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A Heartfelt Journey Through 2023 and Cheers to a Spectacular 2024!

Dear Skunkworks Dance Community,


As we bid adieu to 2023, I find myself overflowing with gratitude and joy for the incredible journey we've shared at Skunkworks Dance. I want to take this opportunity to walk you through the remarkable moments that made this year unforgettable.



 

A Strong Start and Innovative Initiatives:


We embarked on 2023 with resounding energy, hitting a milestone of 100 students — our largest enrollment ever! The year marked the debut of our Individual THRIVE Program for Y.A.W. and E.T.A. Dancers. Spearheaded by THRIVE Director and Founder Jana Bennett, this program included individual movement assessments, paving the way for personalized cross-training programs. Coupled with our enriching dance anatomy class, THRIVE Lab & Learn for dancers grades 2-4, this initiative revolutionized the way our dancers move, perceive optimal health, and achieve their goals, making significant strides in injury prevention.


See our THRIVE Program in action here:




 

A Winter Wonderland at Winterfest:



Photo Courtesy of Chicago Tribute Article "Wilmette kicks off second annual Winterfest on Village Green": Students from Skunkworks Dance wow the crowd at Wilmette Winterfest. (Gina Grillo / Chicago Tribune)




In mid-February, Skunkworks Dance had the honor of hosting a custom-made ice sculpture in Wilmette, featuring the talented Skunkworks Dancer Sammy. Our Performance Program dazzled audiences with a stunning Winterfest show on the Wilmette Green, marking the beginning of a year filled with artistic brilliance.


Read the Chicago Tribune Wilmette Winterfest article featuring an image from the Skunkworks Winterfest Performance here: https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/wilmette/ct-wlm-winterfest-library-tl-0302-20230227-pllh435iqrbnpdkfujhs2vtm5m-story.html


Skunkworks Dancer Sammy with the ice sculpture of her dancing:




 

The Dust Off Battle 2023:


Come the first Friday of March, the studio came alive with the second annual The Dust Off battle! This professional dance battle grew to over 50 participants from the Midwest, creating an electric atmosphere. For the first time, The Dust Off included a youth battle with over 20 of our student dancers, and the night ended with Chicago legend K-Dot and our own Performance Program Dancer Emily crowned as the winners. The Dust Off remains etched in our memories as one of the most dynamic nights of dance in 2023.


See The Dust Off 2023 Recap Film here: 



The Dust Off 2023 Celebration Photo with Pro Winners:




 

Cinematic Magic in Chicago:


That's a wrap of the K.I.T. Winter / Spring 2023 Film Shoot!

As March drew to a close, our Performance Program ventured to a cool film location in Chicago to shoot new dance films. These films captured the essence of our dancers' artistry and creativity, showcasing their talent in a captivating visual medium. See them all here!





See our TENET I Promo featuring our Y.A.W. Apprentice and E.T.A. Dancers here:



See our K.I.T. Film "Shout" here: 



See our "Please Stand By" Short Film here:




 

"TENET I" Premiere:


TENET I Performance Program Cast Photo:

May brought the highly anticipated premiere of "TENET I," a brilliant masterpiece featuring 29 of our Performance Program dancers. This full-length dance piece, spanning Contemporary, Ballet, and Hip Hop, unfolded in a dystopian society that feared The Light. "TENET I" encouraged us to fear less and open our hearts to the unknown, leaving a lasting impact on all.


See the "TENET I Promo" here: 




 

The Grand Finale: Winter / Spring 2023 Performance Workshop:


To cap off the Winter / Spring 2023 semester, our Performance Workshop allowed our incredible Skunkworks dancers to shine, showcasing what they had learned throughout the semester. It was a celebration of dedication, growth, and artistic expression.



 

Summer Fun and Festivities:


While we took a break from Skunkworks classes over the summer, the season was brimming with excitement. We had a presence at local festivals, engaging in special Skunkworks games and prizes. Performances at Wilmette's Summer Sizzle and the inaugural Wilmette Art Fair, along with multiple Danceapalooza festivals at the studio, filled the summer with amazing dance classes and movers!


The Skunkworks Dance booth of games at Wilmette's Summer Sizzle Festival:



 

A Joyous 5-Year Anniversary and More:


Our Fall 2023 semester kicked off in August with a bang, celebrating our joyous 5-year anniversary. Reflecting on the studio's growth from humble beginnings, we entered the semester with gratitude for the incredible students, parents, and communities that have turned Skunkworks into a dream come true.



 

Labor Day Filming and Wilmette Block Party:


Y.A.W. and E.T.A. Dancers in the Labor Day Film

On Labor Day, Skunkworks invaded Gillson Park to film three epic Performance Program dance films. Despite scorching temperatures, our dancers embraced the heat, exploring dance film prompts with water, snacks, and well-deserved rest breaks. September 9 saw Skunkworks as the only local dance studio invited to perform on-stage at the Wilmette Block Party. The performances dazzled audiences, and our interactive Skunkworks booth drew lines of eager kids excited to engage in creative games.


See the Y.A.W. and E.T.A. Film "Camp MAAFO" here:



See the K.I.T. Film "Frenemies" here:



See "Prelude" Film here:




 

Mid-Semester Performance Workshop and "Nexus" Premiere:


The Performance Program Cast Photo from "Nexus":



In October, we celebrated our first Mid-Semester Performance Workshop, marking the largest attendance in Skunkworks history. The event highlighted the immense growth of our studio, harkening back to the days of our first performance with only one audience member.

December brought the premiere of the Performance Program Fall 2023 show, "Nexus." This groundbreaking show, danced fully in the round, unfolded as a captivating adventure through the human brain, delving into the profound realms of self-reflection and human connections.


"Nexus" was a stunning debut of teamwork, collaboration and vulnerability and moved audiences young and old to embrace their feelings and those around them.


See the "Nexus" Promo here:




 

SNOW BALL Extravaganza and Holiday Film:



A behind the scenes capture from the Performance Program Holiday Filming

The Fall 2023 semester concluded with a bang at the first SNOW BALL event and a special Performance Program Holiday filming! SNOW BALL was a fundraiser featuring youth battles in Hip Hop and Contemporary, and culminating in an epic dance party. Watching our dancers take risks, give their all in the battles, and witnessing parents join the dance floor was a testament to the vibrant community we've built.


To commence the semester with joy and smiles, our Performance Program came together on the last Saturday of the season to create the brilliantly hilarious holiday film "While Elephant Gone Awry" see it here now: 




 

A Year of Performance Program Highlights:


Photo of Y.A.W. and E.T.A. Dancers from our Fall 2023 Photoshoot with Chloe Hamilton

Throughout 2023, our Performance Program saw incredible events and programs. Highlights included The Choreography Project and showings, the presence of our SkunkLEAD Dancers Eleanor and Emmeline (both semesters), Meir (Fall 2023) and Piper (Winter / Spring 2023). Company parties, from movie nights to scavenger hunts to crafting, added a delightful touch to our calendar. A field trip to the Harris Theater to see Giordano Dance Chicago and the semester photoshoots with the talented Chloe Hamilton were cherished moments.


Photos from our Fall 2023 Performance Program Photoshoot with Chloe Hamilton:




 

Gratitude to Our Amazing Staff:


A heartfelt thank you to our incredible faculty, including Molly Harris, who took on the role as Performance Program Assistant Show Director in Fall 2023, Daniel Williams (our dance filmmaker extraordinaire), and our newest faculty member, Julia Schaeffer. Bid farewell to the incredible Summer Smith at the end of the Winter / Spring 2023 semester as she embarked on her dream home journey to Alaska. Special gratitude to Administrator Linda Watson (and my mom!) for welcoming dancers with crafts and special activities, and to my dad, Hank Schneider, and husband, Brad Bennett, for their unwavering support.



 

A Special Thank You to You:


And finally, a heartfelt thank you to YOU! Skunkworks Dance would not be the vibrant, creative community it is without the brilliant dancers, committed parents, and the thoughtful community that defines our organization. We are truly the little studio that could, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for an incredible 2023. I cannot wait to see what 2024 has in store!


Wishing you a joyous holiday season and a New Year filled with excitement, growth, and dance magic!


 

From my family to yours, happy new year!


Photo of Founder Jana Bennett and family by Chloe Hamilton


With heartfelt gratitude,


Jana Bennett

Founder & Director, Skunkworks Dance

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