Premiere Dance Theater Promotes American Modern Dance

Premiere Dance Theater is about working hard, being committed and being prepared as they continually push students to do their best in every aspect of life.

Students at Premiere Dance Theater not only dance together, but work together as a unit as they help each other achieve the best.

premier dance theater
Photo by Emma Gallof for The Montclair Dispatch.

On Thursday, Jan. 26, a contemporary class at Premiere Dance Theater prepared for an upcoming Open House performance from the studio. Open House allows each class from the theater to do a performance, whether it be a work in progress or a finished piece. The class began with stretches before a warm-up, and then finally into their choreographed routine.

Instructor, Shirlise Wiggins, showed the steps in front of the class as well as walking around to offer help to her students. When someone was seen doing something incorrectly, Wiggins would use it as a teaching moment and have the other students help correct the problem. She even made a speech to her students about not giving up and working through their struggles.

Premiere Dance Theater is a family run school, and in their 25th year their main objective continues to focus on excellence through dance. Premiere Dance Theater narrows down their studies, and likes to focus on and highlight the works of African American choreographers. They offer classes in ballet, pointe, horton, modern, jazz, African, contemporary, tap and hip-hop. As founder/director Shirlise Wiggins said, “Classes are available for anyone from three to 93.”

Premiere Dance Theater aims to use dance to enhance self esteem and to boost students confidence. Wiggins also hopes to infuse thinking into dance and all the things that students do. By learning the names of movements and adapting to new routines or to fill in spots, students at Premiere Dance Theater are learning techniques and skills that will help with career readiness and will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Students are also expected to always be on time and prepared, which help them prepare for college, the workforce and even as a parent.

“It’s a little about dance, and a lot about personal development,” said Wiggins.

Premiere Dance Theater takes a personalized, hands on approach to teaching. The staff appreciates the value of getting to know the students as well as their families. Premiere Dance Theater has created a drive for high school seniors in the theater, where everyone contributes into a fund for their college education. This exhibits the true nature of closeness at Premiere, and shows the real companionship of everyone before the seniors go off to college.

In addition to the senior drive, Premiere Dance Theater also offers many scholarships to their dancers. The James Wiggins I Hope You Dance scholarship is offered to students who fully embody the essence of Premiere, and are active within the theater apart from just coming to class. It is named after James Wiggins Jr., the visionary behind Premiere Dance Theater and who thought of opening a dance studio. The scholarships offered at Premiere are self funded, and the theater even reinvests funds from some of their concerts into these scholarships.

The Premiere Dance Theater is not just a dance school, but they also have many special events that allow students to stay active within their dance community. Since September, Premiere has had a meet and greet and a picnic in local parks, “Bring Your Parents to Dance Class Week” and their famous Halloween party, which gives children a chance to dress up and play games in a safe environment.

The theater also hosted many fundraising opportunities to fund a trip to see the movie Hidden Figures, had a performance of The Nutcracker at Hillside Elementary School, went on a trip to see The Lion King on Broadway, performed at the Newark Museum and hosted their annual Dr. King panel discussion among a long list of other achievements.

Premiere Dance Theater is not finished yet, though. For the future they plan to become more involved in the community through parades and concerts for the town.

“I’m proud to say that we coach and make dancers,” said Wiggins. “We are for people who really want to dance and study the art form. We are proud of our accomplishments, and are excited for the future. It may take a while to get there, but we want to make our mark on the dance world.”

Premiere Dance has already begun to make their mark, as two of their former students own their own studios, several are teachers and college professors as well as some even making it to Broadway. To explore more about Premiere Dance Theater you can go to their website or give them a call at 973- 592-9139.

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