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Maplewood’s Lydia Johnson Dance Lets Young Dancers Soar

Lydia Johnson Dance (LJD), the acclaimed dance school based in Maplewood, is currently accepting registrations for LJD Dance Camp, which runs from July 6 – July 24 at the Burgdorff Center.

The camp is from 9 a.m. -1 p.m., Monday through Friday, and campers may participate in one, two or three weeks. It is open to dancers from 1st grade through high school, from beginner through advanced levels. There is also the option of an extended day by taking afternoon classes at Geralyn’s Art Studio.

Register online or by filling in an application and mailing it in. Also, scholarships are available.

LJD company members and teaching artists instruct students in Ballet, Contemporary, Hip Hop and Choreography. Students study technique as well as learn to choreograph their own dances.

It is this choreography aspect that is unique to LJD. As a result, the camp has launched a number of students to be part of pre-professional programs at such places as Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey and NJ Ballet, who return to to LJD Camp for the choreography experience.

Olivia VandeVusse (Credit: Liz Zenobi photography)
Olivia VandeVusse (Credit: Liz Zenobi photography)

The Village Green interviewed one such student, 12-year-old Maplewood Middle School student Olivia VandeVusse, who has participated in LJD for ten years. Olivia now studies at NJ Ballet, but still takes Contemporary dance classes at LJD.

When did you start taking dance at LJD? What have you studied there? What teachers did you work with?

Olivia: I started dance with Lydia at her summer camp when I was going into 2nd grade. I’ve studied ballet, contemporary, and hip hop. I’ve worked with Katie Martin, Tammi Shamblin, Sherell Bush, and many other members of Lydia’s company. It’s also a great experience to work with Lydia. When you show her your choreography, it’s amazing to get feedback from such a creative and cutting edge choreographer.

Tell us why you continue to take Contemporary classes at LJD although you now study at NJ Ballet. What do you get from LJD that is special?

I continue taking classes at LJD for many reasons. One is that the environment is so welcoming and accepting. It’s good to take a break from the intense atmosphere of New Jersey Ballet. Another reason is that in Lydia’s contemporary class, when we do choreography, I get to use all the technique I’ve learned over the years and use my creative energy to create a dance piece.

Have you been involved with the LJD summer camp? Tell us about that.

LJD summer camp is where I first started. It’s an amazing place, being able to do different types of dance for hours and then choreograph your own piece. It’s an experience you never forget.

What are some of the things you have learned from being at LJD? What do you think sets it apart from other dance studios and schools?

I’ve learned how to listen to others’ opinions, but at the same time how to be a leader. It’s different because everyone gets an opportunity to do what they love and at the same time work with others.

What are your goals? Do you plan to be a professional dancer, or to continue studying as you get older?

I hope to keep studying dance long enough so that I could become a professional dancer. My dream is to be in a creative company like Lydia’s.

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