THREE OAKS — The Sawyer Dance Academy kicked off the Acorn Dance Showcase on Jan. 22 with an energetic series of more than 30 performances featuring 21 area dance students ranging in age from 7 to 17.

“The Acorn Dance Showcase is in its very first year,” said Artistic Director Nikki Gauthier, who added that the idea came from Acorn staff member Belle Schmidt who also is an instructor for Sawyer Dance Academy.

“I asked her for some thoughts on how we could bring dance to The Acorn, and she came up with this beautiful idea of showcasing some local dance studios. We hope to do this again for years to come, widen the net and invite other studios to participate.”

Schmidt said she “grew up at the Sawyer Dance Academy” before studying Dance Management in college.

“My worlds are colliding right now, it’s very cool,” she said moments before the start of the Jan. 22 Acorn Dance Showcase. “I think it’s a good opportunity for the kids to get on a stage and perform for their families and our local community.”

Other 2023 Acorn Dance Showcase events include: January 29: Fusion Center for Dance; February 19: CC Dance with Diamond Dance Academy; February 26: Citadel Dance & Music Center. Upcoming events begin at 3 p.m. (doors open at 2 p.m.). General Admission is $10 (children 12 and under are free) and reserved seating is available for $35. For more, go to

The Sawyer Dance Academy started in 1983 as the Pat Bryant School of Dance in Harbert.

With the Academy’s clientele growing from 50 students to 100 in its first year, Bryant (who attended the Jan. 22 Acorn Showcase show – her daughter, Vicki Bryant, is a Box Office Coordinator at The Acorn) hired Deb Knuth, a recent graduate of Western Michigan University with a BFA in dance. In 1988 Bryant moved with her husband to Florida and Deb Knuth continued teaching at the studio, taking over as director. In 1991 the studio relocated to Sawyer and the name changed to the Sawyer Dance Academy. Her assistants are Brittany Knuth and Schmidt.

The Academy offers classes in ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical to ages 3 years through adult. There are various levels of technique offered from beginner to advanced (For more, visit or call 269-266-2119).

The Academy also is home to the competition dance team the Sawyer Dance Troupe which boasts multiple awards from various competitions across the nation.

Deb Knuth said the Troupe is slated to participate in the Platinum National Dance Competition in Chicago this May.

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