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After School: Live Oak Theatre Classes

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Folks of any age are invited to dance to their hearts’ content at the Live Oak Conservatory because they’ve added more after-school dance class options! Live Oak Conservatory is a division of Live Oak Theatre, which offers a wide range of opportunities for children (5–18) and adults to learn about all the performing arts. Some of the classes offered include beginning and advanced tap, jazz, ballet, voice, musical theatre, improv and acting at various levels. Classes begin the week of August 28.

Live Oak has expanded its after-school dance classes, conducted at the Carol & Frank Morsani Center for the Arts, 21030 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville. The new classes, a tap class, a Jazz class and a beginner ballet class, will take place at various times Tuesday evenings, from 5 pm to 8 pm.

“Public school students let out pretty late in Hernando County,” explained Vince Vanni, Live Oak teacher and spokesman. “Since our building is also used for rehearsals in the evenings, we have had to find creative ways to offer classes after school. We added an additional day (Tuesday), and Brianna Genao and Kat Burburan agreed to make that time available.”

Brianna Genao, who started dancing at age five, is the instructor of the tap class. Brianna continued dancing recreationally through elementary school and, in middle school, began dancing competitively. She stopped competing in high school and moved into other types of productions like “The Nutcracker, and she also choreographed “42nd Street.”

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Kat Burburan, a seasoned dance instructor in Live Oak, will teach the beginner ballet class and jazz class. She trained in dance for 12 years across multiple studios and teachers. She started her training at Erin’s Danceworks in 2006, learning ballet, jazz, tap and lyrical, and has competed in competitions around the country. She then began studying at John Leggio’s Center for the Performing Arts in 2012 with John Leggio and Edwina Nelson, who trained at the Central School of Ballet and went on to perform professionally around the United Kingdom.

Katherine went on to study ballet and modern at Santa Fe College in 2017 with Alora Haynes and Melissa Brenner. She participated in the student-choreographed show “Room To Dance,” created her first performed piece, and performed in those different pieces. Katherine has continued to dance independently, taking classes in Tampa and through online services during the pandemic.

Randi Olsen, artistic director of the Live Oak Theatre, advises all musical theatre students to learn some form of ballet, from beginner to intermediate.

“The basic ballet positions are the foundation for all dance in musical theatre,” she said. “Ballet gives musical theatre performers a solid foundation of good dance technique. For theater performers, it teaches the balance and positions of posture needed in order to properly pull off all of the choreography that goes hand in hand with a top-notch musical theatre performance.”

Vanni takes pride in the richness and diversity of Live Oak Conservatory programs. “What makes us so different from other dance programs is the fact that we are a repertory company, and the students get the opportunity to apply what they learn in actual productions,” said Vanni. “This year’s youth theatre program has well over 70 students!”

For the older set, the Live Oak Conservatory Adult Dance Class will be held on Thursday nights. This combination dance class that combines Zumba, Pilates, contemporary and more will meet from 6-7 pm on August 31.

Deborah Bonacki is the class instructor. Vannie shared a little about Deborah; he stated, “The thing that differentiates Debbie’s class is her personality. It’s a fun time for everyone. More than just a class, it’s a real experience…catering to the needs of the people in her class.”

Deborah Bonacki has garnered more than ten years of varied experience in jazz, tap, lyrical, hip-hop and other popular dance forms. “Debbie has been a member of the Live Oak Theatre Company for over five years and has co-choreographed two of our most popular productions,” said Vanni. “Live Oak audiences have seen her as the wife of Potiphar in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.’ She was last seen dancing in last season’s critically acclaimed production of ‘Newsies.’ Debbie is well recognized for her fun approach to dance and choreography.”

This class, said Vanni, will cover elements of jazz, lyrical, Latin dance, line dancing and wherever her students wish to go. “Adults with no experience, as well as those with experience, are invited to register,” he said.

Aside from dance, the conservatory is also expanding its other arts education programs. New Teacher Katherine Witherell is offering private piano lessons on Mondays from 4 pm to 7 pm and on Thursdays from 1 pm to 3:30 pm.

“Katherine Witherell has been teaching piano for over 15 years. She has served as a leader in worship and has accompanied the church choir for over ten years,” said Vanni. “Katherine plays for weddings and funerals and has earned the top rating in the National Federation of Music Clubs Junior Festival in theory, sight reading, and performance. She has written praise songs and choir pieces that have been performed by her church and school.”

Witherell currently teaches note reading, scales, arpeggios, chords, ear training, music theory, music history and more. “She loves finding songs her students enjoy playing and putting on recitals to motivate learning and make it fun!” said Vanni.

And Vanni himself will also be teaching an additional acting class at the conservatory. “We have just decided to add an additional after-school class in basic/intermediate acting on Tuesday at 6 pm, immediately after our youth theatre class. I am teaching that class,” he said. “The two other classes are already filling up. That’s the reason to offer a later class on Tuesday, to make it easier for kids who have late dismissals from public school.”

Live Oak Theatre & Conservatory is a family-friendly theatre program that exists to enrich families, individuals, and the community by providing positive artistic experiences in the Performing Arts. To compliment Live Oak Theatre’s tradition of bringing top-notch musical theatre entertainment and training to our community, the Conservatory offers classes in dance, music and drama, which together make up a well-rounded and versatile performing arts educational program. The Live Oak Conservatory is Hernando County’s one-stop destination for education in the performing arts. Private lessons in a wide range of musical instruments are also offered at the conservatory. Veteran performers and instructors are in charge of all classes.

For information about after-school classes and the Live Oak Conservatory, go to www.LiveOakTheatre.org/Conservatory, call 352-593-0270, or email [email protected]. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LiveOakTheatre.

In other Live Oak news, Live Oak Theatre invites the public to see their performers in action at IMPROV Night, Friday, August 25, at 7:30 pm, at the Carol & Frank Morsani Center for the Arts, 21030 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville. Doors will open at 7 pm.

Tickets are $10 when purchased in advance, increasing to $15 24 hours before the show. Concessions will be available for purchase before the show and during intermission.

“Join us for a night of family friendly unpredictability, laughter, and joy as our Live Oak Conservatory’s Improv Troupe, consisting of Elijah Torres, Abigail DePriest, Anya Bonacki, Alannah Allocco, and Lindsay McTague, takes the stage to create a show that no one has seen before, nor will anyone ever see again,” stated an event notice. “All games, all skits, all our actors’ choices will be inspired by you, the public.”

Improv, short for improvisation, describes “the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatever can be found. Improvisation in the performing arts is a very spontaneous performance without specific or scripted preparation.”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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