Ask Danielle Olawski, 2, who her favorite Disney princess is, and her answer comes in an instant. "Cinderella."

Who's her second favorite princess?


It's the kind of adoration that makes the Disney Dazzle class at Ahwatukee Children's Theatre a likely choice for the toddler.

The class returned to ACT on Aug. 22, an encore to its run in ACT's summer camp.

The class aims to attract kids between 3 and 5 years old with activities that range from Disney song-and-dance routines to surprise visits from Disney princesses. Crafts and games also are staples of the class.

Yvette Dickson, ACT's director of business development, public relations and community outreach, said, "Most of the classes and productions that we offer at ACT are kindergarten and above. A lot of these kids have younger siblings who are 3 and 4 and 5 years old and want to do something, too."

Disney Dazzle was created to reach this younger age group, Dickson said.

"We have a lot of our teens that dress up as Disney characters or Disney princesses for birthday parties," Dickson said. "And they look very real. They've got the mannerisms. They have the voice. They look just like the Disney princesses. So we figured, ‘Why don't we incorporate them into a program?'"

Valerie Ortiz registered her 4-year-old daughter, Alessandra, for the class because she wanted an activity that Alessandra could enjoy outside of preschool.

"(Alessandra) was nervous because she doesn't usually do stuff away from her sister," Ortiz said Monday. "But she participated and has been asking every day since last Monday when Disney Dazzle will meet again."

Ortiz knew her daughter was going to love the class, she said. Alessandra's birthday party in March featured a visit from Cinderella, her favorite princess then.

The 4-year-old has since moved on to Belle, "because yellow is my favorite color," she said.

Ashley McMillian, 18, is the class lead teacher and ACT's resident Cinderella.

She's well-aware of the students' short attention spans.

"They're so little," McMillian said. "It's hard for them to focus beyond an hour."

Students learn a new song and dance every two weeks, McMillian said. She pairs simple dance motions with the lyrics and leaves time in the routine for students to improvise their own moves.

The semester will end with a parent showcase in December.

"At the (showcase) we'll dress them up in tutus and do their hair and makeup," McMillian said. "That's probably their favorite part, along with the princesses."

Dickson said princesses' surprise visits in the summertime class left the students in awe.

"They start to create their own stories in their heads," Dickson said. "When (a princess) leaves, they'll say, ‘Oh my goodness, I wonder if her carriage is parked back there.' Or ‘I wonder if she has to get back by midnight.'"

But the princesses aren't just there to dazzle the young students.

"They're still learning - about the theater, about character improvisation - while doing something that is really fun and to their level of understanding," Dickson said.

ACT is still accepting students for this semester. Those interested in the class can try it for free. Call ACT in advance at (480) 705-9319.

The class costs $70 per month.

Kiali Wong is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.

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