The Short Version:
- Bachelors Degree in Performing Arts and Dance
- International (IDTA) training
- International performance experience
- 25+ years dance training
- 25+ years performing
- 15+ years teaching dance
- Worked with over 30 professional dance crews, companies, and teams
- Many choreography and performance awards
My Thoughts On the Dance Industry Today
Dance Is a Gift
Dance is a universal language of expression. Everyone has a song that makes their head bob, foot tap, or hip sway almost involuntarily. In fact, babies dance before they can walk or even talk. That means dancing is hardwired into us – into what makes us human. I believe dance is a gift from God to express emotions and ideas words cannot capture.
Unfortunately, this art and sport I love can be tainted with negativity. The difficulty about the dance business is many times a year studios face-off in fierce regional and national competitions against their local competitors. Which is why some studios refrain from competing. Science shows healthy competition is beneficial for athletes and acts as a motivator toward excellence. Which is why my studio competes. But, the competitive nature of dance has transformed the way many studio owners do business. It can lead to gossip, rumors, and alliances. This degrades the gift of dance.
Additionally, shows like Dance Moms allow people to think dance is about ego or a single dancer. Dance is never about the dancer. It is about the dancer’s audience. An artist doesn’t create their a masterpiece and then share it with no one. Artists create to challenge the status quo, capture an aesthetic, or share a human truth. Da Vinci, Beethoven, and the Brontë sisters did not create works of art to flare their egos. They shared their gift to make the world a better place. That’s what good art does. That’s what dance studios can do. Fellow dance teachers and studio owners, let us not lose sight of what we can accomplish when we use this divine gift for good.
Importance of Education
I have a B.A. in Performing Arts and Dance and have performed, studied, and trained both nationally and internationally. I worked hard to earn my formal training. And a formal education is essential to teach dance. Unfortunately, there is no minimum requirement to charge people money for dance lessons, which is concerning to me. Anybody can teach dance, but not everyone should. Anyone can crack your back, but chiropractors have to study bone structure so they don’t do harm to people.
Similarly, dance puts a lot of pressure on your joints, tendons and muscles. It’s essential to have a formal educational background to teach dance properly. Now, there are some dance teachers without a proper education who seek out the “Dance Masters” certification. It is a very basic recognition anyone can receive as long as you are 18 years old with some dance experience. This is definitely a commendable step in the right direction.
What concerns me is that many in my field portray this as a Master’s or M.A. of dance which is simply disingenuous to the people they intend to inspire. I don’t expect that my philosophy or studio will be a perfect fit for everyone. But no matter where you take dance, please be sure your director and teachers have a solid advanced education in dance. A lack of education typically leads to one of two approaches: (1) not pushing their students to reach their potential or (2) pushing them to a limit that is not healthy and often leads to severe injury. Please know the education credentials of your dance instructors.
RISE Above the Competition
The competition world has changed significantly since I opened up my studio in 2009. Our first competition team was made up of six girls with absolutely no competition experience. They wanted to compete in between their other extra-circular activities like track, cheer, drama, etc. There are typically three levels to compete in and are usually listed similar to Stars of Tomorrow, Rising Stars, and Elite – or something of that nature. This is a wonderful system for new teams or schools who don’t regularly compete, like my first team.
Unfortunately, the system is abused by schools who want to inflate their scores. The lowest category is reserved for dancers with no competition experience and who typically dance less than 3 hours per week. Yet, many studios will put students in those categories who are throwing aerials and triple pirouettes. The competitions don’t mind because it keeps the big money makers coming back. The parents and dancers only know that they walked home with a top 10 placement or platinum. But the studio director knows they are cheating the system, their families, and most importantly their dancers. I implore my colleagues to not take advantage of this system.
The DEVINE TEAM has nothing to do with trophies that ultimately end up in a landfill. I want to teach every person who walks into my studio the power of GRIT. Determination, resilience, and perseverance are necessary to master the rigorous technique and artful grace of dance. Those qualities are also essential to find success in any vocation. When teaching a seven-year-old how to développé, I’m also teaching them how confidence is earned through setting and achieving goals. Teaching technique to a dancer is simply a vessel to teach them about work ethic, focus, and discipline. Dance is about falling down seven times, but getting up eight. It’s about never giving up. My personal mantra when facing insurmountable obstacles is, “Don’t get mad. Get better!” At Devine Dancers our goal is simple: RISE!