Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Area teachers perform along side their students and families in The Nutcracker

For the third year, Greg Basham will take the stage with other dancers in a production of the holiday classic The Nutcracker, though he's not a trained dancer himself.

"They've had to do quite a bit of instruction to get me up to snuff," said Basham, assistant principal of fine arts curriculum at Blake High School.

The Theatre Arts and Dance Alliance studio in Lithia is putting on the show for the eighth year with the Tampa Bay Dance Theatre. Basham's wife Scottie, a new teacher mentor, and their daughter Ainsley, 11, are also in the show, along with five other Hillsborough County teachers: Deandra Dean-McLeod, Leigh Crosson and Tim Filipek from Bevis Elementary, Jeff Rawlins from Randall Middle and Christian Finch from Newsome High.

The teachers involved either have students in the show or their own children are participating. Finch is the band director at Newsome, and his wife, Beth, is the studio's office manager. It's their daughter Emily's second year in the show. This year, Finch took on the role of Mother Ginger. He stands on a platform and the children come rushing from beneath his large, round skirt to perform an acrobatic dance.

Filipek, who teaches fifth grade, was asked by a student's mother if he would play a party parent, one of the visitors of a holiday party at the start of the show.

"As a teacher, I try to do everything I can to involve myself in ways to help the students," he said, though ballet never made the list before. "When I was asked, I didn't hesitate. It helps me to understand the students better."

He wants his students to know that he cares about the preparation and practice time they spend on activities outside of school.

"As a teacher we don't always see that side of our students when they are involved in extracurriculars," Filipek said. "They'll tell us, that's one thing, but actually seeing them in action, I just stood back and watched them, and was amazed at how well they were performing," he said.

Dean-McLeod teaches third- and fourth-grade science as well as first-grade math. She used to be a dance instructor, and has been in past productions of The Nutcracker.

"I've seen it a hundred times and still enjoy watching it," she said. "It kind of gets you in the seasonal mood."

The studio has performed versions of The Nutcracker since opening eight years ago. It was small at first, with just a few dances from the show. They began doing the full-length show as the studio grew over the years.

"Each year, we grow our dancers and our costuming," said Mitsie Kraack, artistic director of Theatre Arts and Dance Alliance. "We want our students to have an opportunity to have a professional experience in a production."

Greg and Scottie Basham's daughter Ainsley takes classes at the studio. It's like an extended family, Scottie Basham said. They're supportive of each other at auditions, and cheer each other on backstage.

"They are putting on a production of The Nutcracker, but they also teach these life lessons to the kids," she said. "It's a great experience beyond dance."

Keeley Sheehan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3321.

 
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Published: 12/14/17