DANCE - Athena Phillips teaches new and experienced dancers at Powerhouse Gym
If learning to square dance in grade school was the last formal dance instruction you ever received, you'll still feel right at home at the new adult jazz dance class taught by Athena Phillips.
While most studios concentrate on children, Phillips wants to give adults 16-years-old and up the opportunity to learn the lyrical jazz dance style - regardless of experience or skill level.
'I wanted to focus on the adult and the adult body,' said Phillips. 'You have to respect what the adult body can do and tailor the class to that.'
Phillips started the class, held weekly at the Powerhouse Gym in Forest Grove, over a month ago. The task of teaching adults resonates with Phillips' own dancing experience.
She didn't begin training until the relatively late age of 18.
'I had to work hard, but I still did it,' she said. 'I have a strong reaction to music and I enjoy being really athletic. Dance combines the two things, so I was hooked.'
Traveling as far as New York City to train at top dance schools, such as the Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway, Phillips has been dancing for the last 15 years. Besides her sporadic live performances at shows organized by teachers and other studios, she has also taught children at the Forest Grove Dance Arts school.
Part of the reason Phillips decided to work with adult students was that nobody was compelling them to learn - except themselves.
'Kids come because Mom and Dad want them to,' she noted. 'I enjoy teaching adults because they are really hungry for it.'
The lyrical jazz style, Phillips explains, is an emotive form of dance that's fun for participants and improves their alignment, flexibility, and strength.
'It emphasizes the relationship between the dancer and the music,' she said. 'It's a really expressive form of dancing.'
Above all, Phillips said adults should not be intimated to try the jazz dance class because they lack prior training. Her goal is to offer a relaxed mode of learning, rather than a strict regimen.
'I want to provide an atmosphere for new and experienced dancers that is warm and friendly - not scary like a lot of studios can be,' Phillips said.
Classes take place at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays at the Powerhouse Gym, 1901 Mountain View Lane.
No gym membership is required to participate, Phillips noted. Six-week sessions cost $48 each, but students are welcome to pop in for an individual class for $9.