Dancers take on bullying in Bethel

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Rehearsal for "Land of Lost Stories" took place last week at the Toe Tappin' Jazz dance studio in Bethel. Pictured are, from left: Blake Tripp, Makenna Cote, Maylynn Hastings, Emilie Tyler, and Koral Smith. (Photo by Alison Aloisio)

By Alison Aloisio, Bethel Citizen

The Toe Tappin’ Jazz Dance Studio of Bethel will target bullying in its production of “Land of Lost Stories,” to be presented today (Thursday) and Friday at the Telstar High School auditorium.

The story was written by Amanda Jordan-Ames and Josh Oliver.

Amanda and her sisters, Heather and Tiffany, teach at the school along with their mom, Maryanne, who took over the dance studio of the late Sue “Miss Sue” Farrar in 2001. Oliver took dance lessons as a youngster, and has maintained a connection to the studio and has written other productions.

“We always like to have a themed storyline with an underlying message,” Amanda said. “With this year’s theme, we decided to target bullying. Bullying has become a growing concern, even in a community like ours. Exposing kids to this subject matter, so they’re aware of the problem, will hopefully make them cognizant of the telltale signs, and how to deal with the issue if bullying occurs.”

The story is about three bullied students: a male dancer, a girl who likes bugs and a girl who loves to read. They are tormented by three students, known as the “populars.”

“All six of them are swept away in the library when a ‘bookworm’ traps them into a story,” said Heather. “The ‘populars’ need the help and knowledge of those they have bullied to save them from situations they otherwise would not be able to escape from, making them realize that popularity isn’t about how you look or what clothes you wear.”

Another part of the theme is that being unique is something that should be embraced.

How were the characters for the bullied students chosen?

Amanda said they were developed “as a collaboration of various people I’ve come into contact with at some point in time.”

But, she said, the character of “Kenny,” a dancer who is ridiculed for his love of dance, is included in the production for a particular purpose.

“We have had boys who take an interest in dance, but shy away from it or drop out at an early age, said Amanda. “Many don’t consider dance a sport, and dance has somehow gotten a bad rep of being an activity for girls only. We are proud of the five boys we do have enrolled at the studio, and hopefully, they stick with it.”

Amanda said she hopes the audience will gain some insight from the production.

“Our hope is that the performers and audience walk away with an understanding of what some kids deal with on a daily basis, and will initiate the change we’re hoping for,” she said.

The Thursday show will begin at 4 p.m. and Friday’s show is at 6 p.m.

(The show is also dedicated in memory of Bonnie Marshal, “Miss Bonnie,” who was a long-time instructor with both Miss Sue and Toe Tappin’ Jazz.)