From left: Sarah Beth Oppenhiem, director of Modern Dance, and Founder Gretchen Vogelzang pose proudly at the front entrance of the newly opened Greater Washington Dance Center in Reston.)
Photo by Andrea Worker.
Gretchen Vogelzang, founder and owner of the Greater Washington Dance Center (GWDC) in Reston will be the first to tell you that if you are looking for a studio where your child will be prepped to participate in elaborate performances for every season, then her place is probably not the one for you and yours. "I think one of the things that sets us apart is that here we are all about developing the whole person, human beings," she says. "There are many very good studios in our area, but too often the emphasis is on performance over technique," Vogelzang adds. "That makes for lower performance standards, because they see it performed when they are not really ready."
Vogelzang laughs when she’s told she doesn’t look old enough to have been teaching and coaching ballet for more than 30 years. "Believe me, I have put in all the time and all the miles, and some days I can really feel it!" She has certainly accumulated plenty of credentials in that time. In addition to holding degrees in Kinesiology and Theatre and a Master of Fine Arts in Dance Education from the University of California, Irvine, Vogelzang is also certified in the American Ballet TheatreÒ National Training Curriculum – Primary to Level 3. For 14 years in her native California she was also the Founding Artistic/Executive Director of a pre-professional dance company. Her accomplishments as the Artistic Director include choreographing over 30 ballets, one of which she wrote, produced and choreographed. Somewhere during all of that activity, she also found the time to perform professionally. No wonder she decided it was time for her own personal "intermission" when the family moved from California to Northern Virginia in 2001. "As much as I love dance and teaching and watching young dancers grow as dancers and as people, I felt that, especially in a new environment, it was important to spend more time with my own kids," she explains.
Her break from the dance world was never complete, and didn’t last all that long. Even when not actively engaged in teaching, Vogelzang remained active with Regional Dance America (RDA), at one point holding the office of President of this national association of dance companies. Today, she is the Executive Director of the organization, and speaks just as passionately about RDA as she does about her own dance center. "It’s a wonderful organization," she enthuses. "Regional Dance America is aimed at the pre-professional dance company and reaching communities and people that are often not served by larger, professional companies. RDA offers opportunities to young dancers, choreographers and artistic managers and awards over $100,000 in scholarships each year."
During her semi-sabbatical, Vogelzang couldn’t quite bring herself to fully retire from teaching. Eventually she began teaching at other studios and for private students. Even though most of these experiences were positive ones, the call to once again run her own school became too loud to resist. "Again, for me it was a fundamental difference in the mission and the focus." Before she could build what she proudly describes as a "brand new, state of the art facility," Vogelzang’s growing troupe of students would meet at the Reston Community Players rehearsal hall, "with our most sincere thanks!" she comments.
Vogelgang’s Dance Center is now open and ready for action at 12320 Pinecrest Road, Suite 100 in Reston. In addition to two large studios, the facility also offers music rooms and smaller classrooms for private instruction. And the schedule of classes is expanding by the minute. The Greater Washington Dance Center can not only accommodate and nurture every level of ballet dancer from the pre-schoolers to the pre-professionals, the school is also offers a number of classes aimed at adults, like Yoga and fitness classes. There are also classes in Modern and Jazz dance and for the potential Baryshnikovs out there, there is a class just for boys. Fortunately, Vogelzang has gathered a staff of professionals like Associate Director Stephanie Lynn York, and Sarah Beth Oppenheim, Director of Modern, Jessica Moore, Ballet, Jazz and Modern All Levels, and Karena VanDyke, Ballet All Levels. This crew comes complete with credentials and accomplishments too numerous to detail here.
It looks like Vogelzang’s intermission is over and she’s back on " pointe." The Center’s website at www.gwdancecenter.com offers a wealth of information about the center, the staff, and the classes.