Things are beginning to look alive again in the City of Oakdale.
A true contrast to the streets and city parks one year ago today, the recent re-opening directive by the CDC has been embraced by the Oakdale community at large and Valley Oak School of Dance is ready to be a part of it.
On Saturday, June 12 the Oakdale dance studio will take to the outdoor stage of the Oakdale Community Park and present the community with its “Red, White and Blue Review.” A total of 56 dancers will perform in the show this Saturday. Showtime is 7 p.m. and admission is $5 per person. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and low seated lawn chairs for their comfort while watching the show.
“Originally this group was supposed to go to Disneyland and perform and then COVID hit. So they had this whole show set to go,” studio owner of 34 years Leslie Ozbirn said.
The Disney performance was first postponed to June 2020, then October 2020 and ultimately cancelled.
“I was very, very disappointed. I think for me and Courtney, especially, that was hard because it would have been our last time to do that,” dancer Kennedy Marler shared of the cancelled Disney performance.
The 17-year-old, a recent OHS grad, added she’s been dancing with the studio since the age of 2 and described Ozbirn as her second mom.
“She has definitely helped raise me, as the other teachers have,” Kennedy said. “I probably spend as much time as I do at home here.”
Kennedy, along with fellow dancers Brooklyn Tolboe and Courtney Cake were fortunate enough to dance at Disneyland with the studio in 2018.
“I know everybody says it when they talk about Disneyland,” Brooklyn shared, “but it was definitely magical.”
Now with the Review ahead of them on Saturday, June 12 and a total of 16 numbers set for the one-hour show, the dancers as well as Ozbirn agreed they’re just happy to be back at dance.
“This theme makes up for it,” Kennedy said of the patriotic review. “Especially after having it just been Memorial Day, it’s something that is close to all of our hearts.”
With a son who served in the military, Ozbirn indicated the review is a tribute to USA veterans. The majority of the music is big band numbers from the 40’s and 50’s.
“It’s just something that’s always been near and dear to my heart,” she said regarding the theme. “We also thought it would be great for the community.”
First returning to the studio with students in February, Ozbirn said they were masked up and distanced. Although Disneyland was cancelled she still shared a passion with her dancers to see them perform the show. In turn, some numbers were re-choreographed to eliminate partnering, as well as incorporate other dancers into the show. A total of 22 were scheduled to travel to Disneyland in 2020 and now 56 dancers ranging from ages 3 to 17 will take to the stage in pure patriotism.
“When we came back we were so excited. It’s not just emotionally, it’s also physically,” Brooklyn said. “Our bodies are so used to being stretched to the max every single day. When we came back it was full throttle, we were sore for a week.”
Since February the dancers have been working one to three nights a week rehearsing for the Review.
“Mostly I’m just feeling really excited for the kids. It’s wonderful to be able to do this in honor of our veterans and give something to the community,” the studio owner stated. “Really for the kids, they’ve lost so much. To see them be able to get back into dancing and get into performance mode and present their talents on the stage.”
Now as they get ready to share their talents once again with an audience, Ozbirn admitted the past year has helped her with placing it in perspective for her team.
“I told the girls that they are the warriors of COVID, they have fought hard to come back and do something that’s their love and their passion,” she explained, noting while the show is honoring veterans and the country, it’s also honoring everyone who has faced difficult challenges during this time.
“We want this performance to be a beacon of hope for everyone; that life can go on. In the hardest of things there’s always hope.”