Local performing arts institution, Ovation, is one of many island organizations adapting its services to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes the start of a new tapdancing program for teens looking for social outlets to discover their talents.
Teen Tap starts Sept. 29 and will be a weekly class taught by local dance and performing arts expert Scott Breitbarth. Class sizes are limited to four, and Ovation is also looking into a potential Zoom Teen Tap class depending on demand.
Breitbarth said Teen Tap is a beginner’s class for teenagers who may have had a late start to its basics and fundamentals.
“The goal is to give them tap basics and eventually get them to a point where they can do basic steps that we’d expect for a Broadway audition or a performing arts audition,” he said. “I’m hoping to go back and forth with sessions and change up the kinds of style that we focus on in the tap.”
Breitbarth, 27, grew up in Poulsbo and graduated from North Kitsap High School in 2011. Breitbarth said he conducted most of his performing arts activities on Bainbridge Island. He credits his 10 years at the Bainbridge Dance Center and his choreograph work at the Kitsap Children’s Musical Theatre as his true introduction to performing arts.
“That was around the time when I realized that even though dance is an incredible art form, it’s one piece of the puzzle to enjoying an experience … actually becoming invested in a world and convincing someone that they’re somewhere else,” Breitbarth said. “Film just does a much better job of bringing all of those different elements together – music, dance, visuals, photography.”
The next step on Breitbarth’s journey was a giant one. He went south to attend the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California where he earned his degree in film/television production and dance. Upon earning a college degree, the Poulsbo native said he turned down an offer from Marvel to be a sound production assistant for Avengers: Age of Ultron in order to return home to pursue a career as an independent filmmaker.
While back home, Breitbarth is juggling many tasks such as creating promotions and commercials for several performing arts organizations in the Puget Sound area (5th Avenue Theatre and Bainbridge Performing Arts) and serving as the personal video promotion consultant for Seattle Choruses. Additionally, he also helps on the island by teaching classes at Bainbridge Ballet while also teaching other classes and directing performances for Ovation.
Giving back to community
As someone used to finding his own path through hard work, persistence and creativity, Breitbarth has a strong commitment to giving back to the performing arts community because he sees a lot of himself in the young kids.
“It has everything to do with being in a small town,” he said. “It’s very difficult to get a professional from Seattle to come over and dedicate a lot of their time, especially today. I think it really comes back to me trying to give people the opportunities that I didn’t have when I was their age.
“I think performing arts are very important to your development as an artist,” Breitbarth continued. “When you’re in high school, kids need to have that place where you can go and explore other people, explore other times … and try to figure out what it means to be someone else in a way that allows them to figure out who they are. That escapism is just a huge part of what it’s like to be a teen in musical theater.”
For the past six months, Breitbarth has been teaching online classes for Bainbridge Ballet, which has been difficult to grasp the attention of young kids through a computer screen.
“It’s been a very interesting journey,” he said. “Right off the bat, you can tell that putting someone in front of a screen …does not engage the student as much, especially the young kids. They want to definitely be somewhere else.”
Breitbarth also touched on the instructor point of view, typically teaching in an empty room in front of a computer.
“For me personally, it was just a whole different vibe already, being alone in a studio talking to a computer for four to six hours every week,” he said. “It’s mundane; it’s like trying to teach someone over the phone. When your teaching someone, you need that constant engagement, you need that eye contact. It’s been a bit empty for me.”
Ovation during pandemic
Since the pandemic began, Ovation has been adapting its programming to a fully virtual model, Ovation board president Ross Eide said. She cited the summer Glee Camp and their upcoming adult choir — Crescendo — as two programs following that model.
“Fortunately, we have a number of board members and dedicated volunteers that are adept not only in technology but also have a real sense of (what) the virtual and social media landscape looks like,” Eide said. “They have helped us put things together for our online programs.”
The driving force behind the online programming is instructor Todd Hulet, who has taken the reigns of leading multiple classes during these uncertain times.
“He’s great at engaging with his students, young and old, and getting them to sing and dance at home,” Ovation vice president Giselle Vincent said. “It’s not the same as in-person, but we still get to bring music and performances to our community.”
A number of board members, such as Peter Vosshall and Julia Douthart, have helped Ovation apply for and obtain grants to help sustain operations during this time, Eide noted. Additionally, Vincent has been putting together all the online programs, providing graphic design and marketing for them as well.
“Giselle has been the real heart of the organization during these times, and we are so thankful for her and all her work,” Eide said. “Of course, I’m leaving a lot of people out, but it’s been a real group effort, and I think we are going to pull through this thing even stronger.”
For more information, visit ovationmtb.com.