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Local dancers take a trip to Oz

DEFYING GRAVITY — Dancers from Hamburg’s Performing Arts Dance Academy pose with “Wicked” cast member Amy Quanbeck, pictured, front. Photos by Lauren Kirchmyer.
HAMBURG — Dancers at Performing Arts Dance Academy in Hamburg spent one short day in the Emerald City with “Wicked” cast member Amy Quanbeck.

“Having people like this come in to my studio was really wonderful,” Quanbeck said, about growing up as a dancer. “I love the opportunity to be able to teach. It’s so much fun to be able to inspire dancers.”

Quanbeck led the 25 girls in attendance in a warm-up. The dancers then learned what it is like to be one of the flying monkeys in “Wicked.”

“I really like being able to do all of the different characters,” Quanbeck said, about being in the “Wicked” ensemble.

She explained that, in many musicals, the ensemble members go from being one character to another in a matter of seconds.

Quanbeck had the girls experience this, as they went from being flying monkeys to everyday dancers, performing two counts of eight of choreography in small groups, across the floor.

By the time the clock stuck 10:15 a.m., the class was transported to the Emerald City. Quanbeck taught the girls a musical theater combination to the song “One Short Day” from the show. In addition to dancing, the girls had to act and sing along, as if they were “Ozians” themselves.

Part of the workshop allowed two students to be chosen as Broadway Connection’s “Broadway-bound dancers.” Quanbeck awarded this designation to 14-year-old Christina Stoessel and 15-year-old Molly McGrath.

NO ONE CONTROLS YOUR DESTINY — Amy Quanbeck, a “Wicked” ensemble cast member, is pictured hosting a question-and-answer session with local dancers.
When the singing and dancing came to an end, Quanbeck invited the students and parents in attendance to take a seat and ask any questions they may have about what it is like to work in the musical theater industry.

“The hardest part about being in musical theater is the instability of not having a job all the time,” she said. “Be as versatile as possible. Take voice lessons and dance in as many styles as you can.”

One student asked how Quanbeck got involved in “Wicked,” and Quanbeck explained that the perfect timing is sometimes all a person needs.

Quanbeck studied dance and pre-med at the University of California in Irvine. Her “Wicked” audition came a week after her June graduation, and the casting directors said that they just so happened to be looking for someone fitting Quanbeck’s description. She got a call a few days later, saying she booked the show, which was already on tour.

“I was nervous and didn’t really know what to expect, especially because most of the cast was a good deal older than I was and had been doing this a lot longer,” Quanbeck explained. “They were all very supportive. Never did I feel like they were judging me or worried about how I was going to do.”

She said that now, a year and a half later, she still gets nerves before taking the stage, but loves being part of a show as popular as “Wicked.” “I have been very lucky and excited to be part of such a wonderful group of people and a wonderful show,” she said.

Quanbeck said that, if she was not in musical theater, she would still be dancing and teaching, but would love to go to medical school or become a physical therapist.

For now, she said that she will continue performing for audiences all over, while experiencing all the beauty this country has to offer.

“I went to Niagara Falls,” she said, about her three-week stay in Buffalo. “I had never been before. It was really exciting and it was beautiful to see it frozen over.”

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