Mentors meet their fans

Published 4:58 pm Friday, July 8, 2011

(L-R) Audri Murray, Emily Truchon, Alix Lowery, Claudia McGill, Faith Nolen, Kristina Laboone, Molly Stephens, Elizabeth Ingram, Julia Bullock and Mandy Tanner, all members of the Riverchase Middle School Golden Girls dance team, attend a dance camp at Pelham High School. (Special/Connie Nolen)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“What about the high school dancers hosting a camp for the middle school dancers?” The question came from two directions at once. Both Riverchase Middle School Dance Team Sponsor Jana Lee and Pelham High School Dance Team Sponsor Laura Cochran emailed the question to me. I became the middle woman because I offered to help plan for the RMS dancers to go to camp.

Lee had her hands full ordering costumes, completing paperwork and planning a parent meeting. Since my youngest daughter is an RMS dancer, my oldest daughter was a PHS dancer during her high school days and I teach at the high school, I knew that Cochran would help me find the middle school girls a suitable dance camp. Having the PHS dancers, the Pantherettes, run a camp for the RMS dancers, the Golden Girls, was a new idea — and a great one.

Cochran roared into action. Within days, she and her Pantherettes had a camp schedule planned, music selected, dances choreographed and formations underway. I showed up at Lee’s RMS dance parent meeting with Cochran’s minute-by-minute itinerary for Summer Dance Camp feeling very impressive — until I confessed that I was only the messenger, and Cochran was the great planner.

As Pelham’s first Summer Dance Camp began, the Pantherettes started teaching dances to the Golden Girls. From extensive warm-ups to fun and challenging dances to team-building activities, the Pantherettes ran a completely detailed and professional camp for the RMS Golden Girls. The Pantherettes were patient with silliness, encouraging through exhaustion and driven to produce the best middle school dance team these young women could become.

After three grueling days, Summer Dance Camp culminated with a 7 p.m. performance. Parents from both dance teams attended, and the middle school girls performed the dances they’d learned — with a little help from their mentors.

Both sets of parents were impressed by their daughters’ skills as teachers, students and dancers. The Pantherettes gave the Golden Girls certificate awards recognizing their dedication. To top off the night, the Pantherettes performed the dance that they were perfecting for their camp competition at the University of Alabama. The middle school dancers watched the Pantherettes’ competition dance with wonder.

The dancers these middle-school girls so admired became their teachers — and perhaps those “amazing toe-touches” and “incredible turns” I had heard so many middle school comments about seemed a little more within reach.

Connie Nolen can be reached by email at