In the online world, vast distances can be spanned with a single email. Thanks to the internet, working from Western Massachusetts, I have edited and remixed songs for dancers, not only all over the United States, but also in Australia and Canada.
So it wasn’t too big of a surprise when I got a music remix request from a repeat client who lives in Bethel, Alaska last week. When Delilah Hodge contacted me last year, I noted that she was in Alaska, but didn’t really think much further about it. But when she emailed me for a couple of new songs to be edited and remixed, I was a little bit more curious since my brother and his wife live in Fairbanks, Alaska. Not being completely familiar with the state, I searched on Google Maps to find out how far of a drive it is from Bethel to Fairbanks. You would think that that is a reasonable request to ask of Google Maps, but there is only one hitch…. you can’t! There are no roads from Bethel to Fairbanks, nor from Bethel to anywhere else. The only way in or out of the town is via river or air.
So this got me curious…. what is life in Bethel like? And even more interestingly, what is DANCE in Bethel like? I mean, how many dance students can there be in a town of 6,000 people, where the people are probably outnumbered by moose, and surrounded by miles upon miles of vast frozen tundra? I had to find out, so I asked Delilah to tell me a little bit about her dancers! If there is a dance studio in Bethel, I would like to know what their name is and more about it!
Here is what Delilah told me about dance in Bethel:
“The name of our dance team is Delta Illusion Dance Company. To make a very long story short, our town is extremely transient and if you’re not born here you came up to work. For three years we had a lady teaching dance in our town. She worked full-time at the Dental Clinic, and taught dance classes in the evenings and on weekends. Looking back, I realize how much she truly loved dance because she must have been dead tired after working all day, yet she never got frustrated or upset when children didn’t listen or parents (who knew nothing about dance at that point) complained about the price of tap shoes and leotards.
In 2008, the dance teacher asked the parents if they would be interested in forming a competition team. Five parents agreed, although we had no idea what she was talking about. We we lured in by the costumes, the fact that our girls would keep active (which is important in a small town), and the added bonus that we would all get to travel to San Diego. When we got to StarPower in San Diego, we were amazed by the level of dance and intensity the other teams brought. Not to take away from our teacher, but we were recreational dancers with girls who still needed reminders about pointing toes and looking up. That trip opened our girls’ eyes and made them more serious about dance. It made them realize there was more to dance than just going to a class every evening. They were hooked.
In 2009 the dance teacher and her husband decided they wanted to move closer to their roots and start a family. We were devastated, but she agreed to do a year of classes/comp routines via Skype. She met us for a comp in Vancouver and that was our last time with her.
This part is where the true blessing/kismet/miracle happens. In 2010, four parents were determined to continue dance for our girls but were struggling with figuring out how. One of the parents contacted a studio in Florida she had sent her daughter to for summer camp. The owner of [Studio] in Florida has been an absolute blessing to us! She agreed to have the four girls come down for 2 weeks in the summer and lent us a studio and her two comp team instructors. We have been working with them ever since! Over the years, through pure randomness (or miracles, as I believe they are) We have found other people who help. Two women who live in L.A. help with choreographing and cleaning routines. One of the staff members for our school district took tap from the age of 2 and offered some classes when she was here. She moved in 2012, but this fall we finally got her to come up once a month and instruct. An Optometrist in town has danced since she was little and will help out when she has time. The biggest stroke of luck occurred when we found out that one of our teachers in a tiny village is married to a well-known Russian dancer, who retired after 20 years with the Russian Ballet. We try to fly him to Bethel as often as we can, but as of right now that is one weekend every other month. His wife is talking about transferring to Bethel next year!
The four original parents got a business license and pretty much started a dance studio. Although we have no actual studio hence the name Delta ‘Illusion’, our community has been very supportive by letting us practice free of charge in school gyms and cafeterias along with the gym at our local college. We do the the comp team which has traveled to many cities in the lower 48, but we also offer dance classes and a week long bootcamp for the community to give back and spread our love of dance. When teachers are not in town, one of the parents holds practices and cleans routines. You would be surprised at how much we have learned about dance, considering only one parent had any dance experience and that was high school cheer.The team started with just 4 girls but has now expanded to 23 members (including 3 boys).
Although this condensed version of the story makes it seem as though everything just fell into place (which in a way it has), there have been many ups-and-downs and obstacles. The one thing I have learned is that if you are truly passionate about something, there is a way to make it happen.”
I’ve known for many years how dedicated dancers are to their craft, but Delilah’s story takes it to a whole new level. Please feel free to share your thoughts about the Delta Illusion Dance Company and send them your regards and encouragement!