MODESTO -- A 7½-minute routine at a professional basketball game will be the culmination of nearly nine months of hard work. But the 17 Modesto dancers who'll take to the court during a Sacramento Kings halftime show say it will be well worth it.
The 15 students of The Dance Factory, ranging in age from 11 to 27, have been preparing since August with choreographers Alesha and Christy Rabe for the 7 p.m. performance April 5.
Alesha Rabe has been a choreographer for about six years, since earning her bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from California State University, Long Beach. She and sister Christy Rabe composed the piece that will be performed during the halftime show at Sleep Train Arena.
"The halftime show is the biggest one you can do. There's a pre-opening show and an opening show, but everyone wants the halftime show," said Alesha Rabe. "They called us, and whoever they decide to callsubmits a video," Rabe said of the auditioning process.
According to Rabe, good management and a blending of styles added to The Dance Factory's attractiveness during the auditioning phase. "Our owner, Debbie Holtzclaw, she's trained us so well.
It makes us look very put together."
And while studio owner Holtzclaw focuses on a classical take on dance, emphasizing ballet and a technique known as Cecchetti, the Rabe sisters utilize more modern approaches, such as hip-hop.
"Combining those two worlds, from our owner's perspective to ours, it makes us really stand out," Alesha Rabe says.
The team of dancers has devoted countless hours to the project. Rabe rates scheduling as one of the most difficult hurdles the group has had to overcome.
"Almost all of us work full time, and the younger girls are in school," said Rabe.
For example, one of the older students, Amanda Hail, is pursuing a degree in pharmacy yet continues with rehearsals despite a rigorous academic schedule. Christy Rabe adds that such dedication is integral to making the experience work.
"We started with 25 girls, but the others couldn't commit," she says.
Adds Alesha Rabe: "It's been a long process. To get 17 girls to do 7½ minutes of performance is huge.
Some of them are only 11 years old. To do this at 11 years of age, that's dedication. But they love to dance."
While the time commitments and physical demands have been rigorous, the rewards outweigh the cost.
"The Dance Factory is like our second home," says Amanda Hail.
Eighteen year-old Tiffany Li adds, "The performance has brought us all closer together."
Alesha Rabe enthusiastically tells of the closeness of the relationships at The Dance Factory. "It's not blood family, but it's family."
Showcasing their skills
And the halftime show experience will be unrivaled. Aside from increasing their stamina and dancing skills exponentially, Alesha Rabe describes how the event itself will provide a unique learning experience.
"You don't get this opportunity a lot.
When you perform at a dance studio, it's on a stage where you can't see the audience where, with this, it's a 360-(degree) view.
All eyes are on you. And at 11 years of age, you don't get that."
Asked whether they plan for dance to continue to be a major part of their lives, the team members responded with a unanimous yes.
"Most of us have been dancing since we were 3 or 4 years old," says Tiffany.
Fourteen-year-old Mckenzie Hillier says her "life revolves around dance."
Alesha Rabe sees the wide age range among the dancers as an opportunity.
"The younger girls really get to look up to the older girls.
They can see something to aspire to, and they can aspire to be better dancers."
Amanda effectively sums up what the team has gained thus far from preparing for the performance: "Making new bonds and learning how to trust one another."
To help offset the costs of participating, The Dance Factory has been selling tickets to the April 5 game, which pits the Sacramento Kings against the Dallas Mavericks.
The 17 dancers offered many insights as to what they hope to take away from the experience, listing everything from the professional experience to adding to résumé quality to getting the name of The Dance Factory more public.
But Alesha Rabe says the most rewarding part is witnessing the girls' development.
"To see the girls gain confidence in themselves
just to see the growth in both their personalities and their dancing
that's what I'll take away."
On the Net: www.dancefactorymodesto.com.
Zachary Senn is a home-schooled junior and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom Program.Sisters Christy Rabe, left, and Alesha Rabe choreographed the routine Dance Factory students will perform during a Sacramento Kings halftime show next month.