A recent ballet rehearsal at Spotlight Dance Center begins with grand plies, stretch plies and just plain plies, all which consist of bent knees and out-turned feet. Then it’s to the bar.
Instructor Samantha Sullivan calls, “One, two, three, one, two, three, plie,” and “tendu,” and each of the four girls, with left hand gripping the wood bar on the wall, slides a foot quickly across the floor.
Next are pirouettes, with arms circled over heads.
“Chin up, chest up,” Sullivan calls.
This is the warm-up for the upper ballet class at Spotlight Dance Center in downtown Renton. Each of the four girls, ages 14 through 19, has been dancing for 10 or more years.
What does Marin Gow like about dancing?
“Mostly everything,” says the 14-year-old South Seattle resident. “Not the conditioning.”
This is Gow’s 10th year dancing. She and her three classmates have been dancing at Spotlight since the studio opened four years ago. They danced under the previous owner’s instruction at Renton Community Center before that.
Sullivan, 29, bought Spotlight last July. She is one of three instructors at the studio. In addition to ballet, Sullivan teaches tap, modern, jazz and lyrical. Other instructors teach hip hop, salsa and yoga. Ballroom starts this summer. The studio has about 160 students, ages 3 to adult.
A professional dancer with a Seattle performing group, Sullivan has danced since age 16, and taught for more than six years.
“I guess the best part is watching them grow and develop over the years,” Sullivan says of teaching. “I love seeing where they start and where they can go.”
Although Spotlight is too young a studio to have turned out any professional dancers, Sullivan says she “definitely has some aspiring dancers.”
Katy Steiner, of the upper ballet class, may be one of them.
“It’d be nice to do it later in the future,” says the 19-year-old, of Issaquah. “We want to continue, right?”
Steiner says she likes Spotlight because it’s less competitive than other studios.
“They’re OK with you the way you are,” she says.
That includes body size.
“That’s what’s different about this studio,” Gow says. “Proper diet, versus eating-disorder diet.”
“We definitely accept all shapes and sizes for any ages,” she says.
Spotlight is focused on performance rather than competition, Sullivan says. But Sullivan says classes are “still very professional in manner.”
“We don’t push for competition,” she says. “Our studio is performance-based. The aim is to make kids into performers, versus the stress of competition. And we understand that it can take longer for kids to grow into themselves as dancers. We don’t force them to develop early.”
Spotlight’s dancers recently performed “Alice in Wonderland” at Carco Theater. The show, featuring four Alices, was the studio’s annual performance, and included dancers from all of the studio’s classes.
The four older ballet students were practicing for the show at a recent rehearsal. All four donned silver masks and pants to play looking glasses. They twisted, turned and leaped through the studio to a Modest Mouse song. Alyssa Fung, 14, of Renton and Kimberly Steiner, 17, of Issaquah, both played the Queen of Hearts. Their dance, more like a haughty strut, was to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Steiner’s White Rabbit tapped and Gow’s Cheshire Cat jazz and modern danced to The Cure’s “Love Cats.”
Kimberly Steiner has danced since age 5 or 6 — about 12 years. She’s enjoyed her time at Spotlight.
“I love it,” she says. “We have great teachers.”
Spotlight Dance Center
Spotlight Dance Center is at 911 S. Third Street. Summer enrollment is now open. To enroll, or for more information, visit www.spotlightdance.net, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 425-241-3388 or 425-235-7033.