience to meet with fans and pose for photos. The official disc jockey was DJ Reezey, and this year’s emcee was Akeen Dixon.

Before students left, they took advantage of free swag from a variety of organizations and companies including Go- Puff, Monster Energy, IKEA, and L.L. Bean. Sunglasses, key chains, pens, backpacks, notebooks, and gift certificates were all part of student takeaways as students walked away from the festival with bags and hands full.

To close out the event, Philadelphia’s collegiate were offered 10 dollar discount tickets to attend the Temple Owls vs. Villanova Tigers football game at Lincoln Financial Field.

Vivian Nguyen, a DCCC business administration major and first-timer to the event, described her expectations as enthusiastic.

“I don’t know my way around Philadelphia because it’s such a big and busy city, so the main attraction for me was the transportation in combination with the longlist of free venues offered,” Neguyen said. “Though I thoroughly enjoyed the brain exhibit at the Franklin Institute, I wish we would have had more time to explore some of the other venues. I will likely return next year for the opportunity.”

Contact Victoria Lavelle at communitarian@m ail.dccc.edu

The Arts

The Faculty Art Exhibition will run through Oct. 6 in the Art Gallery on Marple Campus. The exhibition showcases original artwork created by the College’s visual arts faculty. Photos by Shondalea Wollaston and courtesy of Edem Norgah

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Chrome plated baby item by Professor Aimee Gilmore

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Charcoal drawing by Professor Robert Jones

Art students define their foundation in A.F.A Exhibition

By Hania Jones

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The Associates of Fine Arts Foundations art exhibition gives art students an opportunity to display their art at a gallery on Marple Campus. Photo by Hania Jones

The Associates of Fine Arts Foundations exhibition held their open reception on Oct. 20, on Marple campus to showcase artwork by students enrolled in the Foundations program at DCCC.

The opening reception included an award ceremony with guest juror Professor Aaron Thompson from the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, who announced the recipients.

“We have a relationship with PCAD,” explained DCCC gallery director Caitlin Flaherty. “Building a relationship between the two schools will get most of their credits of the arts transferred over there.”

In addition to Thompson, faculty of the A.F.A. programs were also jurors. Bob Jones, professor of graphic design, announced the honorable mentions.

Nhi Ton, one of the purchase award winners, won for her color and design artwork. It was purchased for $200 by the college to have in their permanent art collection.

“This is the third time I had my art displayed,” Ton said. “I had my art displayed in the exhibit last year and also at the Graduation Art Show.”

Rebecca Sabinga won the purchase award for her mixed media titled “Drawing II.” Sabinga shared some background information about her piece simply titled, “Shoe.”

“Basically, my assignment was scaled-up shoes,” she said. “I had no inspiration to the assignment, so I went into my family shoes and got my dad’s wedding sandal.”

This was not Sabinga’s first time having her art exhibited at a college.

“I had some art exhibited at Lake Erie College,” Sabinga shared.

Omair Ali received the purchase award for his digital print titled, “David and Goliath,” an allegory for depression.

“It’s overwhelming,” Ali said.

Among the honorable mentions were students like Taylor Super, Heather Scullin, Michelle Reif, and Eileen Toole. Other students who had their artwork displayed also shared their thoughts on their own art pieces.

“My painting, ‘Two-Point Perspective’ is about perspective,” said Rebekah Williams, who added her painting challenges the viewer’s perception of space. “Things are at a distance, so when you look at it, at an angle, it gives you a new perspective.”

Genna Hennessey shared her enthusiasm and pride over her steampunk inspired graphic artwork.

“[I am] very excited!” Hennessey said. “Honestly, it’s the best feeling having your best work displayed.”

The foundations exhibition has been at DCCC for six years. It is one of the many exhibitions that the art gallery hosts, including a student-based exhibit so art students can get exposure.

“The art sector is very heavy,” Flaherty said. “Who you know, who you are around, what galleries you’re in, just getting your work out there and getting exposure. So I think this is really great for the students to step inside that.”

According to Flaherty, the art gallery not only gives art students exposure, but also gives students of other majors exposure to the arts.

“Our mission is to reach out to other areas in the college because for such a long time, a lot of people did not know that the art gallery even existed because it was so closed off and not a lot of people knew about it,” Flaherty said. “We have students who are coming in with other majors who appreciate the artwork so amazingly much. I had so many students coming up to me and saying, ‘Students did this?’ ‘Wait, they did this?’ ‘How did they do that?’ ‘Can you put me in touch with them?’ So I hope I can make those connections with other students through the artwork of their peers.”

In addition, the art gallery has jump started successful careers of past students by showcasing their work in exhibits.

Former student Cecilia Bursell, whom, according to her LinkedIn page, has 12 years of experience in graphic design and is a design director for Nickelodeon.

DCCC alumnus Michael Houz, is a graphic designer who has worked for prominent companies such as The Heads of State and Blackrose NYC and has client experience with The New York Times, Scholastic Books, and Columbia University, according to his official website.

The A.F.A Foundations exhibition will be open until Nov. 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The next exhibit, 215 | 610 Contemporary Exhibition, will be open to the public from Dec. 7 to Jan. 13 and will feature artwork from regional artists, according to Flaherty. Pepón Osario of the Tyler School of Art and recent member of President Barack Obama’s National Committee of the Arts will jury the event.

“Fellow artists can make connections within one another and within themselves,” Flaherty concluded.

Contact Hania Jones at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu