Here’s to the future: Youth talent on display at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley |

Here’s to the future: Youth talent on display at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley

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WHAT: Kenny Steel Fall Student Showcase

WHERE: The Center for the Arts, 314 West Main Street, Grass Valley

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: $12 general public


Judging by the extraordinary talent to be found in the youth of Nevada County, it’s good to know our futures are in their hands. Local schools and studios are positively brimming with incredible ability; bright, creative kids who are at once continuing traditions and breaking new ground.

That talent will be on full display at The Center for the Arts over the coming weekend, as they usher in the holiday season with a variety of performances that showcase some of the amazing youth in our community.

Winter Dance

On Friday and Saturday, the Center will host the annual Winter Dance showcase that features some of the most well-known and accomplished dance troupes the Gold Country has to offer.

The yearly event is a loved institution, and is celebrating its eighth year.

Comprised in large part by young local dancers, the groups expected to perform include Anderson’s Step It Up, ERA Dance Company, Salsa Sierra and Sierra Dance Institute.

Amanda Herr, the 12-year-old captain of the team representing Anderson’s Step It Up said that all of the dancers have been hard at work preparing for this year’s Winter Dance.

“The dancers started [rehearsing] in September,” said Herr. “It can be hard because we compete, plus study for Winter Dance at the same time.”

The demanding schedule is all worth it, she said, as the participating teams are as excited to see the other dances as they are to perform. Herr has performed in two prior years of Winter Dance.

Variety is the name of the game for Winter Dance, and Anderson’s Herr explains that those who attend this year’s event will be treated to “a lot of different styles of dance; all the studios have different styles and pieces, so a lot of people will enjoy it.”

Styles of dance that will be represented include ballet, jazz, modern, and tap.

Nevada County has long been known as a community that was particularly fond of dance, supporting a number of successful productions each year from a wide selection of dancers.

Veteran Winter Dance participant Herr said of the area’s dance community, “[It’s] diverse and unique, really supportive of one another.”

Kenny Steel Fall Student Showcase

The day after the curtain goes down on another year of Winter Dance, a new type of performance will take over the Center’s Main Stage. On Sunday, the Kenny Steel Fall Student Showcase will celebrate the best of rock ‘n’ roll with the talents of musicians ranging in age from 9 to 18.

Much like the plot of the beloved School Of Rock film, the youths being featured in the biannual showcase are taught and mentored by the multi-talented Steel.

Twice a year they come together to put on a collaborative show, which serves as a fundraiser for NEO Youth Center, a grassroots nonprofit youth center and youth empowerment program.

Nevada Union senior Mary Vogel has been practicing and performing with Steel for seven years, playing guitar, piano, and bass. Sunday’s performance will be her final showcase, and although sad to be leaving it behind, she said her time spent studying music with Steel has made a most positive impact on her life.

“Kenny saw that he had a plethora of talent among his students, and he wanted to showcase that and give us the experience of performing,” said Vogel.

Vogel’s involvement with Steel and his Showcases inspired her to volunteer at NEO after seeing the positive impact they have on the area’s youth.

She now serves as a student representative on their board.

In addition, Steel’s guidance has offered Vogel a glimpse of a version of herself she says she didn’t know existed.

“It’s done a lot for me,” she said. “Before, I didn’t know I had such a good stage presence. Kenny has prepared me so well for my future endeavors. He’s helped me to be ambitious and set personal goals.”

This weekend’s performance will be pay homage to all things rock ‘n’ roll.

Vogel promises, “We’re playing [Kansas’] Carry On My Wayward Son, [Europe’s] The Final Countdown and we’re doing a tribute to Tom Petty. We’ll have a fog machine!”

At one point during the performance, all of Steel’s students take the stage together, an experience Vogel jokingly describes as a “musical chairs Battle of the Bands. There are so many students, it’s crazy!”

Performing with her fellow students gives Vogel — and presumably many of her peers — a chance to shine.

“I have a wild, crazy time on stage,” she said. “I jump around, and it’s fun interacting with all the performers. I feel like a real rock star.”

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer for The Union and can be contacted at

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