Forum Dance Theatre is one of the most respected pre-professional dance companies in the country, and on Saturday, February 2, they celebrate their fifteenth anniversary with a performance at the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts at the College of Lake County. It’s an important event for the nearly fifty members of Forum Dance’s three companies, as well as for the company’s many alumni, and it celebrates more than just their professional accomplishments. That’s because the energetic company, while continuing to build on their reputation for outstanding dance performances, actually has even more far-reaching objectives. “Our key mission is the training and preparation of the young adult for his or her future in whatever path they choose,” explains Artistic Director Eddy Ocampo. “Some of our dancers go on to dance, but some choose another field; nonetheless, all of our students leave our program well prepared to go after their dreams.”
When it comes to accomplishing a dream, Forum Dance Theater sets a good example. The Company began fifteen years ago as an after school dance group with five members; under the direction of Ocampo since 2000, and before that of founding Artistic Director Kelly Hayes, they’ve established themselves as an accomplished and widely respected program for aspiring young dancers. Forum Dance Theatre is now includes forty-nine members, an artistic and administrative staff of nine, and over fifty volunteers; originally named Forum Contemporary Jazz Dance Theatre, they dropped “Contemporary” from their name in 2000 and “Jazz” in 2012, becoming Forum Dance Theatre.
In their Fifteen Year Anniversary Celebration, the Company will be performing works by Guest Choreographers Nick Pupillo and Preston Miller, as well as works by Ballet Master Brent Caburnay, Second Company Director Kimberly Fletcher-Stibal and Ocampo. It’s an impressive line-up, a group of respected and experienced choreographers whose professional credits include a virtual world tour of dance, and their creative participation is characteristic of the high level of professional experience that members of Forum Dance are exposed to. Even more remarkably, these young performers are very much prepared for just such opportunities.
Forum Dance Theatre company members typically spend fifteen to twenty hours a week training, in addition to rehearsals, which can reach another twenty hours a week during their busy season. Not surprisingly, the Company’s approach includes an emphasis on skills in time management and the art and science of making choices, in addition to the high level of dance performance. The results are exceptional, not only in what the Company members always bring to their audiences, but also in what they themselves take with them. That’s certainly the impression you get from the way that Forum Dance alumni describe their time with the Company.
CJ Salvador is a Forum alum from 2009 who has since danced with Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Christina Aguilera; he describes his experience at the Company as “the top notch training and discipline I needed to make it in the professional dance world,” and goes on to say, “Eddy’s, Richard’s, Kim’s and Brent’s training still reflects on my choreography and even the way I dance today.” Leah Flore, who dances with LehrerDance, is every bit as positive. “I believe the dedication, respect, and professionalism instilled in me during my time with Forum Dance Theatre has led me to every incredible opportunity I have been blessed with thus far,” she says. Even after their performance careers have brought them to other, often still richer opportunities, the Company’s alumni continue to see their successes in the light of what they learned at Forum Dance. “Now as a choreographer and teacher myself,” says Lizzie Leopold, Founder and Artistic Director of Leopold Group, “I truly appreciate Forum’s extraordinary fusion of artistry and technique both in the classroom and on the stage,” and adds, “And, it is still a warm family to return to for inspiration and support.”
Forum Dance Theater’s performance at the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts is certain to be impressive; anyone who has seen them perform will know that. All the same, as impressive as the Company’s artistic success is whenever they take the stage, it may be that their most important accomplishments are somewhere beyond their many memorable performances. Their greatest successes are found in all of the futures that they work so hard to prepare for.