Bethel, Jordan family share dancing heritage
Posted July 22--Each year the Jordan family coordinates more than 100 dance students to perform in the same show.
The Toe Tappin’ Jazz Dance Studio last month performed the musical “Annie” before their usual packed house at Telstar High School.
It’s been 10 years since Maryanne Jordan took over the Bethel dance studio, formerly operated by Sue Farrar.
“I see more of a commitment to dance in this area than in some others,” Jordan said Friday.
Decades of dancing
Her own family made that commitment long before they took over the business.
As a child, Maryanne danced with Farrar (Miss Sue). “I was Jiminy Cricket in “Pinocchio” at age 5,” she remembers.
Her own girls – Amanda (now 30), Heather (27) and Tiffany (21) followed in her footsteps. Heather and Tiffany started dancing at 3.
Maryanne began working for Farrar, handling some of the business responsibilities, when Tiffany started taking lessons.
“They had so many lessons, she was there all the time anyway,” said Troy, who started painting sets for the shows, around the same time.
And Heather, as a freshman in high school, began teaching younger students.
After five years, with Farrar ready to retire, the transition became complete, as the Jordans took over.
In 2004, with a B.A. in theater, Amanda started directing shows.
Heather, who is married, has worked for the past eight years at the Bryant Pond 4-H Camp, and continues to teach dance.
Her daughter, Gabrielle, danced in this year’s show at age 5.
Tiffany, currently a student at the University of Southern Maine studying exercise physiology, also works as an instructor.
Even Maryanne’s niece, Kristi Skalski, is part of the family dance instruction act.
She began dancing with Farrar at age 7. She’s now studying to be a nurse.
The young women’s involvement in the family business continues to be an important part of their lives.
“I love teaching kids. I love to be a part of it,” said Heather.
“I wouldn’t ever let anything come in the way of dance,” said Kristi.
All hands on deck
Maryanne said it takes all of them, as well as many volunteers, to prepare the students and the set for the June production.
The annual dance schedule coincides with the school year.
A show is chosen in October, and the cast and music shortly afterward.
After a separate Christmas recital takes place in December, “we start in January, work on the dances until April, then on the acts,” said Maryanne.
As the show approaches, preparations go into high gear.
“We take a full day to set up. We have people to do the lighting, the music, mark the X’s on the stage (for dancer placement),” she said. “We also have a lot of volunteers to sell tickets, help backstage and watch the kids (between acts).”
The show is performed on two nights.
When it’s done, “we take a deep breath and start taking it down,” said Maryanne. “Then we all go on vacation over the Fourth of July.”
Playing many roles
Why is dance so popular in Bethel?
“A lot of kids are just not interested in sports, or not able to do sports,” said Maryanne. “We have a couple of girls who don’t have great eyesight, but they can dance.”
Another student has cerebral palsy. “But if she dances, she doesn’t have to have physical therapy,” Maryanne said.
There are also emotional benefits. Youngsters with personal problems often find inspiration in dance.
“It’s an outlet,” said Heather.
And Maryanne and her instructors sometimes lend a friendly ear, as students confide in them.
The Jordans also derive satisfaction in watching the young dancers grow as performers and people.
“You can see the transition. It’s rewarding to see the kids come through,” said Maryanne. “And when they graduate from school, it’s hard. It’s like they’re part of your family.”
Maryanne said she plans to continue teaching dance “for as long as I can, and as long as the kids want it.”
And she’s confident it will continue after she’s done.
“It will be handed down to someone,” she said.