Dance and song will take on a new meaning Memorial Day weekend when veterans and military personnel will be honored by 140 students of Studio A Dance Conservatory in their annual spring performance titled “Got Your Six.”
“‘Got Your Six’ is a military theme for ‘got your back,’” Anna Crumley Nelson, studio director, said Wednesday. “It’s a patriotic celebration of dance.”
The students, ages 2 to 18, will perform jazz, tap, lyrical and ballet in a two-hour presentation Saturday and Sunday at the Heckart Performing Arts Center at Smith-Cotton High School.
Crumley Nelson said her decision to honor veterans with the program was because of her father, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Keith Crumley, of Sedalia, who served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1997. In part, it was also due to meeting aging veterans in Warrensburg.
When she teaches dance to her students she encourages them to become involved in the community. With that in mind, 42 of her elite dancers have truly learned what it means to “have your back.”
“My Company has developed a buddy program at the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg,” she noted. “We’ve actually been up to see them several times. Each one of my Company members, all 42 members, has been paired with a veteran and developed a relationship with them.”
She noted that when the Company of dancers were paired with a veteran, both the student and veteran didn’t know how to communicate with each other. This soon changed.
“We went and danced for them,” Crumley Nelson said. “We went on Valentines Day … It was interesting at first because some of them didn’t know what to say.
“Now I think they think of them as part of their family,” she added. “(Tuesday) I went to the Veterans Home to do some filming and I went to each one of them that we are paired with to thank them.”
Crumley Nelson and her staff filmed several veterans at the home while she was there and the piece will be used during the weekend performances.
“We talked to them about their life, their service and their time, their favorite memory in the military and their most proud moment,” she said.
She then asked them for a note from them to young Americans about the future.
“It was really neat, because in their rooms they had my dancers’ pictures up,” Crumley Nelson said. “It was really touching to see that they had impacted them so much.
“There’s a need for this,” she added. “I had no idea, it was put on my heart to do it. So, we are going to continue this through the summer and through next year.”
Crumley Nelson added that several of the veterans from the home will be attending Sunday’s performance.
“So, we are going to be able to honor them,” she said.
At the end of the performances Saturday and Sunday, Crumley Nelson will present an extra dance that will ask for audience participation in raising funds that will go toward the Missouri Veterans Home.
“There’s a lot of needs I’ve seen when I’ve been going up there,” she said. “Some of them need new wheelchairs and some different medications that their insurance can’t provide for anymore.”
In last year’s performance, the studio and audience raised $5,000 for children with cancer.
“We are wanting to do that, it’s something that was kind of a mission this year,” she added.
Music selections will include “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “In the Navy,” “Surfin’ USA” and “Amazing Grace,” plus many more. The performance will include a total of 33 dance numbers.
“They have to study the songs,” Crumley Nelson said. “Every class, I talk to them about the history of the song and have them study the choreography and what it would mean.
“We are doing ‘Amazing Grace’ for the lyrical dance,” she added. “I had them actually research who wrote it, why, where was it first done and composed, (and) then it inspired their dance.”
Crumley Nelson also noted that all branches of the military will be honored through a ballet number.
“I have six levels of ballet,” she noted. “So, each level will honor a branch of the military,” Crumley Nelson said. “We are hoping to raise funds and give back to the veterans. I just want the veterans to have a good time.”
Studio A Dance Conservatory’s performance of “Got Your Six” will be at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at SCHS Heckart Performing Arts Center, 2010 Tiger Pride Blvd. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the door. Those with a military ID will receive a discount.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.