STUDENTS | July 13, 2021
Avery has been involved with the Studio One Dance Theatre since she was two years old. She remembers crying herself to sleep last year when the pandemic kept her from dancing and being with her “Studio One family.” Some encouragement from her mom and a growing passion for film pushed her to explore her relationship with the studio in a new way: creating a documentary.
The rising eighth-grader at Keller Regional Gifted Center teamed up with Addison, an aspiring director and student at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. While they knew each other through family friends, they had never actually met in person before.
To tell the story of Studio One, the two interviewed individuals like Ms. Pamela Avery, the studio’s executive director, and many current and former dancers. They wove the interviews with photos and footage from recitals—dazzling spectacles that are known to be jaw-dropping—to paint a vivid picture of the Studio One experience.
“Great films know how to tell a story in a great way. Avery and I discussed that we didn’t just want to put the interviews back to back,” said Addison. “We wanted to mix them together to tell a story about what Studio One truly is and add music, lights, and colors to make it pop.”
The finished documentary—One Step at a Time—explores the studio’s nearly 40-year history from start to finish. Even though she’s been involved with the studio for her entire life, Avery says she still learned new things about it through this project.
“We definitely wanted to make Ms. Pam proud because Studio One is like her baby,” said Avery. “I knew a lot about the studio’s recitals and have been able to experience firsthand how it showcases Black excellence, but I had no clue that it started in a church, and I learned that in our very first interview.”
Avery describes her Studio One experience as being empowering because of its commitment to affirming Black culture. She remembers learning about Katherine Dunham for the first time at the studio from her African dance teacher and then getting to take part in a piece that celebrated her legacy.
Given their documentary’s deep ties to Black culture, Avery and Addison decided to premiere their documentary on Juneteenth. Addison believes the excitement of seeing it for the first time was a reminder that their hard work had a deeper purpose.
“We had been working on the documentary for six months, so to see all the hard work that we put in and to see the story that we wanted to tell come to life was just overwhelming,” said Addison. “This documentary isn’t just for pure entertainment and enjoyment. It’s to lift up Studio One in these hard times.”
Avery says viewing the documentary for the first time with her mom left her speechless and viewing it for the second time at the premiere brought her to tears. She thinks her emotions came from the great feedback she received from everyone, especially Ms. Pam.
“We wanted Ms. Pam to have a genuine reaction, so we didn’t let her see the documentary before the premiere. She was crying tears of joy, which was so touching and heartwarming,” said Avery. “Seeing all the comments and shares on social media and in the Zoom webinar, even from some people who had never heard of Studio One before, made me so glad that our project was able to touch so many people in a positive way.”
Later this month, the two of them will partner with the Beverly Art Center to share their documentary with the public. They hope to continue spreading the word about a dance studio that has changed hundreds of lives, including their own.
“Interviewing so many people about how Studio One helped them on their journey, both internally with themselves and with their career paths, was so inspiring,” said Avery. “Some people continued with the arts; others became scientists or doctors. It was a really empowering experience to learn about such a fantastic business that has impacted so many people.”