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Dance instructor brings unique classes to the Ligonier Valley YMCA

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Nerissa McCollin shows some dance moves to the girls attending her Creative Movements class at the Ligonier YMCA Saturday. From left, are Haleigh Knier, 7, of Rector;  Ella McCaffrey, 9, of Rector; and Autumn Dennehy, 8, of Bolivar. 
Cami DiBattista | For the Ligonier Echo

photo taken Jan. 13, 2013 by Cami DiBattista
Cami DiBattista
Nerissa McCollin shows some dance moves to the girls attending her Creative Movements class at the Ligonier YMCA Saturday. From left, are Haleigh Knier, 7, of Rector; Ella McCaffrey, 9, of Rector; and Autumn Dennehy, 8, of Bolivar. Cami DiBattista | For the Ligonier Echo photo taken Jan. 13, 2013 by Cami DiBattista

A new Caribbean-inspired youth dance class is being offered at the Ligonier Valley YMCA Instructor Nerissa McCollin combines a mixture of contemporary, Afro-Caribbean, ballet, hip-hop and Pilates in her Creative Movements dance class, which began last week.

The class is scheduled to take place every Saturday morning for the next eight weeks, beginning at 9:30 a.m. for children ages 4 and 5, and 10:45 a.m. for ages 6-12. This is the second session of the class.

“We look to offer youth the ability to learn creative movement through different dance disciplines they may not normally see in the area,” said Senior Program Director, Jeremiah Wagner, “Nerissa's classes have proved to be just the new opportunity the YMCA was looking to provide in a dance program.”

As a child growing up on the twin Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Nerissa McCollin was involved in many creative activities – dancing, singing, acting, playing the steel drums and more. She began dancing at age 4 with the Lilliput Theatre group, where she studied techniques in modern dance and ballet.

“I was very passionate about my craft from an early age,” McCollin, now 22, said, “The performing arts are one thing that I could do that may seem stressful to others, but to me was a form of relaxation.” McCollin has performed in a Miss Universe competition and twice danced for Prince Charles during his visits to Trinidad and Tobago.

In 2009, McCollin moved to the United States to attend college. Having an aunt who lives in Pennsylvania, McCollin said helped in her decision to move specifically to this area. After being accepted to several schools, McCollin decided on St Vincent College in Latrobe, where she is currently a senior liberal arts major with a biology concentration and mathematics minor. Additionally, she is president of the St Vincent College dance team.

In her first class of the winter session, McCollin introduced the students to some of the different steps and stretching techniques they will utilize in the end of the session recital that she will choreograph for them. The girls listened to Soca, a style of music native to the islands that is a blend of traditional calypso and classical Indian music.

“I like to dance with her,” Haleigh Knier, 7 of Rector, said of her classes with McCollin. Knier attended the first session and is now enrolled in the second.

“She's really good with the kids,” said Haleigh's mother, Beth Knier, “She takes her time with them and picks up when one needs help and she spends time with individual girls as they need it. Nerissa is also really amazing at keeping their attention.” Knier said her daughter is attending the class as a way to learn dance basics.

McCollin said she is willing to teach any age group, but she enjoys working with children and hopes that dance can become a constructive outlet for them.

Upon graduation, McCollin plans to attend a 2-year performing arts program in New York. She then would like to go to graduate school and work as a physical therapist for dancers.

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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