- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

MACON, Ga. (AP) - Dance students at Central High School got to learn from special teachers on Wednesday, as dancers from the New York’s Dance Theatre of Harlem led a Master Class in the school’s auditorium.

The 90-minute class gave the group of about 30 students the chance to pick up some knowledge from Jorge Villarini and Alison Stroming, who are in town for a performance at the Douglass Theater later on Wednesday.

“I think it gives me a glimpse of what it takes to be a professional dancer,” said junior Chris Crawford, who hopes to dance for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York one day.

Villarini, a native of Puerto Rico, said interacting with students who have such dreams is a perk of teaching classes at local schools during the group’s eight-week southern tour. Being able to help young dancers grow “gives you life” in return.

“The ability to come and share with students, we feed off their passion a little bit,” he said.

He added that it was particularly fulfilling to work in schools like Central, where most of the students were minorities.

“It gives a purpose to what we are doing,” he said.

The positive experience was a two-way street, Crawford said.

“I loved it,” he said. “It gave me a lot of extra pointers that I will need for summer auditions.”

Students and some parents looked on during the class, as did Central dance teacher Mary Mattmann, who is in her first year in the position. She said the class was arranged when representatives of the Douglass contacted Ben Bridges, fine arts director for Bibb County schools.

The class generally studies a variety of disciplines - ballet, jazz, tap and modern - but Wednesday’s class focused on ballet, the visiting dancers’ specialty.

“As an educator, it is nice to see the new connections the students make,” Mattmann said.

In addition to the caliber of the teacher, Wednesday’s class also presented a different voice for the students to hear feedback from. Those factors can help the lessons take root more than if Mattmann taught them.

“When someone who’s on such a high level that they really look up to says something to them, then it kind of clicks in,” she said.

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Information from: The Macon Telegraph, https://www.macontelegraph.com

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