Island Dance hosts world renowned dancer

World renowned dancer and choreographer Aaron Cash taught a week-long workshop at Island Dance in August. He taught intermediate to pre-professional students a variety of dance styles, thanks to his own diverse dance background. - Photo courtesy of Sharla Matthews
World renowned dancer and choreographer Aaron Cash taught a week-long workshop at Island Dance in August. He taught intermediate to pre-professional students a variety of dance styles, thanks to his own diverse dance background.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Sharla Matthews

Just before its move to a new location, Island Dance hosted a choreographer, dancer and actor who was featured in “Titanic,” toured with Cher and is set to perform for the Queen of England.

Aaron Cash taught a week-long workshop for 15 intermediate to pre-professional students at Island Dance this month. From Brisbane, Australia, Cash is trained in classical ballet and tap. He created the Cuban dance show Ballet Revolucion, which blends ballet, contemporary and jazz styles, crescendoing to a “very explosive and sensual” frenzy.

“It’s a very powerful experience,” Cash said.

Ballet Revolucion has taken him to London and Germany and he will perform for the Queen of England in November, for which he said he is excited.

After meeting him at a festival in Long Beach, Charlene Brown, co-owner of Island Dance, and Susan Sandri of Whidbey Island Dance Theatre asked him to teach in Langley. This is the first workshop Cash has done for Island Dance, but he has worked with Whidbey Island Dance Theatre in the past.

Cash used his versatile dance background to get the students of Island Dance moving to a variety of styles. He taught them ballet in the mornings, the foundation of dance, he said, and expanded to lyrical, jazz, musical theater and more. The workshop culminated in a performance for parents.

“He’s such a unique teacher because of his background,” Brown said. “So it’s always pretty cool that he takes some time to come to us… The knowledge that he can bring to our dancers is always really neat.

“And just the sheer fact that he’s such a great guy… He really connects with the kids. He makes them feel really special, because they’re not all going to be professional dancers but they all love to dance and move,” Brown added.

“I love coming up there and working with the kids,” Cash said. “They got a taste of a lot of different styles of dance.”

“By the end of the week, I saw confidence and I saw movement skills I hadn’t seen in them,” Brown said. She was pleased that shy dancers were able to feel self-assured, thanks to Cash. “Because of the confidence he gave them, they went out on the floor and moved like I haven’t seen them in a very long time.” He also challenged the pre-professional dancers.

From the workshop, Cash said he hopes the students took away “just a lot of dance and to keep working at it and not get discouraged. At the end of the day, it’s about your love of dance.”

Since age 8, it’s constantly been about love of dance for Cash. When his mom took him to dance classes, at first, he hated it. Then he took part in his first dance concert and “I just remember at dance rehearsal, it was like someone turned a switch on me and I could smell the girls’ hairspray and I thought this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” Cash said.

And he has done just that. In his youth, he started dancing with Clarrissa Hill and was one of the original Tap Dogs. Kenny Ortega, world-renowned choreographer of “Dirty Dancing,” “High School Musical” and more, cast Cash in Cher’s Love Hurts Tour. He thrived and was featured as one of Cher’s lead dancers for 10 years.

He has also starred in TV shows including “24,” “90210” and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” along with movies like “Titanic.”

Cash said he “of course” plans to come back to Langley.

“I love coming up there,” he said, adding that this was his first experience of Langley in the summertime and it was unforgettable.

The workshop was a nice way for Island Dance to end its time at Ken’s Korner Mall. After moving to the old Langley High School on the corner of Camano Avenue and Edgecliff Drive, the studio opened this week to begin a new season of classes.

After 15 years at the mall, Brown said she was reluctant to move. But when her business partner, Sharla Matthews, heard that the South Whidbey School District was sizing down, “she had her eye on this building,” Brown said.

“We’ve struggled with the amount of rent we’ve been paying,” Brown said. “I love teaching dance and offering dance to all ages and it looked like a way we could stay around a lot longer.” If Island Dance moved, the rent would be considerably cheaper, “a big enough difference to have done this huge transition,” Brown said.

The new studio is 9,000 square feet, which is larger than the previous studio, and the space is in a different configuration, with large rooms instead of the smaller rooms at Ken’s Korner Mall.

“So we’re working really hard to make this look like a dance studio by the time the kids come in,” Brown said last week.

While Brown said this was a huge move for her emotionally, she’s optimistic about the doors it has opened.

“It just seemed that we could possibly offer more classes and stay in business and keep tuition as it is,” Brown said. Island Dance will partner with the school district to do classes free of charge for students. Home schooled students will take classes during the day and learn three genres of dance, Brown said.

So far, the community’s reaction to Island Dance’s new space has been encouraging, Brown said.

“They (visitors) are just kind of thrilled seeing the building come back to life and seeing kids in it again… So far, it’s been nothing but positive,” Brown said.

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