Madelyn Birkelbach, 21, has been a dancer most of her life. As a member of her high school drill team, she knew she wanted to keep dancing when she came to Oxford for college because she finds it “therapeutic and an opportunity to freely express (herself).”
Now a full time University of Mississippi student, she has been teaching at Oxford Academy of Dance Arts and dancing with Hinge Dance Company for two years. She said being part Hinge has let her keep dance in her life, and she considers the owner a mentor, friend and blessing.
Oxford Academy of Dance Arts is a local dance studio that gives children and adults a place to express themselves without the stress of competition.
Director Lydia Siniard grew up dancing and wanted to continue throughout college. She attended UM “never wanted to leave” dance. She continued taking classes throughout Oxford and taught at a few local studios. She said she was part of Mississippi: The Dance Company, and during her senior year, she started her own student-led dance company, Hinge.
After graduating in 2011, she took Hinge off campus, creating her own small dance company and business. Hinge immediately took off with momentum, sparking the interest of other dancers who didn’t want to compete, but wanted to be involved with a few performances a year.
Shortly after, Siniard became the official owner of Oxford Academy of Dance Arts. OADA is a non-competitive performing arts studio with dance classes from tap and ballet to musical theater for dancers of all ages, even adults.
“The classes range anywhere from a creative movement class for 3 year olds to our adult ballet class, which actually has a pretty big crew,” she said.
Siniard said she takes pride in the studio’s age-appropriate approach and allows students to learn at their own pace.
“We won’t stick them in pointe shoes if they aren’t ready,” she said. “We won’t stretch them harder if they can’t go all the way. We will use age-appropriate music and choreography.”
Siniard still runs both Hinge and OADA. She said the company is mostly for college students and young adults “who want to have an outlet to express themselves, move, yet still being able to balance being a college student.”
The studio puts on two shows a year. They are now working on their spring show that will be called Thirty-three because they have been working on their pieces for just 33 days.
Hinge Dance Company’s spring concert will be Feb. 28 and March 1-2 at The Powerhouse, according to their website. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the performance begins at 8 p.m.
Priority table seating with complimentary wine and dessert will be available for Friday and Saturday evenings and are $45 for a table for two or $90 for a table for four. General seating tickets will cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door.
She creates a flexible schedule for dancers and understands the struggle of being a full time student. She said she wants her dancers to know, “When life is crazy, you can come here.”
Siniard said her mission for both ODA and Hinge is to allow dancers to express themselves freely, giving them a safe environment to be themselves and gain confidence. “I don’t want them to feel like they need a score in order to know they did a good job,” she said.
With the stress-free environment, dancers can themselves and have fun. They aren’t constantly comparing themselves to friends or striving for more than they can handle.
“I am really impressed with all of the dancers and their hard work,” Siniard said. “Everything is really coming together.”
The shows are always short and sweet, allowing people who have never seen dance before to actually enjoy what they are watching. “We want people to be able to appreciate the art form, even if they are not familiar with it.”
Siniard said her favorite of the job is sharing her passion with others and watching the joy dance brings them. She also loves making others feel good in a way only dance can and being able to watch dancers love what they do. She said they “strive to make the kids good dancers, yes, but more importantly good people.”