LONG BEACH — When Cheryl Cochran decided to open her new dance studio — Beach Ballet — in September, she had a few people asking her why.
“At my age, most of us are thinking about retirement and the golden years. But for me, dance and theater keep me young,” Cochran said recently. “Our community needs the program just as much as I need to continue teaching dance and theater.”
Cochran, who teaches special education in the Ocean Beach School District, created the Hilltop Drama Club four years ago, and began incorporating dance numbers into the shows. This led to many parents asking about dance classes, inspiring Cochran to start her new business.
“I will always be part of bringing the love of dance and performing arts, and light it shines, to our children,” Cochran said. “It is with gratitude, every day, that I get to do what I love and share a talent that makes me and so many others smile.
Cochran has a long history of being involved in dance — both performing and teaching — for more than 40 years. Her school is starting out small, but she’s already looking to expand in the near future.
For now, Beach Ballet is holding classes at the Pacific Integrated Martial Arts in north Long Beach, but Cochran said she was recently offered a space in the Tinker Town Mall, and will be moving there in a couple months. Beach Ballet offers a variety of classes in creative movement, ballet, contemporary dance and hip-hop, for ages three and up.
“We’ve had a wonderful response from the community and requests for more classes,” said Cochran, who noted that once she moves into her own space she will also be offering classes in tap and jazz.
Cochran will be offering the classes in 12-week sessions during the fall, winter and spring.
“I thought about offering the normal monthly class schedule, but with so many children participating in other after-school programs, I wanted to make our dance program different,” she said.
She also wanted to make the classes affordable.
“When it comes to tuition, it’s not about charging enormous fees,” she said. “Beach Ballet will never turn away a student who wants to dance.”
Cochran said she has successfully reached out to the community, friends and colleagues to help sponsor students, and created the Kaytlynn Kleber Dance Scholarship fund, in memory of her granddaughter, that will help sponsor students’ tuition.
Cochran is once again heading up the Hilltop Drama Club, and this year the students will be putting on two performances. The club is rehearsing for a production of “The Polar Express,” adapted for the stage by Cochran, which will be performed Dec. 7-9. And just like previous productions of hers, dance will be featured heavily.
“I actually wrote the production based off the book prior to the movie release,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve added to the script and produced the musical multiple times. I’ve been wanting to start a tradition here and thought this is the perfect opportunity to perform the musical.”
The show has a large cast, including 35 Hilltop students and another 50 Beach Ballet students performing.
Performances will be at the Hilltop Auditorium Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m.; Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and Dec. 9. at 2 p.m. Admission is free and donations are accepted for the Hilltop Drama Club. There will also be a toy drive during the performances.
After the winter break, Cochran said they will begin working on “Poetry in Motion,” a show based off a project Cochran did as a theater major at Cal State San Bernardino.
“It’s a beautiful production that builds the actors’ emotional qualities. Poetry comes to life through movement, scenes, and dance,” she said, adding that students will also perform monologues and scenes from works by Shakespeare, as well as original songs and poetry and Beach Ballet students will also be performing.
“It’s a total performing arts experience for everyone.”