To say it was like dancing with the stars would be alluding to the wrong television show, but it's what 20 local dance students got to do Saturday when one star and one instructor from the hit show "Dance Moms" gave a master class at the Altoona Dance Theatre.
Jennie Wedge, 24, of Pittsburgh and an instructor with the Abby Lee Dance Company, along with Kendall Vertes, 9, of Penn Township and a dancer with the company and character on the Lifetime TV show, gave the 90-minute master class.
Filled with local dancers of various ages and skill levels, the class started with stretching and work on the ballet bar, and ended with the girls learning a contemporary jazz combination choreographed by Wedge.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Dance instructor Jennie Wedge of the Abby Lee Dance Company of Pittsburgh instructs students at the Altoona Dance Theatre. To Wedge’s left is Kendall Vertes, 9, a student at the Abby Lee Dance Company and a character on the Lifetime TV?reality series, “Dance Moms.”
"It's so great to be able to take what we learn to [other] studios, because growing up at Abby's for so long was so educational, and we learned so many things," Wedge said, adding that she grew up dancing at Abby Lee Miller's studio and has been teaching there since age 13. "I think it's really good to teach all genres of dance, and give them that experience."
Wedge also gave up a few of the company's secrets, including that Abby stresses leg and feet work, as well as improv because of its importance during auditions.
Wedge and Kendall also divulged some secrets about the show, like the fact that Vertes never actually left the Abby Lee Dance Company for a rival studio, as the show depicted.
Kendall added that she doesn't watch the show, or really like to see how her mom, Jill Vertes, is portrayed on the show.
"Somebody is always crying," she told the local dancers and parents after the class.
Wedge said she's not on the show very much because she develops most of her choreography behind the scenes. But for the dancers like Kendall, Wedge said they're starting to realize and get used to the fact that they're celebrities.
"I know it's crazy for them because they're just normal, everyday kids," she said. "They don't realize that people look up to them, and that they're role models."
Each of the participants received T-shirts from the Abby Lee Dance Company signed by Kendall. Sue Harding of Hollidaysburg, who brought her daughters Alexa, 12, and Addison, 8, to the master class, said she thinks most of the dancers who attended came because they watch the show.
"The opportunity to do this in their own dance studio was a thrill for them," Harding said.
Renee Staines, owner and artistic director of Altoona Dance Theatre, said she wanted to become the first studio in the local area to host the "Dance Moms" stars because she's always looking for fun, but disciplined ways of learning.
"We really try to give every opportunity we can to all of the dancers," she said. "We really wanted to do this because the kids are in love with the show. They love watching dance on television, and it's become a huge hit, so we just wanted to have them come."
Wedge said she and other Abby Lee Dance School instructors will continue to give master classes across the country, along with Abby Lee Miller herself when she has time. Wedge also told the attendees on Saturday that they were welcome to come to the studio, located in Pittsburgh.
Wedge said she finds it rewarding to teach students of all ages and backgrounds through the master classes, and hopes they come away from her class with one simple thing.
"With dance especially, you have to be confident and trust your talents," she said. "So hopefully, they're taking away some confidence today."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.