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Sunny Raskin: Heather Henson Sings Along with the Muppets

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Sunny Raskin, from Raskin Dance Studio to discuss her latest venture and what she hopes to do next.

You just finished your tour with Heather Henson Sing Along with the Muppet Movie, How was that experience?

I was already excited before it started! It was a lifelong goal to be involved in the Muppets. What I quickly realized was the impact, way beyond what I expected. Everytime I had the chance to perform and  present Jim Hensons ideas of the world, what he stood for and all he wanted to do was make people happy, and smile. The kids get a bag when they come in and they are a part of the movie. We are excited they are there instead of them excited for us. Our part is to make them feel like they are a part of something.  I find their world and I make them feel safe and slowly they become part of the experience.

What do you feel is the key to creativity?

I think they key to all creativity is feeling safe. The person who feels it is ok to be good at something will try to do all different things. It’s important that there is no one path. If you are an artist, be an artist of many things.

What can you tell professionals in the creative world?

Learn beyond your scope. If you’re a dancer in a company, you know that your earning potential is not great but if you expand your horizon you can do so many things. They say there are no starving artists, just a starving art. If your art (i.e.: dance) is not paying learn another one (i.e.: costume design) this way you will always be an artist, just one who is earning.

What was your role with Heather Henson Sing Along with the Muppet Movie?
We are WhatNots, meaning we are nothing and we are everything. Our job was to make ourselves be the ones who look weird and freaky so that everyone felt that they were in a great place. We are the loading crew, we do tech sound checks, we do the show. There is no true glamour in this job. The glamour comes from the feeling we get at the end of show, when you look at the happiness in the crowd and the crowd smiles back.

What do you want to do next?

I would like to choreograph puppets on bigger scale and maybe a major motion picture with puppets. I would like to do it from a dancers point of view and bring puppets to life, doing dances.

What piece of advice would you give to children?

Dont be in a hurry, don’t be in a hurry to be the best at anything. Don’t think because you’re the kid in the back of the dance class who doesn’t have all the jumps, that you wont be the best dancer one day.

If you could do anything… skys the limit!
I’d like to be in Annie on Broadway and I would like to play Miss Hannigan!

The Art of Movement Intensive

The Art of Movement is a contemporary summer intensive boot-camp. Students are by invitation or audition. Only 120 are selected from all over the world to participate.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with some of their instructors to discuss the intensive as well as their philosophy of dance.


Pictured left to right: Melanie Creek, Jennifer Parsley, Peter Merz, Sherri Metcalf, Israel Rodriquez, Katia Garza and Tyler Muhlenkamp

What is your choreographic process?

Sherri Metcalf–  Depending on the job but when I choreograph for a solo I learn about that dancer. I analyze their body and their strengths. I do a lot of research by watching them dance and through video footage of them dancing. I learn their personality and match them to music they would enjoy.

Israel Rodriquez–   I study and listen to the music. I story board a whole ballet, I know where every dancer will be and at what time. I can see it. I put my dancers based upon their ability on the stage.


What is your most memorable dance moment?

Israel Rodriquez–  When I danced Spartacus. It was the first time it had ever been choreographed in its entirety in the United States and I got to play Spartacus. I became that ballet!

Sherri Metcalf-  As a little girl I went to Radio City music Hall and I said that I wanted to dance there. As an adult, it came true.


You have taught and worked with students and professionals, what can students learn from professionals?

Sherri Metcalf-   Etiquette. Professionnel dancers have aquired a sense of professionalism that students can learn and apply now. Not being late for class, being dressed properly for class. Be accountable for your attitude.

Israel Rodriquez Get past being a great dancer, your attitude is most important, it can take you far or leave you exactly where you are.




What  makes a great dancer?

Sherri Metcalf-  Did I feel something. It’s sometimes not even the best technical dancers. It’s who performs and makes the audience feel something.

Israel Rodriquez–  Heart! Technically you can be great, but do you have heart?


If you could try a different style of dance, what would it be?

Israel Rodriquez–  Tap Dance. I love tap! But they would kick me out!

Sherri Metcalf-  Ballroom. I would love to learn the latin dances and partner.

Katia Garza-  Ballroom. I could do it as I get older and enjoy it.



Three words to describe your class?

Israel Rodriquez-  Disciplined, fun, and spontaneous

Sherri Metcalf–  Discipline, safe, and creative

Katia Garza–  Fun, fast, and hard


What is a big role you would like to dance?

Katia Garza–  I have never danced Romeo and Juliet but I would love to dance Manon. It is a dramatic ballet and I love the acting and the complicated story. I would get to be a different character.



Have you noticed kids are getting better younger?

Katia Garza–  Kids have easier access to watch ballets or dancer and try at home. When I was little, you had to wait for the teacher to show us. Now, kids have it all in front of them to learn. My concern is dancers and younger and careers are being shorter. Push your body but don’t burn it so you can have a long a beautiful career.

Sherri Metcalf–  Kids used to be 15 doing 4 or 5 pirouettes and now they are 7 years old. My only worry is that kids will do too much too soon and they won’t have any goals as they will have achieved them all so early.




 A what point do you consider yourself a successful dancer?

Katia Garza-  It’s not money, you won’t be rich! Success is making my body do what I want it to do correctly. When I manage to control my body to where I don’t have to think about my body on stage, it does what it is supposed to do and I just go out and perform.


In closing if you could tell young dancers one piece of advice what would it be?

Katia Garza–  Listen and apply. Don try to see only fast results. Absorb the information and apply the corrections.

Sherri Metcalf–  Tradition- Be present in class, remember your dance etiquette and breathe! You don’t have to be so intense and serious all the time

Israel Rodriquez–  Do not rush if you are injured. You won’t be able to dance better if you are rushing. Take your time, its better to wait a year, than ruin your career by pushing too soon.

To learn more about the Art of Movement Intensive Program Visit their website:  Art Of Movement



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