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Dance ‘creates happiness’: Ooh La La academy offers community various ways to participate in performing arts

Ooh La La Dance Academy offers outdoor dance classes at its La Jolla location on Cuvier Street.
(Courtesy)

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Ooh La La Dance Academy, with locations in La Jolla and Pacific Beach, is getting through the coronavirus pandemic the only way it knows how: through the art of dance, offering several new programs and continuing to make adaptations to ensure students have an outlet for their creative expression.

“We’re keeping the performing arts alive,” said owner Susie Grafte, who started Ooh La La 13 years ago.

At the La Jolla location at 7467 Cuvier St., Grafte hosts public viewings of rehearsals every other Saturday evening, although the next one is Friday, Oct. 30, due to Halloween and will feature Halloween-themed dances.

Each rehearsal viewing includes 10 to 11 acts, from opera and hip-hop to comedy, tease and flamenco, with two available times: 7 to 8 p.m. and 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.

On alternating Saturdays, Ooh La La offers an outdoor salsa class from 4 to 7 p.m. The first hour features Grafte teaching salsa with her partner, followed by a live practice for anyone who wants to bring their own partner and join in. The next class is Nov. 7.

Grafte offers onsite child care consisting of dance practice or arts and crafts for salsa classes and public viewings.

The Pacific Beach studio at 1562 Garnet Ave. reopened in early September with dance classes for children held indoors as allowed by the state.

“We’re so excited that the parents have rallied behind us,” Grafte said.

The Pacific Beach studio is offering introductory dance from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. daily, and Grafte is looking to expand to adult dance classes soon.

In the meantime, she said, the La Jolla studio is offering a variety of dance classes for adults and children on its outdoor dance floor and stage, with enrollment offered on a drop-in or monthly basis.

Ooh La La runs classes for several types of dance, including ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap, turns, contemporary and stretch. Private lessons also are available.

Ooh La La's musical theater program is rehearsing "Beauty and the Beast," shown in a photo from a past year's production.
(Courtesy)

Grafte has a musical theater program as well, offering productions for small groups of students younger than 12. The class is currently rehearsing “Beauty and the Beast,” with a public rehearsal viewing scheduled for mid-November.

The next musical theater class will work on “Moana” beginning Jan. 10.

Grafte said Ooh La La currently runs about 65 dance classes per week between both locations, with about 200 students enrolled and 15 teachers.

“It’s a bit of normalcy,” she said of the schedule. “We’re doing it differently to make it safe, while still keeping the arts alive. ... We’re so grateful and so lucky to be able to have the kids and dancers do this.”

Ooh La La also is continuing its bilingual education program, which offers classes through an accredited homeschool company in French or Spanish to children in preschool through first grade. Grafte said she has a few openings in the program, which teaches academic subjects in the morning, followed by afternoon performing arts classes.

Local dance school Ooh La La Dance Academy is offering parents of preschool and elementary school children a unique alternative to the online learning at home widely planned for public and private schools in the coming academic year.

Grafte said all Ooh La La activities adhere to county health guidelines, with participants undergoing temperature and health screenings upon entry and mask-wearing and social distancing enforced. Plus, there’s abundant hand sanitizer, she said.

“I feel like this pandemic has created a lot of stress and anxiety in people,” Grafte said. “Having this outlet, being healthy, being active and social in a safe way is extremely important to a person’s soul and well-being. It creates happiness, and that’s what it’s all about.”

To sign up for a Saturday salsa class or any of the adult activities, visit oohlalarevue.com. For children’s dance classes or the education program, visit ollda.com.

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