Tannis Dancers - Putnam Sentinel
A troupe of dancers from Tannis School of Dance appear on the Cleveland Cavaliers Jumbotron during a performance on Friday, November 24. (Photo submitted)

KALIDA — The sharing of a traditional Thanksgiving meal with family and friends was but one highlight of an eventful weekend for the dancers with the Tannis’ School of Dance. While many were awakening from a turkey induced stupor to return to work or check out expected shopping deals, a group of 40 dancers were on their way to Cleveland to perform before a packed crowd of Cavaliers’ fans.

“It was an amazing experience. Definitely something that is so different than the stage experience that they get with the dance recital and even down to practices,” said Tannis Becker, owner and choreographer for the dance studio. “The gym floor is so different than a stage space. All of our rehearsals had to be held in a gym instead of in our dance studio. So that we could get the formations and everything to work out correction.”

Contacted by the Cavaliers’ organization in spring, the troupe began practicing for the show in August. However, there was one important lesson for the dancers to learn: things change and performers have to be ready to adjust.

“We thought we were going to get to use the entire gym floor,” Becker relates. “So, we had practiced using the entire gym floor, and of course we used the half court line, the foul line, the three point line as points of reference for the dancers.

“About two minutes before we were set to perform, Isaiah Thomas was warming up on one side of the court and we found out he wasn’t going to be getting off the floor. So two minutes before our dancers performed, we found out we could no longer use the entire court, we only get to use half the court.

“[The dancers] had to adjust right there, on the spot, and make it work. That was a really kind of a stressful change that happened at the last minute. Some of our dancers are as young as seven years-old and they did fantastic. The Cavs Rep actually said that they have professional dancers that can’t handle a change that quickly or handle it as well as our dancers did.”

A well-executed adjustment right before a performance is a testament to Becker’s ability to mold young dancers into astute performers. However, the poise of these dancers may also have had something to do with another performance scheduled for that same holiday weekend. One in a significantly smaller arena, but carrying a greater importance to the community in which these dancers live.

“Last year it was almost, really, a life changing experience for myself and my high school dancers who helped with the event. Just to see the appreciation of the kids to get something for themselves and not only that but how excited they get that they’re able to buy gifts for the family as well.” Becker is speaking of Tannis’ School of Dance’s 11th Annual Charity Show which occurred the Sunday after the Cavaliers’ performance.

The Charity Show surpassed its $2,500 goal to raise $3,216. When speaking on how this money will be used, Becker said, “We’re going to be helping again with the Shop with a Cop program. This is our second year having the opportunity to partner with the Sheriff’s Office and help with that program.”

The Sheriff’s department itself raises the money used to help 20 less fortunate Putnam County children purchase gifts for their family as part of this program. “Then,” Becker says, “When the children and the deputies come back, we help them wrap all of their presents that they bought for their families and then we surprise the kids with gifts for themselves. We also are helping three other families. In addition to the Shop with the Cop kids, we also provide Christmas for three local Putnam County families as well.”

The dance troupe’s association with the Shop with a Cop program led to a very special performance in this year’s Charity Show as well. “We were fortunate that some of the deputies actually came and did a little performance with our pre-school dancers,” Becker says. “That was a huge hit. It was really awesome that the police officers were able to be such good sports. And also, they took time away from their families to come practice and come for this show.

“That was something unique that happened in our charity show this year. I thought it was neat that the police officers agreed to do it. They were just really good with the kids, and the kids were excited to be able to dance with the police officers as well.

“I do want to thank everyone that helped make the Charity Show a success, thank everyone for their generous donations, and also thank my dancers. It’s important for our dancers to learn at a young age that you can help others. Our motto for the show was, ‘Using our talents to help others in need.’ We really try to convey that message to all of our dancers early on.”