Randy Robbins

Vanessa Spini of Gold Beach loves dance. So much so, that she has embarked on a pilgrimage to bring dance as a performing art to the Oregon South Coast.

Enter the Ellensburg Theater Youth Dance Collaborative.

Spini, who serves as both the collaborative’s lead instructor and choreographer is aided in her quest by “a good friend” — composer and concert pianist, Michele Goritz-Berlant of Agness.

The two friends are heading up the fledgling dance troupe by helping youth interested in dance. The performing arts group is available to youth between the ages of 10 and 18.

This years students are currently making final preparations for public performances set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at the Rogue Playhouse at 94196 Moore St. in Gold Beach.

The upcoming presentation is titled “The Gathering of the Individuals.” The stage is decorated to look like New York’s Times Square.

Students performing are Maizie Martinez, Abigail Merica, Bella Laakso, Donald Pariseau, Gavin Clark, Emily Adams, Litzy Vasquez, Dylan Jackson, Marrisa Somers, Hannah Heritage, Emma Armstrong and Scarlett Kilburn.

Merica, 11, has been practicing with Litzy Vasquez, 12, on their ballet number.

“We’ve been working hard on our routine,” Merica said pointing to her pal Vasquez. “We love dancing” but admits there is a small downside. “I still have all of my homework from school waiting for me at home after practice.”

Vasquez slugs her friend in the arm playfully before chiming in, “Yeah, but it’s worth it.”

The instructors both acknowledge that the maiden voyage for the collaborative has been a bit of a learning experience for all involved. For some of the children performing, it will be their first exposure to dance. But Spini is encouraged by her students interest and participation.

“They have been working very hard,” Spini said. “Since mid-January we have met three times per week. As a group we have put in more than 84 hours. I have worked with them individually and also as a group on mapping out choreography for their chosen type of dance. Next year I want to dedicate more time to each students created character development.”

Self determination and expression are the central themes to this program with Spini and Berlant allowing the students to brainstorm their dance routines. They believe that when the children create their routines, they also take ownership and work harder on the finished product.

“We are here to help them achieve the outcome they are going for,” Spini said.

She maintains that while she thinks technique is something to strive for, she finds it “far more important” that her protege’s be excited about making their ideas come to life and to see how they are connected to their dance. “Everything good follows that.”

The children aren’t the only ones who are doing the learning. Even a musical veteran such as Berlant has had to come to grips by teaching herself the contemporary nature of one of the students chosen genres — hip hop.

“Some of the kids musical tastes threw me a bit of a curve ball,” Berlant said.

She is helping the children explore and refine their character roles and composing original scores for the performances.

“There are three diverse venues are being expressed in the show ... ballet, belly dance, and hip-hop. All different, all unique.”

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and available at Gold Beach Books, The Coffee Dock and at the door. Reservations can be made by calling 541-247-5109 or 541-698-6239.

Spini and Berlant thank the community, sponsors and Ellensburg Theater Company for making this production possible.

The collaborative is sponsored by private donations and grants from the Oregon Arts Commission, State of Oregon Endowment for the Arts, Coquille Tribal Community Fund, Curry County Cultural Coalition, and the Oregon Community Foundation.