Dance programs flourish in Lathrup

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published September 10, 2015

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LATHRUP VILLAGE — The ups and downs facing the financial situation at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit’s Oak Park facility hasn’t stopped Tatiana Kitlak from spreading her love of ballet.

Kitlak, director of the Russian Ballet Academy of Michigan, recently found refuge in the Lathrup Village City Hall basement studio, where dance classes have been run through the Recreation Department for approximately 17 years. Kitlak formerly aught ballet at JCC’s Oak Park location.

The JCC has been in financial turmoil and was slated to close toward the end of August, when an anonymous benefactor stepped in and agreed to provide funding to support the renovation and continued use of the facility. After renovations, the facility will essentially be run by other Jewish groups.

Opportunity struck when Lathrup Village Recreation Coordinator Maralee Rosemond was on the hunt for more instructors, and Kitlak was on the hunt for a dance space.

“Our dance programs have taken a lot of different shapes over the years, but something that has remained consistent is that we’ve always demanded high-quality, professional instructors,” Rosemond said.

Kitlak immigrated to the U.S.  in 1992 from the former Soviet Union, now Ukraine. The Russian Ballet Academy of Michigan was started in 2003. She has an extensive background in ballet, studying under famed ballet instructors Agrippina Vaganova and Julius Plaht. Kitlak has a degree in classical ballet from Odessa State Choreographic School in Ukraine.

“I was 6 years old and my mom took me to ‘Swan Lake,’ and it captured me so much I couldn’t sleep all night,” Kitlak said. “Since then, I decided I needed to go into ballet, and that’s how it all started. Since 6 years old, I’ve been working nonstop.”

Students old and young are welcome in ballet classes, Kitlak and Rosemond said. Children as young as 3 years old can be considered for enrollment, and adults with little or extensive experience are also invited to join. Students learn discipline and patience, they said.

The only requirement, Kitlak said, is a love of dance.

“Of course we all want a child to pay attention. Of course we’re looking for abilities, but not everybody has abilities. The child has to love to do this. If they love this, everything is possible,” Kitlak said.

Jen Hutchinson, of Southfield, will also be teaching a handful of dance classes during the program, such as tap, jazz, hip-hop and lyrical.

After learning to love dance as a child, Hutchinson earned a degree in drama and musical theater from the Boston Conservatory. She worked for 10 years on Broadway and runs her own dance program, called Steppin Out Dance.

Hutchinson said her approach to teaching is focused on confidence building.

“I want to primarily build up girls to be self-confident and powerful and nurturing and all things us women can be sometimes,” Hutchinson said. “I think we can get robbed of it from what’s going on in the world, so that’s what makes my teaching more meaningful.”

Dance can also be used as an outlet for some children who are challenged by social settings. Hutchinson said being painfully shy at school left her with a need for a communicative outlet.

“I wanted to dance for me, not to become a Broadway starlet,” Hutchinson said. “I wanted to express myself through movement.”

Registration details, prices and further information can be found at lathrupvillage.org or by calling (248) 557-2600.

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