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New York-Style Dance

Broadway choreographer Lisa Stevens brings magic to Chantilly studio.

The Joan Izzo Academy of Dance in Chantilly used inspiration from the Broadway hit show, "Bombay Dreams" when Lisa Stevens, a New York choreographer and dancer, presented a workshop June 20-25 to local students.

STEVENS, 37, gave her second workshop at the dance studio operated by Joan Izzo and designed the program for all levels of dancers to spread her devotion of dancing.

"Oh, I love teaching. It's time that I give back the knowledge that I've learned," says Stevens, who claims that passion is the most important trait for a career of dancing. "If [the students] can feel an ounce of what I feel, that would be great."

Some 26 devoted dancers — ages 5 to teens — assembled for Stevens' 7 p.m. class on a recent Thursday night in the small dance studio located in Sullyfield Business Circle in Chantilly.

Only minutes after finishing the 6 p.m. class, Stevens begins with a warm-up routine, a mix between dancing and stretching.

"Are we ready? Are we focused?" says Stevens as she searches for the perfect song. She yells: "Are we in the zone? Ready to work?"

The warm-up dance emphasizes proper "form" when doing triceps, crunches and push-ups.

"The more you do, the easier they are," says Stevens as she walks around checking the dancer's form.

AS DANCING begins, the students move in unison as they learn the steps from Stevens.

"I see 'West Side Story' from this side!" she says as a compliment to her students.

With the littlest dancers in front, the students are divided into three small groups so as not to worry about bumping other dancers. Throughout the dance, Stevens checks the dancers' form: "Dance it, don't walk it," she says. "There is a difference between walking it and dancing it."

Stevens is not the only one offering encouragement. The dancers give themselves a round of applause at the first successful run-through of the routine, and for the younger dancer who jumped correctly.

Joan Izzo checks in on the dancers and takes roll call. "Now you look good girls. Yes!" she yells. Izzo strives for great dancing in a joyful learning environment.

"She cares about the students. She wants them to explore new avenues, which I appreciate," says Stevens. The Joan Izzo Academy of Dance also stresses that dance is more than just about movement. Stevens, who has been teaching for nearly 20 years, and Izzo, who is certified to teach K-12 with degrees in both dancing and education, make a perfect match. The duo met in New York, where Izzo saw "Bombay Dreams," in which Stevens was an ensemble dancer, as well as the assistant choreographer. Izzo said she loved the music and dancing and wanted to meet with the choreographer. After the show ended, Izzo and Stevens became friends and offered Stevens the opportunity to teach a Broadway-oriented workshop in Chantilly.

IN JANUARY, Stevens flew in for the first workshop. Because of its success, she came back in June for a longer workshop.

"[Joan Izzo] is willing to take someone from the outside," says Stevens. "[She is a] thoughtful and loving woman, [who] wants [her students] to have the best."

Izzo focuses on giving her dancers the best training, which means bringing in outside teachers so the students will learn a variety of dance genres.

Stevens, originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, has been dancing since age 4.

"At a very early age I loved rhythm, music, and there was something in it that struck me ever since I was a child," says Stevens. "I just wanted to be a sponge, travel and learn different cultures."

Stevens began formal training at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, before moving to England for eight years. While there, she performed several times for the Queen of England, danced in the play, "Chicago" on the West End, appeared on British television, and was on the dance team for the Vancouver Grizzlies — a basketball team (now located in Memphis, Tenn.)

"I started to dream where I would take this," says Stevens who left England to follow and achieve her dream of dancing in New York on Broadway. She has also performed on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" and "Live With Regis and Kelly" and danced in the "Phantom of the Opera" movie. Stevens will next dance in the national tour of "Bombay Dreams."

AS STEVENS incorporates acting into her Broadway dancing, she sees a lot of change in the Joan Izzo dancers. "I've noticed an improvement in them ... They love what they are doing."

A student dancer, Maggie Stewart, 17 of Chantilly says, "She has a lot of energy and it's contagious.

Nicky Nickishachleford, 15 of Chantilly agrees.

Stevens who will return to the Chantilly studio again in February for a third workshop says, "It has been wonderful. The girls are very warm-hearted, hard-working, talented girls."

Even other teachers at the studio are influenced by Stevens' personality. "She has so much energy, positive attitude," says Donna Strong 23, a teacher at the Academy, "She makes [dancing] fun."

The Joan Izzo Academy of Dance, in its ninth year of business, focuses on precise technique, form, and great dance programs. With five instructors, the studio offers classes in ballet, Pointe, jazz, tap, hip-hop, worship dance, and creative dance. The Joan Izzo Academy of Dance is located at 4425 Brookfield Corporate Drive, Suite 200, in Chantilly. Contact Joan Izzo at 703-327-8402.