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Butler dance students to perform with pros

Butler Center for the Performing Arts owner Jenna Molczan Higby poses for a picture. Submitted Photo

Jenna Molczan Higby, owner of the Butler Center for the Performing Arts, has idolized the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre since she was 2 years old.

Now her students will be participating in an arts showcase in conjunction with the company.

Butler Center for the Performing Arts student dancers will participate in “Open Air: A Series in Celebration of the Performing Arts” in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The free, three-day event will take place at Hazelwood Green and will feature live performances by local community studios and universities, art vendors, children’s activities, food trucks and more.

BCPA’s students are set to take the stage at noon during a segment called “Shared Spaces” and will represent the only studio in the county to participate.

Butler Center for the Performing Arts students — first row, from left, Samantha Capriotti, Julia Bianchin, Faith Schnur and Patricia Furka; second row, Chloe Imhof, Lydia Scardina and Rylie Blystone; and, third row, Addi Gatz, Gracyn Vardy and Emily Frazier — practice at the studio. Submitted Photo

Molczan Higby started dancing at the studio — formerly known as Lee’s School of Dance — when she was 2. Her mom has been teaching for over 40 years.

Dance is an art form that has been intrinsic in her family, so when the opportunity presented itself for Molczan Higby to acquire ownership of BCPA last year, she felt like it would be a great opportunity to express herself.

She is thrilled that her dancers will perform in conjunction with their peers from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

“When I was little, you look up to companies like that,” Molczan Higby said. “To be able to be in a space around them, and not just looking up to them, is really big.”

Not only will it be the first professional experience for her students, but the showcase will represent a major milestone in Molczan Higby’s career as well.

“This is my first big professional experience,” Molczan Higby said. “It’s a big honor to step into that professional realm.”

Point Park graduate Alicia Pociask will choreograph the show. Pociask travels the world as an instructor and was thrilled at the idea of coming back to her hometown to teach the students of BCPA.

“Being able to come back and take my knowledge and bring it back to the community is so special to me,” Pociask said. “Anytime, as a young dancer, you can get exposure at such a young age is really wonderful.”

Students practice at the Butler Center for the Performing Arts. Submitted Photo

Pociask owns Bold Dance Project, which is based in New York City.

“I wanted to bridge the gap between dance and musical theater,” Pociask said. “You really need both. I sometimes didn’t like the disconnect … I grew up as a competitive dancer and always wanted classes to feel small so students can feel seen and have that personal connection.”

Molczan Higby said her dancers’ participation in the showcase will show them that a career is possible. But she also realizes that not every dancer at BCPA will pursue a profession in the arts.

“A lot of what we teach and instill is time management and being a good team player,” Molczan Higby said. “Dance is unique and the skills that you learn can translate into different fields.”

Tots tread the boards

The Children’s School at BCPA has been in development for almost 60 years. Students begin at age 3, and the curriculum is nationally recognized. Elements of tap, jazz, acrobatics and ballet are taught, and all faculty are certified and have multiple years of experience.

Group acting classes are offered for students ages 7 and up. Voice lessons are offered on an individual, private basis. All students have the opportunity to participate in their annual holiday concert, mini concert series, Kennywood Light Up Night and more.

BCPA offers dance, acting and musical theater classes to students ranging anywhere from 18 months to 18 years old.

Butler Center for the Performing Arts students — first row, from left, Samantha Capriotti, Julia Bianchin, Faith Schnur and Patricia Furka; second row, Chloe Imhof, Lydia Scardina and Rylie Blystone; and third row, Addi Gatz, Gracyn Vardy and Emily Frazier — practice at the studio. Submitted photo

“We encourage students to try various styles of dance,” Molczan Higby said. “The musical theater is newer to us.”

Community connections

BCPA likes to stay involved in the community as much as possible. They produce multiple shows each year, have an end-of-year recital and perform at holiday parades.

Molczan Higby says one of the most fulfilling parts of her job is getting to watch her students mature, not just as dancers but as people too.

“Last year was my first graduating class,” Molczan Higby said. “It’s a great experience for me being able to see how they’ve grown as people and young women.”

BCPA has been a community staple for decades and the students are honored to represent Butler County at the upcoming showcase.

“They want to put on their best efforts … they understand the honor,” Molczan Higby said.

BCPA’s owner Jenna Molczan Higby poses for a picture. Submitted Photo
Students practice at the Butler Center for the Performing Arts. Submitted Photo

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