ELBURN – The dozen or so 2- to 6-year-old girls and boys listened intently as Miss Leah (Diamond) read them a story about a young ballet dancer. Minutes later, the children were stretching to Diamond’s sing-song directions of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
Throughout the hour, the young children alternated between sitting quietly and listening to a dance-related story book and following Diamond’s body movement directions beginning with basics such as “stomp your feet,” “blink your eyes” and “wiggle your arms” to “stand in first position” and “now plie.”
Katie Dall watched her twin daughters, 6-year-olds Emma and Tilly, from a row of chairs in the back of the room.
“They loved it,” Dall said when asked what the girls thought of the class. “They were excited about coming back this month.”
The Dance Story Time classes take place at the Town and Country Library in Elburn on the third Thursday of the month for five months from January to May. The five classes are free for those who live in the Town and Country Library District and $25 for nonresidents (those without a Town and Country Library card.) Registration is required.
It’s a great fit to offer dance as a theme-related storytime at the library, Diamond said. Children learn the dance terms in the story, and Diamond brings dance shoes to demonstrate those worn for the different types of dance, including ballet slippers, tap shoes and jazz shoes.
Diamond is one of 10 instructors at Dreams Dance Academy on Main Street in St. Charles. She teaches Tiny Dreamers, Pre-Ballet and Tap and Tot Hip-Hop classes at the St. Charles studio.
“She loves working with children and helping their dreams of becoming a dancer come true,” her bio on the Dreams Dance website states.
Jenny O’Brien, owner, director and instructor at the Dreams Dance Academy, has been dancing for 30 years and has taught classes in the Chicago area since 1999. She opened her studio at the Elburn and Countryside Community Center in 2012, and offered free half-hour introductory classes at the Elburn library at that time to get the word out.
At a conference that O’Brien attended last summer, she met another dance studio owner who offers introductory classes at community swimming pools and other off-site locations, and that got her thinking again.
“I like doing things in the community,” she said.
She has offered introductory classes at preschools and day care centers in the area, including Creative Beginnings in Elburn, and at other venues, such as the Rustic Road Farms, where their motto is “Every cowgirl needs dancing boots.”
Her students participate in festivals and parades each year in the surrounding communities.
O’Brien’s studio in St. Charles has grown significantly since her beginnings in Elburn in 2012. With four dance rooms, the St. Charles studio offers more than 100 classes to 375 students, from 2-year-olds to adults.
There are two dance teams, a dance company that performs in competitions, and a performance troupe that performs at community venues, including assisted living facilities such as Carriage Oaks in St. Charles and Green Fields in Geneva.
“We’re very thankful that the library allows us to do these storytime classes,” she said. “They’ve been so receptive.”
Karen Lake’s two children, 4-year-old Arlo and 2-year-old Mildred, have been attending the library classes.
“He (Arlo) loves dancing all the time,” she said. “Both of them like it. When the class is over, they say, ‘Can we do it again next week?’”