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Dress Rehearsal

The popularity of summer camp has increased over the past several decades. This may be partly because of the number of working moms who need quality child-care during the summer, but don’t want their child to miss out on summer fun. It may also be due to the variety of camps offered today that further a child’s development in a particular interest.


Whatever the reason for the popularity of summer camps, they have become more sophisticated and specialized than ever before.


The Dallas Summer Musical Academy (DSMA) recently held a camp in musical arts at Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Dallas.


The one week, three hour a day camp ended with a stage production of song and dance numbers from Disney’s “Jungle Book.”


Those of us who helped with the camp were amazed at how the kids, ages 6-12, flourished in such a short period of time. By the end of day one, they had script in hand, were assigned their character and learning song and dance routines. They were having so much fun! 


The energy radiated from both the kids and the instructors was so contagious that we adults found ourselves mimicking monkeys and singing along to “I Wanna Be Like You.”


Kevin Cook is the Director of Education for the Dallas Summer Musical Academy. He has a B.A. and M.A. with emphasis on writing and directing in Theater Arts from the University of Bowling Green in Ohio.


“Besides being a lot of fun, what are the benefits of theater arts to a child?” I asked.


“Learning to perform in front of an audience is an advantage to everyone as it builds confidence, poise, self-esteem and teaches the ability to ‘to think on one’s feet,’” Cook said.


“Since some children are really shy in front of an audience, what do you do to encourage them and help them work through their fear?” I asked.


Cook said if a child is shy, they will be given a small part to start with and allowed to move at the child’s pace — not the instructor’s. DSMA instructors are very aware of not instilling or promoting the fear factor. There are also exercises to help calm the mind.  


Accompanying Cook at camp was the Production Stage Manager Ty Lawrence; Director Lindsey Crawford; Choreographer Kristina Kirkenaer-Hart and Music Director Chris Wilson.


Crawford said she has been singing, dancing and acting since she was 3 years old. She trained at Abilene Ballet Theater for 15 years and graduated with a B.A. in Theater Arts from TexasTechUniversity with emphasis in dance and education.


Like Cook, Crawford stressed a child’s need for self confidence, adding that of energy and the ability to work with others. She said that theater teaches those skills and they are necessary for whatever career one chooses.


“I love seeing a group of kids start with a simple script and watching it grow into a work of art that they have created together,” she said.


Choreographer Kirkenaer-Hart attended North Carolina School of the Arts and Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.


She danced professionally in New York and  toured Europe. While living in Norway, she ran a dance studio and created a theater school. 


“I get honesty and energy from the kids,” Kirkenaer-Hart said.


Those of us watching the week’s camp activities can sure vouch for the “energy.” Kirkenaer-Hart radiates it.


Another energetic leader was the music director who played the piano and belted out songs with a talent for animation and a knack for humor.  Wilson got his start at Six Flags Over Texas and went on to Royal Caribbean Line and Holland American Line.  He has toured with two Broadway shows.


The students seemed at ease imitating the choreographer’s body language as they learned the dance steps while learning to project their voices at Crawford and Wilson’s coaching.


It was the first time on stage for some of the kids, but you couldn’t tell by watching.


“Our instructors are excellent at integrating a class comprised of students who have no performance experience with students who have years of experience in the singing, dancing and acting disciplines,”  Production Stage Manager Lawrence said.


The week was filled with theatrical magic, and Friday was electric as the jungle characters came to life during dress rehearsal.


When the kids were asked, if they’d had fun throughout the week, there was a resounding “yes!”  The room was filled with “Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife.”


If you are interested in a camp this summer for your child, email or contact Ty Lawrence at 214-498-5434

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