Kidstarz International Academy of Creative Arts' staff believes learning shouldn't stop when the school bell rings. Instructors aim to inspire kids with engaging classes that focus on a variety of subjects, from painting to sculpting, foreign languages to dance. Instead of distributing textbooks and teaching from behind a desk, they get kids involved in the lesson, encouraging them to get their hands dirty with paint or create silly sentences in Spanish in order to increase the likelihood that they'll retain their new skills and spread the word to their stuffed animals when they get home. Adults can also get in on the learning by enrolling in Big K Studios craft classes that teach students sewing, painting, and jewelry-making techniques.
MVDPAC has strutted its way to the top of numerous competitions, including first place in the 2009 CityVoter OC Hotlist for best dance studio. Under the limber guidance of decorated instructors, both novice and seasoned can shakers choose from the list of one-hour daily drop-in classes, where twinkle-toes light up floors with sparks rivaled only by Christmas trees that have fallen in the fireplace. Once inside the spacious studio, bodies bound across seven sprawling rooms and a studio theater. Students can elongate into states of grace through a selection of ballet courses, animate their legs and develop rhythm in the hip-hop courses, or practice freeform toe tapping and scatting the Greek alphabet through the jazz classes.
The adage that "there are no small parts, just small actors" rings truest at The Center Stage Studio, where budding thespians of all ages get their share of the spotlight. Under the experienced wand of director Tracey DiMiceli, a seasoned performer and theater instructor who also helmed Malibu's prestigious "Fitness by the Sea" summer camp, young actors develop the skills to sing, dance, and deliver heartfelt Tony Award acceptance speeches in a wealth of classes and camps.
In the family-tailored musical theater camps, which feature themes reflecting popular musicals and children's shows, lil' thespians learn the fundamentals of theater technique—including blocking, projecting, and stage direction—and cultivate skills that boost self-esteem and critical thinking. Camps end with a public performance where every child gets a spot in a major musical number and receives a speaking role, curbing the theatrical tradition of jealous prepubescent understudies.
At the age of 5, Natalie Costa’s daughter was cute, lively, and photogenic—reason enough to give show business a try, she thought. But with no one to guide her and her daughter through the maze of booking auditions and getting representation, she found herself out thousands of dollars on useless portfolio shoots and manager fees. In response, Costa founded The Performers Academy, modeling the friendly, welcoming atmosphere on the dancing school she loved as a child. She made sure to stock it with instructors who had the inside knowledge she could have used at the outset: all professional actors, directors, and producers with lots of experience in film and TV and a special focus on children’s programming.
The academy caters both to kids seriously trying to break into the business and to casual enthusiasts who find performing a liberating way to build self-confidence. Age-appropriate classes deal with such key topics as managing audition stress, honing improvisational comedy skills, and projecting loud enough to be heard over that giant gong that somebody keeps bumping into.