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Arissa Viering | 10/7/2020 | Goodday Mineral Wells | Local Businesses | Art

Ask Melanie Hierbe-Richardson, Owner and Instructor at The Beat Dance Factory, how COVID has impacted her life and she’ll be the first to tell you: It’s changed everything.

“It’s been a rough year. We didn’t get to do what we had planned,” Melanie stated to her dancers during class.

During the COVID pandemic, the dancers of The Beat Factory were not immune to the negative impacts. Competitions were canceled along with the majority of the dance and art scene at the beginning of the pandemic. While schools were closing and the economy was tumbling, the arts of theater, music, and dance were following along. However, that’s not stopping the dancers at The Beat Dance Factory.

“We might be from a small town, but we still do big things,” Melanie stated during her interview with Goodday Mineral Wells. The instructor described future plans for her dancers to dance on stage for Disney and Universal Studios along with many other competitions. Her class of level 6 & 7 dancers are ambitious and already planning ahead for a career in theater, dance, and music. With many competitions already won, the girls are a force to be reckoned with and an amazing representation of the city of Mineral Wells.

On October 7th, 2020, Melanie hosted a short workshop with Lili Froehlich, Dance Captain for the National Tour of Hamilton, for her dancers. As the dancers gathered around the television to prepare for their workshop on Zoom with the prestigious dancer, they were already thinking through their questions relating to colleges and careers to ask Lili.

The dancers were well aware of the Lili Froehlich’s background in the dance industry including her Broadway debut in the original company of the revival of “Cats” choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler (Electra, DC, u/s Sillabub, Jennyanydots, & Rumpleteazer). The dancer has also performed in the National Tour of Blankenbuehler’s Joseph “Dreamcoat.” Some of her favorite jobs included working at the MUNY in St. Louis and Casa Mañana in Fort Worth, TX. Lili Froehlich is a Weatherford,TX Native and is excited to be able to teach and inspire the students at The Beat Dance Factory.

As soon as the Zoom session started, the dancers and Lili were quick to start talking about how COVID had impacted their dance careers thus far. Some described the need to wear masks everywhere they went while others felt fortunate to still be able to attend dance class and school. Lili, currently living in New York City, described a much more grim comparison of her recent COVID experience:

“At the very beginning of the pandemic, New York City was one of the worst places to be. Before the pandemic, my job was to be a dancer on Hamilton. When the pandemic happened, we were in Toronto. Right now, theater isn’t able to happen because we can’t be in big groups. So, I’m furloughed right now . . . Broadway is pretty empty. It’s surprising how empty it is. Slowly, there has been an increase in people. It’s weird to walk by these theaters and them be empty; it’s sad . . . I don’t think any of us could have predicted this happening. COVID slapped us across the face,” she stated.

Lili, during her furlough with the National Tour of Hamilton has chosen to use this time to help other young dancers during the pandemic. It wasn’t long into the Q&A session that she began to give out plentiful advice to the young dancers about summer programs, internships, and scholarships.

“It’s definitely a weird time to be a dancer, actor, or in theater. However, we are still able to come together to be creative during this time,” Lili stated to the dancers.

In December, Lili Froehlich will be coming to Mineral Wells to host an in-person workshop to dance with the students. Despite an empty Broadway and theaters, Melanie won’t let COVID stop her dancers from performing their passion.

“If you want to be an actor or singer, there’s no end. The limit does not exist . . . I still have a lot of hope. The art of dance and theater is never going to go away.”

Lili Froehlich

(the music being played in the live video below was muted by Facebook as it is subject to copyright laws)


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