Dance Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
At Popovsky Performing Arts Studio, You’ll Dance Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
Lancaster County has its very own slice of Broadway – that is, if you know where to look. Popovsky Performing Arts Studio in Manheim Township is something of a local legend, and for good reason: the studio has been training talented local performers for more than a decade.
Popovsky Performing Arts Studio got its start in East Petersburg in 2007 and at the time, it served solely as a private voice studio. The studio’s founder, Michael Popovsky, is a lifelong fan of the arts who got started at a young age. “I have been performing and singing for as long as I can remember,” Popovsky says. “I didn’t always know that I wanted to teach, but very quickly once I graduated college, I decided that teaching was a perfect complement to my performing schedule.” Before he knew it, he’d discovered a whole new passion. “I instantly fell in love with it.”
From its early days, the studio led the charge as one of the first performing arts organizations of its kind in the county. The studio thrived, and as Popovsky and his team got to know local creatives, they noticed a need for something that went beyond voice. “Triple threat training,” as any aspiring performer knows, is instruction in all three core disciplines of theater: singing, acting, and dancing. The rub, of course, is that in most communities, mastering all three skills means shuttling between various teachers and studios all over town. But Popovsky changed the game and began offering lessons in all three disciplines under one roof. As the studio expanded, the team moved to their current space on Butler Avenue in Manheim Township, and filled their class schedule with a triple threat curriculum. The rest is history.
Today, Popovsky offers performance opportunities, summer camps, backstage classes, private voice lessons, improv, a wide range of dance lessons, and even Mommy & Me music classes. “People ask me very frequently what our [student] age range is,” Popovsky says. “And it is truly from 0 to 99.” The studio offers a little something for everyone, and that’s important. Welcoming students from every walk of life benefits every corner of the community, because training in the arts can lead to so much more than just belting out a perfect C note. (Though, it should be said, the rare magic of well-belted Broadway tune is plenty fantastic on its own.)
Over the course of his pedagogical studies, Popovsky has seen time and time again that performing can drastically improve a student’s life outside the studio. “Acting and music and dance helps with everything from physical awareness, to cognitive processing, to confidence, to social skills,” he explains. “Music can be really helpful in kids’ development. It’s one of the only disciplines that actively incorporates both hemispheres of the brain.”
While an arts student may be focusing on how much fun they’re having as they land their first double pirouette or laugh over lines with their castmates, they’re also building important life skills. “We don’t need to only be creating performers to know that we’re helping people grow and be confident to get up onstage and speak in front of their peers,” Popovsky says. “The arts are just absolutely invaluable. Especially in this day and age where money is being cut from the arts left and right.”
To keep these values front and center, teachers at the studio are held to a unique standard. “They have to have not only some sort of pedagogical background, but they also have to have a performance background,” Popovsky says. Many arts professionals focus exclusively on one path or the other, so a balance of both talents can be rare. “What I’m looking for is a combination of teachers who not only can sit and talk pedagogy and new teaching approaches and get excited about the how and the why, but can also get up on stage and do it. And that’s hard to find.”
Teachers at Popovsky do more than just teach – they also direct shows, take part in outreach activities, and help build a sense of community in the studio. “We’ve created a team, we’ve created a family, and that is part of our culture. It’s something we’re really passionate about.”
The biggest secret to Popovsky’s success, both for students and teachers, is simple: don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. “A lot of [students] come in and they have preconceived ideas of what makes them happy onstage and what songs they can sing and how their voice should sound,” Popovsky says. “But making them uncomfortable is absolutely part of the success. It allows them to explore. We have to have teachers who are going to set them up for success, because they understand what the students can do well, and they understand what is actually safe and healthy for a student to grow.”
Much like life offstage, mastering performing means learning through your mistakes. As Popovsky points out, growth can involve missing high notes, falling out of dance turns, or making risky acting choices, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s essential. “If you don’t have teachers who can guide a student through that risky, uncomfortable process, you’re not going to have students who can really get excited about the lightbulbs that go off when they realize what they’ve been able to accomplish.” And at the end of the day, those personal discoveries are what stick with students for a lifetime. Those irreplaceable light bulb flashes are the most applause-worthy moments of all.
By: Claire Hannum