Children’s Division/ Recreation Department Lead
As an instructor of Valley Academy for the Arts, I was instructed to review my biography as a dancer for updates to the website. I hemmed and hawed over what I wanted to share and what was over sharing. The main point of contention was that “I started dancing at 14….” which, of course, is not true. I was blessed enough to have a dance teacher as my mother. I would assume that my training started the moment I left the womb.
My earliest memories of dancing take place when I was five years old in Madison, Wisconsin. We had finally finished building my mother’s dance studio off of Willy Street. I clearly remember my dad bribing me with pancakes from the local diner on Saturday morning just to get me into the building. At that moment in my life, I truly despised dance. Not only was my mother telling what to do at home, but now she got to call me out in front of the class. I had also learned at the time that older dancers have snacks and are very willing to feed small children that pretend to be hungry. In spite of my mother’s close scrutiny, my motivation to be present at the studio began to grow.
When I turned eleven, my family relocated to the greater Fox Valley area. My mother still had her studio in Madison and we were commuting four times a week to take/teach classes. I was exhausted from travelling and my tolerance for dance slowly dwindled. After a year, my mother decided to close the studio in Madison and relocate to Neenah. After jumping spaces for a bit, Valley Academy for the Arts found its home off of Main St. in Neenah. Specifically, it was located across from Great Harvest. With my love for carbs duly met, my love for studio time suddenly burst.
My first summer intensive was at the Kirov Academy in Washington D.C. The U.S government invited the famous Russian dance company to open a school in the United States that highlighted the teachers and dancers of the Kirov Ballet. I was fourteen years old and it was the first time that I spent three weeks away from my family. There was a strict schedule that the students followed while attending the program. We started at 8AM with Pilates or yoga, moving to ninety minutes of ballet and ninety minutes of pointe work. An hour lunch break and off to two hours of rehearsal with a final hour and half of alternative dance technique. We finished the day with an hour of nutrition or history and then dinner. I was in love with that experience. I was being trained as a professional dancer and my body felt it. For the first time, my ballet teacher was not my mother and my athletic needs were being satisfied. I came home from that experience contemplating my future as a dancer.
The remainder of high school was difficult. I spend my time in the studio, which can be isolating because not many high school students commit for twenty hours a week in the studio. My future career decisions were difficult because my father wanted me to explore a more stable career path. I spent the four years of high school breaking-up and falling in love with dance. My senior year, I decided that I was going to go to college for physical therapy and eventually become a sports medicine specialist with a focus on dance. That decision was immediately changed by my first ballet class in college, and I have never looked back.