Ladies of the Dance

Dominique DelGiorno, Ava Ruggieri and Kassidy Lambert

Dominique DelGiorno, Ava Ruggieri and Kassidy Lambert

The Sun Valley and Northley students who make up the cast of The Music Man are fortunate to work with a collection of professionals in the arts. That includes choreographer Jaquetta Colson, a dance teaching artist and choreographer for the education department at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts. She also is owner and director of Living Arts Dance & Fitness Studios in Fairmount whose primary mission is to provide affordable, professional performing arts and fitness programs to all.

As a mom to Northley student Kyrie (and a young son in Aston Elementary), Jaquetta sees her contribution to The Music Man as a natural extension of being a mom:

“When my own teenage daughter began to have an interest in musicals I thought it was a great opportunity for me to connect with her and support her school.”

But it is also an extension of her personal mission:

“I have always worked with young people even when I was a student myself,” she remembers. ” I started working a community youth dance program while I was still in high school and I loved it.”

Jaqietta Colson

Jaqietta Colson, choreographer reviewing a scene

Inspired, Jaquetta later earned a B.F.A. in dance education on full scholarship at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Over the years she’s enjoyed teaching at every level and age group. And sees potential in everyone.

“My personal belief is that any student can do whatever he/she can put her mind to,” observes Jaquetta. ” (and) I’m proud to teach, motivate, encourage and uplift using choreography/dance.”

With a large group of dancers to work with, time is tight. So
Jaquetta is grateful to have such a collection of dance talent at Penn Delco.

“It’s been AWESOME to have a cast with such talented young dancers. They bring a professional level of poise, discipline, and work ethic to the production,” exclaims Jaquetta.

“They have a vast knowledge of dance technique which allows me to give a lot of choreography in a short amount of time. And they are also great in helping other students who aren’t as technically strong.”

The aggressive approach has been a unique experience for three seventh grade dancers who train and perform together at their local dance school. Dominique DelGiorno, Ava Ruggieri, and Kassidy Lambert have all taken dance for more than a decade and find the pace of a show different from their daily dance lessons:

“Working with the choreographer in the show is very different from the teachers at my dance studio,” notes Ava.

“When you work with a choreographer you always have to be on the ball. You need to pick up the choreography quickly because there is a limited amount of time to learn the dance or you will get lost.”

Dominique DelGiorno, Ava Ruggieri and Kassidy Lambert

The ladies loosen up before rehearsal

Dominique agrees: “It is a lot different. I’ve learned how to adapt and catch on to a choreographer’s style. And it has challenged me to pick up dances at a fast pace.”

According to Kassidy, the years training in ballet, pointe, jazz, modern and other forms of dance have also helped them along. But working with a professional choreographer has its challenges: “It’s hard,” she observes, “because the choreographer may not be aware of all of your strengths and weaknesses.”

According to Ava, it is a challenge well worth it: “This dance experience has made me work harder to improve my dancing because these routines need to be perfect!”

Ava and Dominique had the opportunity to work with Jaquetta in Guys and Dolls at Northley last year and see the chance to perform at Sun Valley as a growth opportunity.

“I like being in plays and acting in them,” explains Dominique who has been training in dance for eleven years, “Except I am not the best actress. I think this experience has helped my acting skills.”
For Ava, it’s a glimpse into a possible career path: “This experience gives me a sneak peak of what I can be doing in the future if I become a Broadway dancer!”

And it’s that enthusiasm for performance that keeps Jaquetta energized working with Penn Delco students, whether they plan to be dancers or not.

“I don’t mind all the various levels of talent and skill,” she says. “Watching a student learn something new or realize that they can do something they never thought they could is incredible.”

And she offers this to future young performers:

“My advice for a young artist is to focus on their craft, to surround themselves with others who are also pursuing the arts and to constantly stay busy in the arts by attending diverse workshops, classes, lectures, performing.”

She knows it can be difficult but believes following your dream is important: “There will be tons of rejection as an artist, but do not take it personally,” she says. “Have a great team of loved ones to constantly encourage you no matter what, and never lose site of your goals. Have a vision of your success and stop at nothing until it is achieved.”

And Ava is ready to show the Penn Delco community how ready they are to entertain:

“I feel like “I got this”. And there hasn’t been a hard part through out this experience!”