Jennifer Gage took on the job of TRD academy director a year ago this month. After a busy summer with a studio full of classes, intensive camps, and ballet and modern ensemble performances, Jennifer is happy to dive into the fall season. We caught up with her to chat about the growth of the structured program, a typical day at the studio, and her favorite moments from the past year.
Is there a specific moment that stands out from your past year as academy director?
I think the standout for me was that at the beginning of the season when we started talking about the “Little Red Riding Hood” end-of-year performance, a number of the parents said, “Wait, we’re doing three shows?” And I said, “Yeah, it’s going to be great.” And at the end of the three shows, the kids wanted to keep doing it. They were not sick of it. So many kids said, “I could do this all the time.” And that was really, really cool.
What are you excited for people to know about the TRD and VBT performing ensembles?
One of the things I’m excited for is that we’re filling in the gaps. The ensemble directors and I are reaching out to more of our open level students. We have a lot more adults who are looking for opportunities to perform. They’re loving the chance to work on their technique and show what they’ve learned. And just in the last couple of days we seem to have a growing number of kids in the age range from eleven to fifteen who really want to perform. Usually ensemble starts at age fifteen with just a few younger kids, but this year the kids are getting younger and younger, and they’re taking four classes a week. We really grew the structured program this last year so much, and they had such a good time performing in “Little Red Riding Hood” that they’re saying, “What else can we do to perform?” So we’re looking into starting a youth ensemble group. I’m really excited about that.
What’s a typical Saturday like at the TRD studios?
Today is a great example of a busy Saturday at TRD. We have our Mixed Abilities in Motion on Saturdays [TRD’s adaptive dance classes for students with Down Syndrome], which always fills the studios with an amazing energy of so much love, so many kids, so many different abilities, so many people who are happy that they found TRD. We’re growing our structured program this fall and now have three children’s classes for ages four to about thirteen. We also have our adult classes. Krista’s ballet class in the open program is very popular on Saturday morning. We have pointe class. We have modern class. We have a beginning ballet class. So pretty much if you’re looking for something, it’s here. And it starts with a class for students of all abilities, and that’s what sets the tone for the whole rest of the day. We had pointe shoe fittings today, so I was just working with a young girl who is going into Governor’s School this year. Todd was giving Pilates lessons in the Pilates studio. We’re definitely jamming here this morning.
What’s an important thing you’re focusing on this year with the structured program of dance classes?
One of the things that is helping our structured program to grow is coordinating the students’ placement in the classes. We started focusing on that last year, and I think it has given our parents and our kids an understanding of what the expectations are and what the goals are for different levels. It’s also given the students a sense of accomplishment. It is so important when you’re trying to learn anything to be able to understand what you’ve already learned and what the next thing is that you get to learn. We had so much growth that we’re offering two levels of modern, two levels of hip-hop, and a new jazz class for older preteens. Before this we had just one modern and one hip-hop for those age levels, so that really speaks volumes.
What’s the biggest part of your job as academy director?
I really spend a lot of time talking about dance: talking with people, talking with parents, talking with students, talking with teachers. That and schedules!