Saturday, December 5, 2009

Traditional Home honors Debra Jenkins

Classic Woman Awards 2009
Debra Jenkins of Merrimack Hall receives national honor

We are so proud that Debra Jenkins, our co-founder and executive director, was chosen as one of six women to receive Traditional Home magazine's 2009 Classic Woman Award. Traditional Home Editor in Chief Ann Maine honored Debra at the magazine’s Classic Woman Awards luncheon in New York City on November 24. All six recipients of the magazine’s fifth-annual Classic Woman Awards were present, a signature program that celebrates the spirit of volunteerism by recognizing standout charitable women from across the country.

In previous issues and on its Web site, Traditional Home invited its 4.7 million readers to nominate a woman who is making a positive difference in her community. The magazine’s editorial staff and the judges pored over the nominations to choose six women who truly are changing the world one day, one person at a time.

In addition, each honoree’s chosen cause received a contribution from Traditional Home. The women and their causes were also featured in the magazine’s November 2009 issue.

Please join us in congratulating Debra on her volunteer achievements!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Letters Home

A play that brings to life letters from real soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan

Well, we're already into November and it's been a while since we updated our blog! We kicked off our 2009-10 season last month with Upon Their Shoulders: The Merrimack Story, an original play about the lives of real people who lived in Merrimack Mill Village. Every single show ended up selling out completely!

Coming up next week is Letters Home, a play based off real letters from soldiers serving in the Middle East. We're excited for our first-ever corporate buy-out of a performance! The Huntsville Times, along with SAIC, S3, the U.S. Army MWR, and Avion have bought out the Friday night performance and will donate 150 seats to soldiers from Redstone Arsenal. We'll be having a special reception after the performance in honor of the soliders, where they'll be able to meet the cast of the play.

Another exciting aspect of Letters Home is that we'll have a local actor, Kevin Kingston, in town for the performance! Letters Home is produced and performed by Griffin Theatre Co., based out of Chicago. A native of Arab, Alabama, Kevin will appear with Griffin Theatre Co. here in Huntsville.

Read this article published in The Arab Tribune on Monday, Nov. 9 about Kevin!

Click here to read more about Letters Home and reserve your seats for the Saturday, November 21 productions!

Monday, June 22, 2009

America's Next Top Model -- Casting Call!

Attention all lovely ladies! If you think you've got the chops to compete on Cycle 14 of America's Next Top Model, head on down to Merrimack Hall on Wednesday, July 8 to audition in front of casting agents from the CW series!

You can find all audition/eligibility information on The CW official website. We're so excited to host this event, and look forward to seeing you strut your stuff here next Wednesday!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sneak Peek of Sunday's Recital

Check out this sneak peek video of last night's Dance Your Dreams! Spring Recital dress rehearsal onstage here at Merrimack Hall.

Don't forget ... their recital is Sunday at 4:00 and tickets are only $15. All proceeds will benefit the Dance Your Dreams! program. There will also be performances from other local arts groups like the Alabama Youth Ballet, Heidi Knight School of Dance, Huntsville High School Show Choir, plus a special guest to present the DYD children with trophies!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer fun!

There is so much happening this summer at Merrimack Hall! We have our D.Y.D. Spring Recital this weekend D.Y.D. Spring Recital 2009 and master classes with Chris Tyler and Jenny Belsito, along with an OPEN CALL audition with DDO Talent Agency Master Classes and Audition!!, not to mention the exciting new dance classes we are offering! Zumba, a fast-paced latin-infused dance workout that is actually fun! Come join the fun for only $10 a class! It's every Wednesday at 6pm. On Thursdays, Hayley Smith is offering a Jazz Technique class for those advanced dancers who want to keep moving over the summer. Jazz Technique is every Thursday at 6pm for $10 a class! Both Zumba and Jazz Technique are offered through June 30th. In July, we are welcoming our first annual Camp Merrimack, a week long day camp for the arts! Camp Merrimack is open to children with special needs across the Tennessee Valley.Camp Merrimack! Stay tuned for two very exciting programming announcements this summer!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bake Sale for Dance Your Dreams!

We need your help! Merrimack Hall is having its first-ever Bake Sale on Sunday, June 14 after the Dance Your Dreams! Recital to raise money for the program. We need volunteers to bake items for the sale! All items must be baked and returned to us the morning of the June 14.

If you are interested in baking an item for the sale, please e-mail Austin Jenkins at We will provide you with the necessary supplies and mix to make your delicious treats!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dance Your Dreams! Spring Recital

Dance Your Dreams! Spring Recital: Sunday, June 14 at 4 p.m.
Tickets: $15, all proceeds benefit the program

We are so very proud to present our Dance Your Dreams! Spring Recital and honor these special children who continue to amaze us every week.

As many of you know, this program is the cornerstone of Merrimack Hall's outreach, and to date we have given back more than $40,000 to the community through Dance Your Dreams! alone. Each week, children with a range of special needs from Cerebral Palsy and autism to cancer and Down Syndrome come to our dance studio and participate in a dance class suited to their needs. All dancers are paired with their own volunteer who helps them execute the movements they would otherwise be unable to perform. All classes, costuming and dance attire are provided to these families at no cost to them.

This recital will showcase these beautiful dancers, and also feature performances from other local arts organizations like the Alabama Youth Ballet, Heidi Knight School of Dance, and Susan's School of Dance. Both Dance Your Dreams! classes will perform two numbers each: "Rockin' Robin," "A Whole New World," "Under the Sea," and "Going to the Chapel."

Please come show your support for these amazing children and their yearlong achievements. All tickets are $15 and proceeds will directly benefit the Dance Your Dreams! program.

Tickets may be purchased on our website at

Master classes & OPEN AUDITION with Chris Tyler

We are proud to welcome back Nashville-based choreographer Chris Tyler for a weekend of master classes at Merrimack Hall! Chris will also be holding an open audition for his talent agency, DDO Artists Agency.

He was trained by and has worked extensively with acclaimed choreographer Shane Sparks, of the FOX smash hit “So You Think You Can Dance,” and he was chosen to teach with Shane at "The Pulse On Tour."

Chris and Jenny Belsito will teach both Hip Hop and Contemporary classes during the weekend of June 13-14, 2009. Spaces are $35 per dance for two classes. In addition to the master classes, Chris will select local dancers from the master classes to be part of a special lecture/demonstration at the Dance Your Dreams! Spring Recital on Sunday.

Chris and Jenny will hold an open audition Sunday after the Dance Your Dreams! recital. There is no fee to audition, and the audition is open to dancers, singers, and actors.

For more details and a full schedule of classes, visit our website.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Camp Merrimack

Merrimack Hall is proud to present Camp Merrimack, a summer arts camp for children with special needs. Our camp is open to children ages 3 through 12 with special needs including Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, autism and others.

With the success of our Dance Your Dreams! program, we are excited to offer more artistic opportunities for students. Classes will include music, theatre, dance and visual art. With our positive approach, engaging philosophy and 1:1 staff-to-camper ratio, our overall experience is different from any other. Camp Merrimack provides our students with opportunities to build social skills and creates an environment where they are sure to succeed!

Join us for Camp Merrimack July 27-31, 2009. Classes are limited to 15 children per age group and spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Children ages 3-7 will attend camp from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and children ages 8-12 will attend from 1-4 p.m. Enrollment for the week-long camp is $40 per child.

Please contact Hayley Smith for questions about the Camp Merrimack program at

To inquire about financial scholarships, please contact Debra Jenkins at

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dance Your Dreams on WHNT!

We are SO excited to share this link to a wonderful piece by Robert Reeves at WHNT Channel 19 here in Huntsville! They came to our "Dance Your Dreams!" ballet class last week and filmed this great segment!

"Dance Your Dreams!" is our weekly class for children who have gross motor developmental delays, who cannot participate in mainstream dance classes. They come to class every week, taught by our Director of Dance Education Hayley Smith, and learn choreography with their friends. Each child receives one dance outfit, and is able to attend the class free of charge.

As we are a nonprofit organization, major funding for this program is provided by the Jane K. Lowe Charitable Foundation. If you are interested in volunteering, donating, or enrolling your child, please contact Hayley at

More information:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Open Auditions with Xcel Talent Agency

We're happy to announce our first-ever open audition at Merrimack Hall, with the wonderful Xcel Talent Agency based out of Atlanta!

Xcel will be here this weekend (Saturday, February 28 and Sunday, March 1) looking for dancers to add to their impressive roster of talent. Anyone over the age of 17 can audition for free, just bring a headshot!

Two of Xcel's amazing choreographers, Lauri Stallings and CiCi Kelley, will also be teaching master classes both days. Come on by to pick up new moves, or get a little extra face time before your audition!

A full schedule is over on our website at

Master class prices: $25 each for one or two classes, $20 each for three or more

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wonderful Wednesdays!

It's Wednesday at Merrimack Hall, and we all know what that means....Dance Your Dreams! is this afternoon and I cannot wait to get my dance on with our students! They are so much fun!!!If you would like more information on this awesome program, check out our website at and be sure to read the wonderful article that the Huntsville Times wrote on our little ballerinas:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dance Your Dreams! Students to Perform

We are getting ready for our Second Annual Evening of Dance, which will be held January 9 and 10, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. I am excited about all of the wonderful dance pieces we will present at these shows, but I have to say I am most excited about the debut of our Dance Your Dreams! students. They will be performing to "Singing in the Rain," wearing adorable rain slickers and galoshes - umbrellas too! I can only imagine how inspirational and moving their performance will be.

Our 10 students have a wide range of special needs, from Down's Syndrome to Cerebral Palsy. Two of our students have diagnoses that are so rare, they are research patients at world renowned medical centers; two wear hearing aids, one has cochlear implants; one has leukemia; one is wheelchair bound all the time, several rely on walkers and leg braces to allow them any mobility at all. But when they come to Merrimack Hall, they are all dancers - and I believe their progress at this point is no different that the progress you would find in any pre-school creative movement class. They can chasse, plie, tendu and even pirouette - they do barre work, center work, across the floor work and play all sorts of creative movement games. They wear tutus and tights, ballet shoes and leotards, and their faces light up when they enter the dance studio.

Our students are paired with volunteers - teenagers who enjoy dancing themselves and have agreed to devote Wednesdays to attending our classes and providing assistance to our students. They lift them, hold them - help them execute the movements that they might not be able to do on their own. These special teenagers have thrown themselves into the class 110% and have developed a special bond with each of our students.

When Wednesdays roll around, I can't wait for 5:00 - the children usually arrive between 5 and 5:15 and the look of excitement on their faces is just thrilling. Sometimes they come to dance straight from a treatment at Children's Hospital - many times they arrive with hospital bands on their tiny wrists. Sometimes it is obvious that one child may not feel totally great that day, or seems abnormally tired. But once they take their place at the barre, with their helper standing behind them, they grin from ear to ear....and then they dance!

This weekend, we will have a theatre full of proud parents who will be watching their kids dance. But I'm sure there will none prouder that the parents of our Dance Your Dreams! students. I hope I can keep my emotions under control, but I doubt I'll be able to!

Debra Jenkins