Dancers ready for the movies

WINTERSVILLE – Dancers from the Brenda Casey Dance Center are ready for the big screen.

Forty students have the opportunity of a lifetime to dance in an independent film entitled, “Shooting Stars.”

According to Casey, the 40 dancers auditioned in the first round, with nine being cast in lead or speaking roles.

“All of the girls auditioned with regular dance as well as improv dance,” she stated. “The students range from 6 to 17 years old. The ones who weren’t cast for lead roles will participate as extras.”

The nine girls cast for lead or speaking roles include Myla Gulan, 11; Jennifer Luck, 17; Lilli Smith, 10; Jessica Walkosky, 13; Sadie Wright, 11; Kelsey Lewis, 14; Sloane Lewis, 12; Janie Krzys, 15; and Lauren Mahen, 13.

“The director was very impressed with our tap and acrobat dancing,” Casey said.

The film was written and will be directed by Jacqueline Maillis, a Boardman native.

“This is my first movie and I have been writing it for around two years,” Maillis stated. “I have worked on films before but never directed. I have been involved in screen writing for the last 10 years.”

Maillis currently resides in New York City and works as a nanny.

“I have danced my entire life so this move is a perfect fit,” she said. “My goal is to make it feel real and natural.”

The move is about a dance convention and competition in Ohio, Maillis said.

“All of the girls stay at a hotel and they are going to be auditioning at a convention center with famous choreographers,” she noted. “The scene is set in 1993, so it will be a sort of coming-of-age film. All of the dancing and music will be from that era.”

Maillis wanted to use homegrown kids because the movie is set in Ohio.

“That will help to make the movie natural,” she stated. “I picked the particular girls for leads in the film because they each brought something special to the table. Lead roles will come from Brenda Casey Dance Center as well as the Stage Left dance center in Canfield. Other students from dance studios in Youngstown will play extras in the film.”

Filming will begin in the summer, Maillis said. A screening will be held in late fall in Youngstown.

“The DeYor Performing Arts Center, formerly the Warner Theatre, offered the building for a free screening,” she explained. “Everyone has been so supportive about this.”

The filming will take place in local motels, and they will use the stage at the performing arts center to film as well, Maillis added. All of the wardrobe will be chosen by a stylist and they will be very styled to the era. A choreographer from the New York Nets and a Broadway dancer will help create the dance scenes, she noted.

“I am going to send the movie to all of the big film festivals and we would love to get noticed at Sundance or Tribeca, or really anywhere to get exposure,” Maillis said. “Then it will be sent to Netflix and videos on demand.”

“I am thrilled that our kids have the chance to partake in this experience,” Casey exclaimed. “This is a chance of a lifetime. I said from the beginning that we are going to take this experience and enjoy it as a dance family.”