Rock U 2 non-competitive dance and acting classes in Ocean Springs are designed to build more than just creative prowess in the artists. The time spent practicing and learning, with a focus on physical and mental safety, also builds confidence and helps with personal growth as these students go into other aspects of their lives.
“Making art is specifically important to personal growth because it requires discipline, patience, problem-solving, self-regulation, innovation and an openness to joy, happiness and peace (both inside ourselves and towards others),” said Summer Baldwin, Rock U 2 instructor. “The act of creating something new makes us feel alive, a part of something bigger than ourselves and acknowledged.”
This is the start of the third year for the non-competitive dance and theater department at Rock U 2. The classes are taught by Baldwin and Lauren Guynes, who both have higher education degrees in dance/theater as well as extensive professional performance and continuing education experience. They have both been teaching dance as an art form for the past 10 to 15 years.
The classes are open to students age one to adult with creative movement, ballet, acro jazz, modern dance, acting, kid’s yoga and special needs dance classes offered. Class sizes are purposefully small with eight in a dance class and 10 in an acting class to allow for enough space for the students to learn without feeling inhibited as well as personal, one-on-one attention from their instructors.
“As an arts educator who strives to teach the whole child, I feel that this approach helps our students understand that their emotions, thoughts, creative ideas and voices are valid, and that they are genuinely being listened to,” Baldwin said. “This helps to create an organized, calm and comfortable environment for learning.”
Besides just the aspects of dance and acting, the classes also include mindfulness techniques to help the students develop skills for dealing with performance anxiety, daily stress, and understanding/regulating their emotions. Baldwin said she also tries to be aware of what is going on in these students lives outside of their classes with her. For example, she may focus on relaxation and creativity-based classes during state testing week.
“This helps children learn that self-care and rest are just as important as training, challenging themselves, self-drive and enhancing endurance,” she said. “Allowing students the time and space to be themselves without an agenda makes them feel that they are always enough in a world that glorifies financial success, awards, multi-tasking, and quantity over peace of mind, happiness, quality and content.”
In addition to the mindfulness component, one of the most important aspects that Baldwin and Guynes focus on is physical safety. They know that growing bodies have certain physical restrictions that should be taken into account when pursuing dance as an athletic and professional pursuit, according to Baldwin, and they to keep their dancers from experiencing burnout, injuries and fatigue.
“In order to maintain a healthy body, both for dance and everyday life, training should be efficient, safe and monitored by teachers who have dance education experience in anatomy, and in injury-prevention for dance,” Baldwin said, adding that they have invested in an injury-prevention, semi-sprung Harlequin dance floor that helps prevent performer fatigue and impact injuries.
In December, the students will participate in small In-Studio Shares during class-time for the parents, and in May, they have the end of the year dance and acting showcase at The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center complete with costumes, sets, theatrical lighting/sound, posters and ticket sales.
The dance and theater department is a part of the Rock U 2 Academy of Popular Music where they offer individual music lessons, group rehearsals and live performance opportunities for kids and adults of all skill levels.
Rock U 2 is located at 2820 Government St. in Ocean Springs. Registration is still open – call 228-355-2025 for more information. Classes are $55 a month for 45-minute classes and $60 a month for 60-minute classes. Discounts for multiple siblings or students taking more than one class are offered.