COAL CITY – The circus awaiting the hundreds of people who filed into the Coal City High School auditorium was one in which monkeys, clowns, elephants, lions and tamers were portrayed by elegant ballerinas, jazzy dancers, tap dancers and tumblers.
For the first time in the studio’s 24-year history, Morris- and Channahon-based Forte Arts Center, under director Pam Simpson, brought its two-day, four-show recital to a venue close to home.
Close to 1,000 dancers and tumblers, along with up to 800 spectators per show, took over the Coal City High School auditorium June 3 and 4 for its “Greatest Show on Earth” circus-themed recital.
The recital opened with a dance by the new spring, short-term class called “Dancing with Dad,” where students and their dads practiced a routine to present before the main event began.
Kami Greglire, 9, of Morris said she has danced since she was 2 years old and stayed with it because it’s a way for her to have fun and learn.
“I like the recital because I can have fun with my friends, they push me to do my best, we help each other and know we have each other’s backs,” Greglire said.
Students from toddlers through high school took to the stage in bright outfits to resemble all parts of the circus, from fuzzy lions to monkeys with big ears. Dancers displayed splashes of reds, neon green and blues, polka dots, stripes and a regal gold and black to create the bright circus atmosphere typically seen under the big top.
The recital consisted of two acts with a brief intermission in between, with a grand finale alumni and faculty dance after.
“I love being able to showcase what I’ve done all year, how much I love dance and what I do all of the time,” said fourteen-year dancer Haylie Juricic of Minooka.
Simpson said she had always had her recitals at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, but after the space no longer met the needs of her students during recital week, she began to take suggestions.
A dance mom suggested the newly renovated auditorium at Coal City High in the fall of 2016 and Simpson and her staff toured the facility and felt it met all of the needs, including seating, free on-site parking, large areas for the performers to change and wait to go on stage, clean and modern facilities, air conditioning and modern technology.
Forte Arts Center, which has studios in Morris and Channahon, has many students who live in the Morris, Coal City, Diamond, Channahon and Minooka areas, making the location ideal.
“It’s so nice, we have over 100 students who live in Coal City or Diamond, so this is in their own backyard,” Simpson said. “I like things to stay they way they are, but as a business owner I know things need to change. I have had so many parents say ‘thank you for having this so close.’
“During rehearsals they can leave and come back, when we were in Joliet, that was not really an option.”
The students have appreciated the move as well. Juricic said she thought the move was, “cool, it’s nice to dance closer to home so we don’t have to drive as far and my family can all come and watch.”
Simpson said it was no small feat to change venues. She broke down each section of the recital into students, workers, teachers, front of the house, and volunteers and put managers in charge of each section.
Students were checked in via iPad at one of four check-in doors through an app that Simpson and her team created to keep track of which students were in the building.
“I feel as though we were recreating the wheel,” Simpson said, “but it was actually a good thing.”