Malibu Dance Academy’s dancers win regional competition

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The Malibu Dance Academy dancers line up for a photo during their recent statewide competition. The dancers are looking forward to their recital performance at Pepperdine University in late May, parent Tina Jennings said.

Little dancers learn life’s lessons about being on a team and working hard to improve skills

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

“The thing I like best about taking lessons from Miss Kyrra is that I loved the Rainbow Dance competition, especially when my mom went backstage and hugged everyone!” Little Freyja Jennings, 7, said. “I also like dancing with Miss Kyrra because she first taught me how to do the splits and because I like the costumes for Wonderful World!”

Freyja and a bevy of other beautiful ballerinas and jazz dance students are learning to dance at the Malibu Dance Academy. Proprietor Kyrra Richards delights in teaching students from ages 5 to 14. In the process of teaching the pupils dance techniques, Richards also teaches them the invaluable lifelong skills that one learns from being a part of a team and consistently contributing to it, working hard to improve their skills, experiencing delight when their team wins a competition, being graceful when they don’t, and also knowing that it takes hard work to do so.  

The Academy’s troupe, consisting of dancers aged 5 to 8, recently won best overall team at the Southern California Region’s National Dance Competition.

“The students competed in several dance categories, taking first place in jazz dance,” Richards said. “They also won the best overall category, which considers all the competing groups together.”

We were all so proud of them!” Freyja’s parent Tina Jennings said. “All the moms and families were all jumping up and down when we learned that the troupe won first place overall!”

Richards started teaching dance to students at Malibu Fitness in September 2022. The idea of opening a Malibu studio grew organically as more and more students and parents sought dance lesson opportunities.

“I opened Malibu Dance Academy in January, and I have developed a structured program for young artists to learn proper technique in a warm, nurturing environment.” Richards said. “The Academy is a place where families are welcomed and encouraged to be part of the experience. As a mom, I recognize how magical and precious time with your kids is, and I know that parents search for opportunities that allow their children to grow and be surrounded by people who care.”

A professional dancer for more than 20 years, Richards has danced in many roles and venues, including music videos, commercials, premieres, stage productions, print campaigns, and concerts. Her dance repertoire includes dancing with Nickelodeon, Spike TV, Fox, the Hollywood Bowl, Coca Cola, the LA Philharmonic, and dancing for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the Jonas Brothers, ZZ Top, infamous Broadway legend Donna McKechnie, and director Richard Jay-Alexander, among many others.

Malibu Dance Company just won a statewide competition2
The Malibu Dance Academy’s troupe, consisting of dancers aged 5-8, recently won best overall team at the Southern California Region’s National Dance Competition. Contributed Photo

Richards grew up dancing competitively, winning scholarships, national championships, and titles. Her passion for dance brought her to Southern California as a UCLA Bruin and she was the captain of the the school’s Dance Team and Spirit Squad. She performed regularly at the Rose Bowl, Pauley Pavilion, and Staples Center. Along the way, Richards married Malibu local Dane Skophammer, the bladesmith who owns Iron Sand Malibu. The couple enjoy parenting their two small daughters. 

Dancing is Richards’ way of giving to the world. After two USO tours performing for troops in Afghanistan, she developed an arts and recreation program for former war refugee children in New York City with the International Rescue Committee. Inspired by the healing ability of the arts, she also created a dance program at the Westside Children’s Center and Camp to Belong for foster children. 

Richards has trained and mentored young dancers for more than 25 years and has taught and developed arts curricula for New York’s Broadway Dance Center, Fox Studios Child Development Center, Los Angeles Accelerated School, the Archer School for Girls, and many others. Locally, she has taught dance at Malibu Methodist, Malibu Performing Arts Center, and Musical Theater LA. She has directed several elite dance studios, winning national championships and choreography awards. She even judges international dance competitions.

Here in Malibu, the Academy offers ballet and jazz classes.  For older students, it provides lyrical and contemporary dance experiences. Those dancers participating in the competition team learn ballet, jazz technique, and choreography.

Tina Jennings said the program has been beneficial to her daughter.

“I think that one of the most valuable parts of Freyja being a part of the Malibu Dance Academy is definitely her exposure to Kyrra and what’s most important in the experience is the skills that students gain from it.” Jennings said. “I just know I am putting Freyja in a space where she will learn kindness and strength, discipline and how to just have fun.”

Parents Sara and Marc Provissiero wholeheartedly agree.

“The real turning point for our daughter Olivia, 7, was when the students had a recital at Pepperdine last year.” Sara said. “The event was professional and was a grade A quality show — Kyrra curated a wonderful experience for the dancers and that’s when Olivia decided she wanted to be in the dance competition team.”

Jennings, who grew up in Malibu and was a part of Malibu Dance by the Sea before pursuing theater, also commented about Richards providing students with stellar competitive competitions. 

“She thinks about the whole experience for each dancer — through this year, Freyja has learned the strengths of resilience and of going to practice dance even when she didn’t want to, of knowing that she is on a team and that she doesn’t want to let her teammates feel let down, and now, she wants to practice and be a strong member.” Jennings said. “It’s important for kids to feel a part of a group that works together to produce a product — they all have to show up for one another.”

Freyja expressed her enjoyment at being in the program. 

“I want to keep dancing because when I’m at dance class, I’m always with my best friends.” she said.

Echoing that, little Olivia chimed in: “It’s really fun and I have a lot of my friends and Ms. Kyrra by my side!” 

The students and their families are looking forward to their recital performance at Pepperdine University in late May, Jennings said.

“Malibu Dance Academy is about so much more than dance. Underneath the twirling tutus are children finding their strength and confidence,” she continued. “Through imaginary butterfly parties, marshmallow fingers, and tickle bugs, these mini ballerinas are building positive relationships with their bodies and preparing for performances far beyond tonight’s stage. I am honored to be a part of the children’s lives.”