By Elizabeth Kratz
A shomer Shabbos former Rockette and an off-Broadway producer are working with Poconos camp owner Dale Pianko to train Orthodox girls in the performing arts this coming summer. An open house was recently held in Teaneck to help gather the first summer’s class of campers.
“Camp Maor is a place where every camper will have a chance to shine,” said Pianko. Camp Maor aims to explore the creative and expressive potential in every camper through its innovative summer performance program, the first of its kind for Jewish girls in the Poconos. The camp is located on the site of the former Camp Neshama, a sports camp for Orthodox girls also owned by Pianko, a Ph.D. social worker who often works with young teens. She feels strongly that teens should have every possible opportunity to develop self-confidence and self-assurance.
Designed for girls entering fifth through ninth grades, every camper at Camp Maor will have the opportunity to learn from teachers who are experienced artists with degrees in the fields of acting, singing, and dancing.
“Our goal is to create a non-intimidating, safe, and supportive environment so that all of our campers can explore their expressive and performance abilities,” said Sari Kahn, director of Camp Maor. There is a struggle faced by frum Jewish women and girls who have talents for performing, and it’s important “that they have role models who have already conquered the struggle that is unique to the observant female professional performer.”
The professional staff will be comprised entirely of shomer Shabbos women who “have always had a passion for, as well as an inborn gift for, the performing arts,” said Kahn.
Small class sizes, with close interaction between campers and faculty, will allow campers to grow in confidence and learn to handle themselves with professionalism whenever they have to step into the spotlight, whether in school or in any future career.
Camp Maor is partnering with several professional performing artists and educators as part of this summer’s program, including Rhonda Malkin, a New York-based professional dancer who is a former Rockette. She currently trains professional dancers for Broadway and off-Broadway shows. “Camp Maor is the first of its kind to offer frum girls the opportunity to work with real showbiz professionals,” Malkin said.
“These campers will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train like a professional and learn what it takes to put together a real, high-quality production. They will be able to take that knowledge and share it with their schools, family, and friends,” Malkin said. Kahn reported that an off-Broadway producer has been working with the camp’s director to retrofit the camp’s facilities for ideal stage performance and training facilities. An off-Broadway director is also planned to be brought in to direct the girls in the final production of their summer.
Campers will select a major area of concentrated study and will participate in advanced training and performance exercises in that area, designed to keep them engaged every day. The limited enrollment at Camp Maor will ensure that each camper receives individual attention from the professional faculty and will also give the instructors the ability to tailor their approach to the group as they get to know their campers.
Campers will gain additional skills while taking the elective courses and specialty workshops that will vary throughout the summer and will include special guest instructors. All of this will be done without compromising Jewish observance, with time designated every day for tefillah and a shiur relevant to the themes of the program. Each week will end with a unique Shabbos experience.
There will be two sessions at Camp Maor this summer. The first session (July 2—24) will conclude with a performance of Alice in Wonderland and a Glee-style a cappella performance, and the second session (July 30-August 24) will have as its final performance the musical Disney’s Mulan Jr.
In addition to rehearsals and training, campers will enjoy time every day at the camp’s sports and recreational facilities. The pool will be available several times a day and all campers will participate in organized sports on the camp’s ball courts and fields.
To learn more, visit Camp Maor’s website, www.campmaor.com, where campers can apply online for summer 2014. For additional information, contact Sari Kahn at 516-662-6095. (The Jewish Link of Bergen County) v