By Diane Richardson
The Feet First Dancers have been entertaining Humboldt County audiences for over 35 years. A true community dance company, Feet First makes it possible for performers of all ages and abilities to experience the joy and magic of dance. Currently, the group is collaborating with teen dancers Jazminh Lambley, Margo McReynolds-Gooch, and Sarah Landes Sweet, as well as the exciting new aerial collective, Skydance, led by Colleen Bingham. I spoke with these inspiring young performers about their background and their love of dance.
Jazminh Lambley began her dance career at age 3. "I took a modern class and a ballet class. I was more outgoing back then, and when I look at pictures from that time I was always laughing. As I got older I started taking ballet class several days a week. At first I wasn’t too serious; it was a good way to spend time with my friends. When I was 11 Kathy gave me one of the leading recital roles. After that I worked to get better and started doing pointe work at 12."
Jazminh’s latest role with Feet First was in the Sugar Plum Suite, where she soloed as the Sugar Plum Fairy. She enjoys working at Kathy Wolman’s new studio in Redway. "Lately our classes have included new teens and older, more experienced dancers which I like a lot because they are so positive and energetic. Margo is really nice and it will be fun to do the duet about friendship with her in the upcoming Feet First show."
Jazminh has a message for other young dancers. "When you are having a bad day and are feeling down, if you get yourself to get up and start dancing it will make you feel completely better. It just lifts something off your shoulders."
Margo McReynolds-Gooch has been dancing through life since she was 2 years old. "No matter what I’m doing I have to have music and I always dance, even if I’m cleaning house. It started as a hobby, but when I saw professionals I knew that I wanted to be one of those people. I formed my own style, a combination of gymnastics and ‘glitching.’ After that I started teaching myself dances off of YouTube.
"I have been involved with Recycled Youth since I was fourteen, and through that I’ve worked with a couple of people who are professionally trained. Ed Clark has taught me a lot about the anatomy of dance. Cynthia Carter has taught me break, modern, and contemporary," she said. Margo performed with Feet First at last year’s Summer Arts Festival, met Kathy Wolman, and began to take ballet. In December, she was featured as the Russian Dancer in Kathy’s Sugar Plum Suites. Margo hopes to get a dance degree and open a ballet studio after college.
Margo will perform many styles of dance in the Feet First show Dance Me to the Moon. "Knowing that Feet First likes having youth participants is very welcoming and heartwarming." Margo encourages young people to be part of the creative process. "Dance is not everyone’s thing, but costumes and stage crew and lights are also fun to do."
Sarah Landes Sweet is a dancer at heart who is currently masquerading as a checker at Chautauqua Natural Foods. "I started dancing in 1998 when I was 3. I went to see The Nutcracker and wouldn’t stop dancing in the seats. The next year I was a bon-bon and a lamb in The Nutcracker. After several years of ballet class, I took a modern class and a hip-hop class. I performed with Feet First at the summer fair and in the full length performance Imagine. The members of Feet First feel like a family; they are a really cool support core."
Since joining Recycled Youth, Sarah feels that her dance style has changed a lot. "But the storytelling is still the same because I have always felt that dance should have a message behind it. Dance is the most important part of my life. It is like meditation for me."
Her words of wisdom for other young dancers are: "Find something that grooves for you...every type of dance is different." Sarah and Margo will present their duet Can’t Be Tamed at the Feet First performance in February.
Colleen Bingham burst on the Southern Humboldt scene as Vavalanis in the play Love Your Mothership. "I have my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater from UC Santa Barbara, and have pursued belly dance, modern, contact improv, and circus arts. After college I was hired at a circus center and began to teach. My dream job was in San Francisco at a circus arts school doing gymnastics floor work with pre-school kids. In addition I was able to take aerial classes in trapeze, silks, and rope. Then I worked at a summer circus camp where I taught the basics of aerial."
"After I moved to Humboldt County everyone told me to get in touch with Cynthia Carter. She had a dream to start a circus school in Southern Humboldt. She asked me to help teach an eight-week workshop for silks and trapeze. Then Recycled Youth caught on to the fact that I was teaching, and at that time Barbara Penny was ready to retire. The torch got passed to me to direct the aerial work in their show. That really got the ball rolling, because many of the high school students were approaching me about taking classes. At that point I attended a Feet First meeting where the group embraced me, helped fund my project, and supported my vision.
"I’m excited to perform in the February Feet First show with two of my most devoted students, Teamo Gregori and Amelia Albee. I have found a loving family here, and it has given me the confidence to go forward. I also want to acknowledge the support of Katie, Destiny, and the Synapsis Aerial Collective. It’s all about keeping the creative energy flowing and the love of dance alive."
You can enjoy the talents of these blossoming dancers at the Feet First performance Dance Me to the Moon. It will be held at the Mateel Community Center on Feb. 14, 15, 16, and 17. Tickets are available at Blue Moon in Garberville and at the door. Come immerse yourself in an evening of lighthearted fun, beauty, and creativity, and see the new generation of dancers emerging on the stage.
1. Jazminh Lambley as the Sugar Plum Fairy.
2. Skydance Aerial Collective at work.