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Dancing away to 'Love' this weekend

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe The Dance Academy's intermediate ballet class of Kay Williams Prunty, including (front, from left) Tayla Edgar, Sarah Waldner (middle, from left) Annie Lesnar, Olivia Ebbers and (back from left) Laura Koepsell, Brooke Johnson, Emily Anderson, Katherine Luke and Meredith Moore, pose as they prepare for their upcoming recital at Memorial Auditorium in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Kay Williams Prunty was definitely looking for love in all the right places when it came to choosing a theme for the 14th annual spring dance concert of her business, The Dance Academy of Worthington.

"Yes, I was inspired by my husband -- he is amazing," blushed Prunty, referring to her spouse of nearly 15 years, Mark. "I'm so thankful and blessed to have him.

"That, and love is obviously universally experienced, so there was an expansive amount of music to choose from."

At 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, "Concert 2010: Love" will include performances by all of the more than 200 students who study with Prunty from September through May. The 7:30 p.m. Saturday show highlights primarily high school classes, as well as several student-choreographed pieces.

Via dance and movement, performers ranging from 3-year-old beginners to seasoned 18-year-olds (including seven seniors, who have studied for a combined 45 years with Prunty: Anna Baosythang, Joe Christensen, Erin Ebbers, Tayla Edgar, Megan Haberman, Amber Kelley and Madison Weg) will demonstrate the various phases of love -- from the euphoric to the yucky.

"We're exploring all kinds of love in over 50 numbers -- from the fairy tale princess type to 'Love Stinks' to sacred love in the form of worship dance," explained Prunty.

Among other selections that will accompany tap, jazz, modern and ballet routines are "You're the Inspiration" by Chicago, "Heartbreak Hotel" (famously sung by Elvis Presley), the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love," and "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson.

"I researched the top love songs of all time, so several proven favorites are thrown in," assured Prunty.

Besides several classic love songs, Prunty incorporates up-to-the-minute fare such as "Bella's Theme" from the popular "Twilight" movie series and Chris Brown's "Forever," which was widely celebrated in a viral 2009 YouTube video of a Minnesota couple dancing their way to the altar.

"Having 'love' as a theme gave me endless options, and planning the order of the dances for the program is always one of my last tasks before the show because I want to display the dancers' talents to their best advantage and keep things exciting for the audience," noted Prunty.

Prunty is quick to assure she doesn't manage a dance program of this magnitude without help.

Jill Thomas is in her second year as an additional ballet instructor, and Dance Academy alumnus Thai Hua aided Prunty as a teaching assistant at her studio this year. In addition, Prunty's recently retired parents, Jill and Bob Williams, are now assisting her -- Jill as an administrative assistant and bookkeeper and Bob as studio janitor.

At Memorial Auditorium, the site of each spring's dance extravaganza, longtime tech specialist Ron Vogel is helping Prunty with stage lighting for a 14th year, and Memorial Auditorium manager Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh also earns Prunty's praise for her efforts on behalf of the dance concert.

"This is the last show that will be held at the auditorium before construction for the addition there begins," confirmed Prunty. "We are so looking forward to next year, when there will be air conditioning and other improvements."

Vosburgh notes there is a groundbreaking ceremony for Memorial Auditorium's addition set for noon on June 1.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime project that will enhance the auditorium and provide tremendous opportunities for this community and the surrounding area in terms of programming," observed Vosburgh, who is already busily booking acts in anticipation of the facility's grand reopening next spring.

"The half-cent sales tax that voters approved in November 2008 is funding this project," reminded Vosburgh.

Prunty is thrilled to know her dancers will be among the first performers next year to take the stage at the new and improved Memorial Auditorium.

"What an awesome thing for our community, to see this investment in the performing arts -- it's something everyone can benefit from, and it says something positive about our citizens that they were willing to make this happen," exuded Prunty.

Prunty adds that hands-on involvement and exposure to the performing arts, including dance, help children gain poise, confidence and stage presence that will serve them well in many ways throughout their lives.

Kathy Lesnar, a Worthington parent of two daughters who have danced with Prunty for about 10 years each, attests to those positive effects.

"Kay is a great role model, and my girls really enjoy dancing," shared Lesnar. "You'll see some of the best dancing in southwest Minnesota at this dance show, and it's always a highlight of the year for my children."

The Dance Academy's "Concert 2010: Love" performances are at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Auditorium. Reserved seating tickets are available through noon Friday at Center Sports or at the door before performances. For more information about upcoming summer or academic-year classes at The Dance Academy, call 376-5237.