MARSHALL - For the past 20 years, Prairie Dance Alliance has been dedicated to providing education in the art of dance to individuals in the southwest Minnesota area. That high-quality instruction also carries over into the summer, with an annual summer dance camp.
As in years past, the 2012 Summer Dance Camp at Southwest Minnesota State University this past week included exceptional dance instructors from all over the country.
"We have awesome instructors here," parent volunteers Rashell Thordson and Michelle Noriega said.
Returning from last year's dance camp are Zac Hammer, Ellie Potts-Barrett and Aleutian Calabay.
"I think the skills that these guys are getting from experienced teachers from all over the country is amazing," Noriega said. "How many small towns can offer something like that?"
Hammer, who began his dance training in the Marshall area with Charlotte Wendel and Densil Adams when he was 10 years old, focuses on jazz at the camp. He stays active, dancing in the New York area.
Potts-Barrett currently teaches in the Florida area, though, according to Emma Thordson, Emma Cole and Allie Bottelberghe, she is still a remarkable dancer. Potts-Barrett focuses on modern dance at the camp.
"She's amazing," Thordson said. "She stresses that it's about your feet and technique."
The trio especially liked that dancers had the opportunity to audition Tuesday as if they were trying out for Broadway. Afterward, dancers were placed in appropriate classes based on how well they performed at the audition.
Calabay, who currently lives in Minneapolis, specializes in tap and shares his passion for dance at the week-long camp. New to the 2012 Summer Dance Camp is Alex Karigan, who teaches ballet and lives in New York.
"She teaches that dance is about artistry instead of just technical movements," Cole said.
Rashell Thordson said she believes that even the youngest dancers realize the quality opportunity they've been given.
"The kids seem to embrace this as a wonderful opportunity," she said. "It's also new eyes watching and telling them how to get better."
Young dancers Jordan Kunkel, 10, and Emma Kepler, 9, said they started dancing at age 2. Both admitted they like it a lot. Fellow dancers Isabelle Tomoson, 9, and Rhyana Juutilainen, 12, said they've also been involved in a variety of dance styles for a long time.
"I've been in ballet, tap, modern, musical theater, jazz funk, tap production and some master classes," Juutilainen said. "I think my favorite is musical theater."
Tomoson said she is currently in Level 2. As she matures, Tomoson will likely move up to Level 3 and 4 divisions.
"I do jazz, modern, ballet, musical theater and some master classes," she said. "The master classes are when you get together after the other classes and do different things."
Juutilainen said that creative movement and leaping across the floor were two of the motions she's learned in master classes so far at camp this year.
"It's great," she said. "It's like acting for dancers."
In the group, Kunkel is known to be the most flexible, while Tomoson was said to have the best splits.
"It takes lots of practice," said Tomoson, who just moved to the area about three years ago. "I didn't know people until I got into dance. I really like it now."
Bottelberghe has been in dance for many years and said she still enjoys it. Like most dancers, she continuously wants to improve, though, and dance camp is a way to make that happen.
"It's really fun," she said. "All the instructors are nice and they give you tips on what to do in the future."
As a camp finale, the dancers will participate in the 2012 Summer Dance Camp Showcase, which begins at 7 p.m. today in the SMSU Fine Arts Theatre.