tom.mark@gaflnews.com



TIFTON -- This afternoon at the Performing Arts Center on the campus of Tift County High School, Carolyn Ellis, owner of the Carolyn Ellis School of Dance, will direct her 29th year-end dance recital.

"Who's Your Diva" will begin at 1 p.m. and again at 4 p.m.

During the past school year, more than 250 children and teen-agers have been studying at Ellis' school. All of the school's students will have a part in the afternoon's performance with the younger classes being divided between the two shows.

In addition to the obvious hope that both performances go smoothly, Ellis has several goals for the students who participate in her classes.

"We want them to be able to take something away from this," Ellis said prior to rehearsal Friday evening, "something they can use in their adult lives."

On the list are attributes that include poise, self-confidence, discipline, setting goals, "and finding out that they have a voice," Ellis added.

During the 29-year history of the Carolyn Ellis School of Dance, there have been many memorable moments. A few years ago, the dance troupe was invited to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and in 1989, a group of 67 traveled to the Soviet Union for two weeks. The entourage included the Ellis' daughter.

"I never knew that my passion for dance and travel would have an effect on my then 10-year old daughter," said Ellis. Her daughter, Erin, has long been a familiar face on the pageant scene and according to her mother, has adopted civic responsibility, patriotism and the importance of voting as part of her pageant platform.

The troupe has been invited to once again participate in the Macy's parade this November.

Ellis came to Tifton in 1973 after graduating from what used to be Albany Junior College. Since the age of three, she had studied dance at Albany's Pritchett-Pippin Studio and, upon her college graduation, Ellis was offered the opportunity to open schools in both Tifton and Cordele.

"In the beginning, I started through the recreation department with very small classes," she said," but then it just took off in Tifton."

In addition to directing the show, Ellis also writes the script for the performance each year and does so with her seniors in mind.

"I usually get a vision for what I want to do during the year," she said.

This year's performance features Marie Fore, Ashley Strickland, Rosanna Suen and Jessie O'Neal. Ellis has taught dance to Strickland and Suen for the past 15 years.

"She is just wonderful," said Strickland of her instructor. "She teaches us so much more than dance. She teaches us to be responsible and that we need to support each other."

Ellis' influence has clearly rubbed off on Strickland as the recent high school graduate plans to continue dancing wherever she attends college. She is also leaning towards a career in education.

"I know I want to do something where I am around kids," Strickland said.

Ellis' philosophy is simple. "We try to teach in an environment that is safe, but we also want everyone to be creative and express themselves.

"It has to be fun."



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