Poised at a barre in one of the dance studios at Southwest School of Dance, six girls effortlessly get on their tiptoes during one of their movements for pointe class.
They hold that position for quite a while before moving on to the next form.
On a recent Monday night at Park Side Elementary, the Marshall Just for Kix Starmakers jazz team started off its practice with 20 jumping jacks and various stretching exercises before practicing its routine.
Nicole Thovson (foreground) and Ariel Smith warm up at the barre during pointe class at Southwest School of Dance.
Area dance teachers and students alike said that dance has many benefits, from being fit to becoming stronger, to having better posture and more confidence in themselves.
"Dancers are some of the most physically fit people around and stay that way for the rest of their lives," said Southwest School of Dance director Charlotte Wendel. "And I see that over and over again. Very few dancers become couch potatoes."
"I have a lot of students who are in the fitness career," Wendel added.
Marshall JFK director Jackie Louwagie said the biggest thing for her is teaching her dancers about self-confidence - not just in dance, but in their daily lives.
"The hundreds of people they perform in front of helps them in social situations, job interviews, not to be shy," Jackie Louwagie said.
Although her studio is recreational, Vicki Nilius of the Tracy Dance Studio, said she offers a nurturing environment that gives kids a sense of self-worth.
"And we have a balance of fun and discipline," Nilius said. "That's how we guide the students."
Students agree that dance does build their self-confidence.
"When you have to go on stage and dance, that takes a lot of guts," SWSD dancer Peyton Bruce said.
"When I started, I felt so small, no one noticed me," SWSD dancer Michaella McKenzie said. When she sees the younger students now, McKenzie said, she knows how they feel.
Strength-building is something the teachers and dancers notice after being in dance for several years.
"They realize they're stronger than their peers," Wendel said. "They work hard for it."
"You have more endurance," said SWSD dancer Alyssa Ahmann.
"You're used to fast paces," McKenzie said.
"Sometimes it's easier to run a mile after you've been in this because your endurance is higher," JFK dancer Shelbie Thomsen said.
SWSD dancer Allie Bottelberghe said that dance has given her "all of her flexibility."
"All the kids in my class are like 'how do you do this?'" Bottelberghe said.
Then there's posture, Bruce said. And she'll notice how she'll sit up straighter while watching basketball and volleyball games.
"Or you notice when people are standing up straighter," McKenzie said.
Dancers at SWSD are working on five to nine competitive dances throughout the season. Plus, most of them are in the upcoming Prairie Dance Alliance's production of "The Nutcracker," so they have additional routines to learn and practice. Some of the JFK dancers, including Alyssa Louwagie and Josie Nelson are on the Marshall Tigers dance team, so they're dancing about 20 hours a week, they said.
"It takes up a lot of time but it's better than sitting on the computer or watching TV," Alyssa Louwagie said.
You get your exercise, that's for sure, Alyssa Louwagie said.
"You get a good workout," Nelson said.
Jackie Louwagie said she's noticed that girls who have been in dance for many years have a certain way about them.
"They have more poise and grace about them and how to carry themselves," Jackie Louwagie said. "They seem to be more outgoing."
Teamwork is another benefit, the students and teachers said.
"It breaks down the boundaries," Wendel said. "The older (students) mentor the younger. I see that time and time and time again."
"Even when you don't like a person, you still have to dance with them," Bruce said.
"You really bond with a bunch of other girls, and it helps you not be afraid to do stuff when performing," Nelson said.
Time management has also been something the students have learned through dance.
"You manage your time with schoolwork," Nelson said.
"They learn how to use their time wisely," Wendel said. "Not just in dance. They learn to set goals and work toward them."
Even if class is just for an hour a week, teachers said it even helps the students deal with a bad day.
"It helps them hearing the music for that hour in class, they forget their problems learning to work as a team, respecting their teachers," Jackie Louwagie said. She said some parents have mentioned to her that dance has helped their daughters through life situations. "I try and incorporate life lessons as well."
"You kind of leave your troubles at the door and if you have extra energy, you can dance it off," Nilius said.