SKIES Unlimited dancers perform Wizard of Oz themed recital

The steady rains on Fort Belvoir Sunday had nothing to do with the rainbow inside Wallace Theater. That was due to the hard work of Angie Chapman, the sole dance instructor for Child and Youth Services SKIES Unlimited program (Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills). Families arrived at the theater, clutching bouquets of flowers, for the annual dance recital for all of Chapman’s students. 

This year’s recital, Over the Rainbow, was themed on “The Wizard of Oz,” and each dance class had its own costume and moment on stage, with 11 different performances, ranging from 3-year-old pre-ballet and pre-tap to older girls, up to age 14, performing ballet, jazz and tap dance styles for an adoring audience. Larissa Johnson narrated as the character Dorothy between segments, explaining that the audience would get to see the journey she and Toto experienced when she went over the rainbow. 

Alena Jackson, 14, is a veteran of these recitals, having danced for a decade, said she thinks ballet is wonderful. 

“It’s the feeling of being up there and being able to express your emotions through dance,” she said. “It’s just really beautiful to show everyone what the music is about without speaking.” 

Stage experience among the dancers was varied, which created some unexpected responses. One 3-year-old ballet dancer was joyously performing her own choreography during her class’ performance, and a 4-year-old in pre-ballet class – just seconds after the music started – bolted and ran offstage to jump in her father’s lap in the front row. 

Dozens of phones were glowing in the audience as proud parents recorded these first steps across the stage, and at the end of the 45-minute recital, each class returned onstage for a curtain call as roses were presented to every dancer. When 3-year-old Leanna Mares was asked by her mother what her favorite part was, she said “getting my flowers.” 

As the dancers reconnected with parents in the audience, a 5-year-old ran over to hug her mother’s legs, crying loudly. When her mother asked what was wrong, she sobbed, “I don’t want to stop dancing.” 

Angie Chapman said it takes a year to prepare for this event. “I start in September for the costumes and ordering and even the setup takes a long time for a short show,” Chapman said. “But it’s all for the kids, and it’s worth every minute.”