Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s July 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here!
article by Brooke Wagner
photos by Jana Graham Photography
“Show the world you’ve got that fire…feel the rhythm getting louder. Show the room what you can do, prove to them you’ve got the moves. I don’t know about you, but I feel better when I’m dancing!” It may not be a classic work of literary art, but these words from Meghan Trainor’s song “Better When I’m Dancing” capture a groove for more than just the cast of The Peanuts Movie! Dance, and other forms of creative movement for youngsters, has many benefits for growing bodies and minds. Fortunately for Billings families, another innovative way to get those little ones wiggling and twisting their way to fun is right around the corner. Movement Montana is a brand-new center for movement with plans to open its doors this fall. Renovations to the former Cine 7 Theater at 925 Broadwater are already underway, breathing new life into a fresh space to serve local kids who love the performing arts. Jenny Barriger and Jaci Card are at the helm of Movement Montana, and although they hail from diverse backgrounds, they share a common zeal for inspiring kids in our community to step into a healthy and fun lifestyle.
Barriger found herself in the dance world after her daughter’s first tiptoe into a ballet class. What seemed at first to be a passing interest, blossomed into a passion for her young dancer, who is now a high-level competitor, traveling nationwide to be featured in dance showcases. Barriger soon noticed the need in Billings for dance experiences for young hopefuls, and set out to help a small group of pupils stretch beyond what was previously available. She, along with some other local families, founded Elevation Dance Company in 2013 as a non-profit organization, “With a mission to raise the level of local dance education by offering high quality dance training opportunities for all youth.” Over time, Elevation became a stand-alone school, and currently offers classes in all genres of dance. Although the opening of Movement Montana will change the footprint of Elevation to some extent, Barriger knows the fun and positive environment that dancers experience at Elevation will continue. She says, “We want people to be able to be involved in the art form in whatever journey they choose. From the tiny three year-old, to the adult who used to take dance classes and would like to try it again, we will have something for everyone at Movement Montana!”
Card was drawn to dance from an early age and loves the idea of passing on the courage and confidence she gained through formal dance instruction to future generations of students who will follow in her footsteps. She says that achieving a new milestone in a dance class “becomes a circle, where more accomplishment brings more confidence.” Pupils young and old find that dance instruction arcs gracefully into other areas of their life, building self-assurance, creativity, and increasing overall fitness.
In fact, research has shown that many forms of movement (not only dance) are beneficial to a young child’s development. Rae Pica, Children’s Movement Specialist and author says, “Movement experiences in general have many benefits for children. They exercise the whole body, including the mind, and not just the muscles; they create a love of movement that should develop into a lifetime of physical fitness.” Pica also highlights specific benefits such as physical development, social and emotional development, and cognitive and creative development.
When children move, it isn’t just their bodies that are getting stronger. Picture a group of preschoolers tiptoeing around the room, pretending to be kittens sneaking up on an unsuspecting mouse. These cool cats are learning about concepts such as spatial awareness, as they try not to bump into their classmates, and experimenting with balance and activating their vestibular system. These big words mean nothing to these kiddos – they just know they are having fun!
As our schools become more academic and seek to provide children with the best possible educational edge, opportunities for unstructured play and movement during the day could two-step off to the side. Movement Montana seeks to stand in the gap for children and families by providing something for everyone. With its grand opening this fall, parents can look forward to a schedule that’s bursting with opportunities to get kids up and moving, whether or not they aspire to be professional dancers in the future. From yoga and kid’s fitness classes, to a high- level competitive dance company, and everything in between, the innovative dance and movement center will mark the spot for Billings families looking to find a new groove.
Movement Montana knows how important high-quality experiences can be for a child who may be stepping their tiny pink ballet shoes onto stage for the first time. Barriger and Card agree that as Elevation Dance Company goes into residence at Movement Montana, it will be a place from which not only quality dancers emerge, but quality individuals as well. Barriger emphatically states, “We are focusing a lot on growing people and not just dancers. There is no ‘best dancer’ because we recognize that everyone is at different points on their journey. We set out to create a positive environment where students will emerge as not just a more well-rounded dancer, but a more well-rounded person.” Indeed, this encouraging atmosphere is evident from a recent showcase held by the school. Upper level, experienced dancers cheered the “newbies” on from the sidelines, and each dancer was embraced and congratulated after his or her performance.
A staff of talented instructors, hand-picked to round out the diverse environment Movement Montana will provide, supports Barriger and Card. Hannah Monson is the Director of Early Childhood, and is lovingly called the “Fairy Godmother” of beginning dance instruction. Barriger refers to her interaction with young students as “magical” and says she brings an invaluable beginning to her students’ formal dance training. Erica Lanter is a lifelong lover of classical ballet, and will head up Movement Montana’s standalone ballet school. Erica has worked extensively with children and the arts, and will augment upper level ballet training with a special certification called Progressing Ballet Technique. Other instructors, Risa Darveaux, Tiana O’Tremba, and Rihanna Austin will bring tumbling and acrobatics to the center.
A plethora of movement programs are in the works for the future of Movement Montana. Yoga and fitness for youth are just two of the additions topping the list of potential offerings from the studio. Barriger says, “We will be dedicated to the same quality with these programs that we have provided to the local dance community. Bridging the gap from Montana to the performing arts world beyond is our goal, and we aspire to do it all in a positive and healthy atmosphere.” Every “mover and shaker” will find a place at Movement Montana, from the kiddo who wants to dance “just for fun” to the determined teen with big-city dancing dreams. Visit www.elevationdancecompany.com or find them on Facebook for more information.
about the author…Brooke Wagner is a Southern girl at heart, but a Montana girl by choice. She lives in Billings with her husband, three children, one dog who thinks she is human, and one very therapeutic horse.