Well-loved Hamptons performance and arts education organization Our Fabulous Variety Show just got a major upgrade. Like a one-two punch of positivity, OFVS announced the introduction of the OFVS Crew early in September and the opening of its new studio in Bridgehampton later that same month.
The OFVS Crew is a brand new pre-professional training company that gives students ages 6 and up the opportunity to train year-round in the performing arts. Based on the model of Speaking in Taps — a similar pre-professional tap company led by Aaron Tolson, tap teacher and mentor to OFVS co-founder Anita Boyer — the OFVS Crew is a more easygoing and uplifting affair than the strict and intense competitive training that many associate with programs for promising young performers. Crew members have an endless amount of freedom and can miss a class without penalty, miss several classes and catch up through video guides and private lessons or attend every practice but opt out of all staged performances.
“The onus is really on the individual members to know their stuff,” Boyer says, noting that the eager go-getters who know the routines well are the ones selected for performances. “It’s a different system to accommodate busy schedules and different levels of what people might want to participate in. … What a unique opportunity it is for young people to have a pre-professional opportunity to train without the pressure of a typical kind of competition team.”
Established in the mold of OFVS’s mission “to provide innovative, accessible performing arts experiences to bridge the arts opportunity gap,” the OFVS Crew is both affordable and accessible to all young students who are passionate about taking their acting and dance training to the next level. The Crew meets two to three times per month and continues to train outside of OFVS show rehearsal windows.
“Whenever we do a show, we get that core group of participants, and they’re so energized from the experience of rehearsals and putting something up on stage,” Boyer shares. “It’s like two months for the rehearsal process and then a weekend of shows, and then there’s that lag time when the show’s over and we have to wait a little bit before we get started on the next one. What the Crew is doing is bridging the gap between those bits of down time, and it’s providing these kids who are hungry for it with a real opportunity to continue to work and grow year-round.”
OFVS Crew membership boasts some unique perks over regular OFVS class enrollment offered at Project MOST and the new studio, including extra rehearsal time, more opportunities for featured moments in showcases, a chance to audition for a performance at Walt Disney World, access to master classes with industry professionals and special outings such as recent trips to the East Hampton movie theater for a screening of Dear Evan Hansen and to Broadway for a performance of Aladdin and workshop with an alum of the show.
With fall semester classes having begun this week, this marks the first time that classes have been offered at Shine, a creative and process arts space on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, in a new studio space tailor-made for OFVS. The location serves as a central hub, easily accessible from Hampton Bays, East Hampton, North Haven and even Shelter Island.
The semester runs for eight weeks with rolling admission in a number of skill-building classes for children, teens and adults. Subjects include acting and improv, scene study acting, ballet, tap dance, caregiver and me dance classes, jazzercise, jazz funk, hip hop, musical theater, Broadway dance and lyrical/contemporary studies.
Classes are open to beginners and more well-versed performers with the small class size — six at Shine and 12 at Project MOST — allowing for more personalized training to accommodate different skill levels.
“Our mission is to be really accessible and inclusive,” OFVS co-founder Kasia Klimiuk says, emphasizing how welcoming classes are to newcomers.
And age is no issue, Boyer adds, joking that OFVS avoids the dreaded, “Oh, you haven’t been dancing since you were 5?” vibe often seen in the competitive dance scenes of Dance Moms infamy. “It’s never too late to get into dance, theater or performing arts in general!”
The semester culminates in an end-of-year showcase based on Alice in Wonderland on December 10 and 11. All fall students and crew members are eligible for the opportunity to perform in it.
What lies ahead in 2022? For the first time, Boyer and Klimiuk are able to really start planning months into the future.
“It’s exciting to have our own space and be able to offer any and all kinds of programming and not have to worry about somebody else’s schedule,” Klimiuk says. “We can finally plan what the next semester is going to look like in a month or two; we can plan summer. … Now we have our very own home, officially, where we can really just do whatever we want, and that’s really exciting!”
Speaking of summer, the OFVS co-founders note that the 7th annual tap dance showcase is tentatively scheduled to return to the Children’s Museum of the East End, a venue they adore, on June 17 and 18. As for future classes, they’re hoping COVID safety regulations will allow for more students next semester and are keeping their ears open for suggestions of new subjects to offer.
“We’re willing to shift and change with the needs of the community and what they’re into,” Klimiuk explains, adding that she and Boyer are even considering an introduction to drag master class. “We’ve always wanted to do a ‘find your inner diva’ with Danny Ximo and Robert (Kohnken aka) ‘Naomi, the crown jewel of the Hamptons.’”
After a year that saw virtual performances substitute more personal experiences, OFVS’s introduction of the OFVS Crew and new studio are especially welcome and promise a great deal of growth and engagement among the East End’s young (and old) performers.
“It just feels like such a gift after everything that we’ve been through to know and to let the kids know that we’re there for them no matter what, they’re there for each other no matter what,” Boyer says. “We’re going to be together consistently and keep saying yes to each other, keep building each other up and keep being the inspiration and motivation that we all need to get through.”