It’s never too early to learn the ins and outs of becoming an entertainer — just ask the 10 children who discovered a wealth of talents and a little confidence at performing arts camp this week.
Dani Messamore, director of Tri-Cities Talent, led the group at the Princeton Arts Center in a fun, five-day camp focusing on a variety of skills, such as modeling, tumbling, vocal lessons, dance, gymnastics and guitar lessons. The participants, whose ages varied from 3-10, “were like sponges,” Messamore said, as they picked up on each concept quickly. On the last day, the campers learned a hip-hop dance in half an hour.
“What we want to do is unlock each child’s potential and give them a taste of each thing we offer so that they can see which thing they’re interested in that they might want to pursue as a hobby or career someday,” said Messamore, who offers classes in each of the skills introduced at performing arts camp.
This special opportunity provided a chance for discovery. Mason Merkel, 9, and her 3-year-old sister, Micah, each found a talent that they want to strengthen. Though a little shy, Micah smiled brightly whenever her sibling spoke of their love of gymnastics. Mason was also proud of learning how to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on the guitar.
“I was already wanting to take guitar lessons, but I learned a lot here already,” she said. “This is a really good start for me. I want to be a guitarist and a karate master, which we didn’t do here, but there were a few kicks in the dances, which helped out a lot.”
Just as Mason, a recent brown belt, used dance moves to practice karate, camp mate Evan Smith-Rooks said he will utilize new skills in dance and gymnastics to improve his performance in basketball, football and baseball.
“I get a chance to stretch my muscles and help them get bigger,” said the 8-year-old from Atlanta, who is currently visiting his grandmother.
The singing portion of performing arts camp also was a hit. After warming up their vocal cords, the children had a chance to sing some of their favorite songs by artists like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.
“Me and Micah learned a little bit of ‘Eenie Meenie’ by Justin Bieber and she’s singing that a lot now,” Mason said.
Being bold enough to sing in front of a group of people is scary at any age, but Messamore said the campers quickly became comfortable expressing their newfound skills.
“On the first day we couldn’t even get them out on the floor to begin a dance because they were too shy and didn’t know the other children and didn’t know us. The next day they came in ready to go and it’s just a fulfillment that every child needs.”
Part of finding the courage to perform in front of fellow campers lies in self-confidence.
“Besides the talent they can develop, it will build self-confidence that you just can’t go through life without having,” Messamore said. “It’s going to help them with public speaking or anything that they need to do where they need to get on stage and perform in any capacity. I’m passionate about having children build their confidence to whatever level they want to pursue.”
Mason said the camp was even more fun then she expected because it was all-in-one. She and Smith-Rooks said they enjoyed the individual instruction from visitors who taught them the basics of cheerleading, modeling and guitar.
The day camp may have been short, but the potential of the youngsters was evident from day one.
“Children are just so uninhibited,” Messamore said. “They just soak it up and love whatever their passion is and once you can zero in on that and help them develop that, there’s no telling what they can do.”