Welcome to the CNYAOD Blog everyone! I hope this weekly blog will help both dancers and studio families alike better understand the world of dance and all that goes with it. I'll be posting on various topics, from dancer hacks to technique tips to mental health, so that everyone can find something here of value. We'll be sharing sneak peaks on our social media platforms each week, but be sure to check back here for the full article!
I wanted to start with addressing a question I've received A LOT lately: Why on earth would I choose to open a dance studio?
I guess for some this could seem like a huge undertaking - financial risk, loss of job security, dealing with kids all day every day? Okay, maybe it's not for everyone...
But for me, dance has always been my truest passion and my first love. I started dance at the age of five, studying classical ballet, jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, and character styles through my years of training. I gave up my teenage summers in favor of grueling dance intensives far away from home. I gave up football games and weekend parties for ballet rehearsals and extra classes. I gave up a typical childhood to pursue a dream that, to me, meant so much more. Dance has been nothing more or less than the very air I breathe - but honestly, it can be hard to explain to people just how much it means to me.
I'll admit, growing up as a young dancer, the idea of teaching was terrifying to me. I wasn't sure I'd ever have the patience to teach the intricacies of ballet pointe work or to run a room of 18 6-year-olds, trying to instill in their training the basics of technique. I wanted the professional company career, the life under the lights of the stage, the beautiful world of classical ballet performance - I wanted to be a ballerina.
My body, however, had other ideas.
As I moved on from high school to college, continuing my training in dance at the University at Buffalo while I also pursued an academic degree, I could feel the wear and tear start to intensify. I'd struggled with severe hip problems throughout my teen years as a dancer with the extremely ill-suited condition of hip/femoral anteversion (the exact opposite of the ideal dancer's body structure). Because of my love for dance I pushed myself through the pain for years, pushed and pushed and pushed until finally - I'd reached my breaking point.
I knew that a professional ballet career would never happen for me with this type of hip structure and the debilitating pain that came with it. So, in the second semester of my junior year of college, I'd had enough. I quit dance altogether.
During the year I spent without dance I focused heavily on schoolwork, avoiding everything that reminded me of dance and the life I wished I was living. I was determined to make an end of that part of my life and the heartbreak I now associated with it.
But after a year away from dance, tragedy struck the studio I'd grown up in. Our young ballet master, my own mentor, friend and frequent pas de deux partner, was diagnosed with a serious brain tumor. After a short six-month battle against cancer, he passed away at the age of 34. Matthew Pitcher had been one of my greatest teachers and motivators throughout my pre-professional training career, coaching me through daily technique classes and dancing as my partner in over 15 performance roles, and losing him was one of the greatest griefs I've ever been through.
But it did one incredibly important thing for me - it brought me back to dance.
To celebrate Matt's life, current and alumni students participated in an incredibly moving concert performance honoring his choreography and teaching legacy. In dancing again for him I finally found my way back to the missing part of me - the part of me that remembered dance as the greatest love of my life.
I started teaching ballet soon after graduating from UB with my Bachelor of Arts degree and absolutely fell in love. I choreographed my first piece in the spring of 2013, and to see my students proudly performing the work I'd created for them - I was hooked.
I expanded my teaching career to include all age groups, finding so much joy in creating a love for dance in little ones and so much satisfaction in the progression and technical achievement of older students. I began to thrive off the pure enjoyment I found in the studio, and as someone who faced serious technique challenges myself I was able to relate to young dancers and the struggles they were forced to overcome. I decided to pursue my teaching certification with the National Training Curriculum established by the prestigious American Ballet Theatre in New York City. I knew how to dance, but now I truly knew how to teach.
The education I received at ABT around technique training, injury prevention, child psychological development and dancer mental health gave me the confidence to expand my teaching career to various other studios in the Central New York region. The more I taught (and the less passion I found in my 9-5 professional career), the more I realized that this is truly what I'm meant to be doing with my one and only life.
So, after more than five years of teaching, I'm taking the leap and opening my own school. The vision I have for the Central New York Academy of Dance is expansive, but above all else I want every day to be creating better human beings through creating better dancers. Our mission to spread a love for dance and the performing arts is part of such a larger mission, one started long ago by many incredible instructors who came before me and inspired me. This studio is my life's passion, and I cannot wait to see the impact we'll have on the lives and careers of our future students.
And to anyone who asks me now how I could be so bold as to take this leap of faith and open my own business - my own dance studio - all I have to say is, how could I not?
Happy dancing loves:)
Artistic Director & Ballet Mistress
Central New York Academy Of Dance