My Dance Story:

0128181645I suppose some of you are wondering why I chose to blog about integrated dance. While the blog started as part of my Girl Scout silver award process my interest in integrated dance started before that.

I was born in Ohio and I was a very ill child, too weak to pedal a tricycle or sit upright on a horse. I have a metabolic condition that was fixed by dance and dietary changes. I am now a healthy 17 year old home school graduate. We moved to Washington Sate when I was 9. I hadΒ  a cancer scare at age 10 and had lymph nodes removed. I was very lucky it turned out they were not cancer.

I started dance at age 11 but my journey in dance has been anything but ordinary. A fact made clear to me after a summer intensive audition this past weekend. As my family was leaving some dance mothers were questioning my age and dance history that didn’t make any sense as well as who the woman with me was (my mother). They thought I couldn’t be a 17 year old dancer with only 3 years of training. Like Mark Travis Rivera of the Marked Dance project, my dance career started late and has been altered due to my health and economic status.

I started dance at age 11 and my health began to improve rapidly, I also took swimming, gymnastics, and voice at the same time, and worked out at the YMCA to build my strength and flexibility. My first year of dance I went from being a beginner to the top of a pre-pointe class. My instructors called it an amazing feat. I started at a local studio where the instructor had me in the studio 40 hours a week with beginning ballet through advanced on a concrete floor, I was in my first parade performance less than a week after starting. I laso performed inΒ  fundraisers all in less than 2 months. I got stone bruises on my feet and my mom found me a more appropriate studio.

I started in the end of October with Gayle Russell. She had me in 2 levels at he same time and sent me to Olympia to a studio there, 2 times a week, plus the teen adult class at age 11. I started too late there to do Nutcracker, but I performed Nutcracker variations I learned from a video, at a nursing home in 2011. So I was now a student at Johansen Olympia Dance Center, the home of Ballet North West. They ask me to come there 3 days a week and said taking at 2 different studios would hurt my technique so I stopped going to Gayle Russell and went there.

I did my first recital in spring of 2012 and I did their summer intensive . I took private lessons including my first pointe lessons. In the fall of 2012 my family experienced a house fire. We owned the house outright and were remodeling. We became homeless. I didn’t have dance that school year, but my mom got me a few ballet videos and I continued to dance on my own. That next summer 2013 I got a full scholarship to Axis Dance Company’s Get in Motion Summer Dance Camp and attended. I also attended my old dance schools summer intensive. But I was in the lower middle of the beginning pointe students and they were not interested in working with a dancer who was homeless and living in a campground.

Things got better and we moved to the East Coast. We got a rent to own house on the Outer Banks. I started Girl Scouts and 4H in February 2014. My 4H agent was friends with a dance teacher at the parks and rec program so I was able to take class in exchange for helping teach that spring. I took ballet, pointe, and contemporary. I also started youth group, and dance ministry at my church and helped teach God’s Girls (a children’s version of dance ministry).

I choreographed and performed my solo for both 4H district activity day and Girl Scouts Sing Dance Perform Talent Contest. I got a blue ribbon for the dance and won gold for my speech on integrated dance. That summer I volunteered at The North Carolina Aquarium and attended Church camp, as well as 4H Sate Congress. I also did my integrated dance festival that summer for my Girl Scout Silver Award. I choreographedΒ  a dance for disabled adults and taught them, and they performed in it. I also choreographed a dance with my sister who is disabled from a TBI from a car accident when she was 9. I choreographed 2 solos, one contemporary, and one pointe that I performed. I was honored to be joined by Lola Davis Jones in a duet we choreographed together. The dance ministry also came and performed. I earned my silver award and The Presidential Volunteer Service award at the gold level.

In the fall we found out the rent to own house had been a scam and we were homeless again. We bounced around some. It is hard to find housing when your mom is a disabled veteran on a fixed income, you have pets and the credit was ruined due to the house fire that the insurance never covered. I was offered that fall 2015, a scholarship to Asheville Ballet by Ann Dunn. We went their and I took class for 5 weeks, taking ballet in multiple levels, and contemporary, but we could not find housing and were back to camping and it was too cold. I also came down with pleurisy at that time and I was bedridden for almost a year.I now have normal lung function again.

In 2015 we moved into a hotel in Williamsburg VA. In August 2015 I met a dance teacher who offered me free classes ( no pointe) in exchange for helping teach and helping at her pizza parties etc. I agreed, and she made me the lead in her winter show. That was En Pointe Dance Academy. After recital and after speaking to Lola and my mom, I realized my technique had suffered under the instruction there and we looked for a better dance school.

When we went to EVSPA, Sandra Balestracci said my feet were damaged from bad technique and gave me exercises to fix them. It worked, and she again placed me in 2 levels at once, back en pointe. That was January 2016. I took musical theater as well as jazz, tap and contemporary. I did recital in the spring. I took private character lessons with Heidi Robitshek that spring, as well. I also did junior cotillion that winter and spring, and I continue to be an assistant each season. I was promised private lessons at EVSPA but due to our income they would not schedule any.

In June 2016 I had my wisdom teeth out and at the same time, in the same surgery, had my adenoids out and a deviated septum repaired. I lost a lot of blood during the surgery and then a lot of weight I did not need to lose, because it was all muscle. My balance was off after the surgery. I did EVSPA’s intensive, The American Ballet Company Intensive 2016. I was in physical therapy until mid October 2016. I left EVSPA in mid October. They were not understanding about my recovery, but I am healthy now.

In November I started Tae Kwon Do. I am now a brown belt, assistant instructor and taking the certified instructor course. In January 2017 I started assistant teaching dance under Amy Rowe at Quarterpath Rec. Which I still do. I began taking her barre flow class in exchange for teaching. I have been in her spring recital 2017, with a piece I choreographed for 4H district day 2017 that won a blue ribbon, and i performed a solo in winter show 2017. Neither were en pointe.

In the spring of 2017, I started Gymnastics and am now on the xcel team. I also started the teen writing programs at the local library, in 2015, and continue to do them. I job shadowed at a local vegetarian restaurant in the spring and summer of 2017, for 6 months, and got to use their yoga space to work on my dance. I attended the American Youth Foundation’s National Leadership Conference, and I graduated home school, high school in August 2017.

I started at Virginia Regional Ballet in January 2018 to focus on my own dance. I walk miles and take the bus to do what I do. I am not afraid to work hard for what I want. Yes we are still living in a hotel, but that does not define me. With the exception of the year I had pleurisy, I have always continued to work on my dance on my own, using videos and borrowed space wherever I could. I hope to dance professionally and own my own integrate dance studio.


08-2011 to 10-2011 Light House Ballet Academy

10-2011 to 12-2011 Gayle Russell Dance Academy

11-2011 to 06-2012 Johansen Olympia Dance center

2012 Summer intensive Johansen Olympia Dance Center

2013 Axis Get in Motion Summer Dance Camp

2013 Summer intensive Johansen Olympia Dance Center

02-2014 to 06-2014 Dare County Dance

09-2014 to 11-2014 Asheville Ballet

09-2015 to 12-2015 En Pointe Dance Academy

01-2016 to 06-2016 Eastern Virginia School for the Performing Arts (EVSPA)

2016 Summer intensive The American Ballet Company (EVSPA)

09-2016 to 10-2016 Eastern Virginia School for the Performing Arts

01-2018 to present Virginia Regional Ballet

That comes out to 3 years of actual ballet technique training plus the summer intensives and dance camp.

Thanks for ‘readin! πŸ™‚ ❀


Expanding Access and Equity in the Dance Profession

This is an interview with Mark Travis Rivera, creator of the Marked Dance Project. I first met Mark, in 2013, at AXIS Dance Company. It is a refreshing look into what defines a professional dancer, and an important step forward in the dance community. As a dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher, with financial barriers, I found this article insightful, and inspiring. Please read!

Side note:

I know that I haven’t posted in several months, but I’m working on reactivating the Integrated Dance blog. Please stay tuned for more posts!

Thanks for readin’ πŸ™‚ ❀



Interview with Annika Nonhebel:

This is an interview with Annika Nonhebel, who I first met at AXIS Dance Company in 2013. Annika is very involved in integrated dance, and has played an important role in my dance education, and future. I hope you enjoy this interview!

1: How did you first get started working in the dance world?
I first started teaching dance when in college. A friend of mine mentioned they were looking for someone to choreograph some dance pieces for a high school play. I had never taught before, but they hired me and I loved it. I continued teaching dance on the side while in college and during my work as a manager at a deaf institute. When I moved to the United States I came across AXIS Dance Company. There my love for dance, non profit management and working with the disabled all came together.
2: How did you first discover integrated dance?
I remember seeing a play when I was little where people with Down syndrome acted along non disabled actors. It was beautiful. I didn’t learn about this genre until someone told me about AXIS and I researched them.


3: How was your time at AXIS Dance Company?
I was at AXIS for 8 years and learned so much. We had a very small team so you quickly learn all the ins and outs of running a dance company.
I absolutely loved the assemblies that we brought to schools as well as workshops we did for youth. Seeing the impact you have on students and their teachers was priceless.


4: What has your journey in the dance world been like?
I started taking dance classes when I was 8, prior to that I joined a musical theater group. Dancing always made me happy, gave me a feeling of freedom. I never thought I would work in dance though. Sometimes life just takes you in certain directions.
5: What are some of the struggles you have faced working in dance?
When I worked as an education director there was the constant struggle to convince people that dance is as important as all the other art forms. Even though students might never grow up to be dancers, (creative) dance is a wonderful outlet and an incredible way to teach creativity, team building and problem solving. Especially young boys LOVE doing crazy things with their bodies. I believe many learning/behavior problems would be solved if creative movement was a bigger part of the curriculum.
Another struggle is money and work/life balance. You don’t work in the arts to get rich. Everyone is so passionate about the work they do they work non-stop. Art non-profits learned to do with less, because everyone works way more than what is being reflected in budgets and job descriptions. Eventually this leads to burn outs and to organizations that can’t sustain the amount of work they did with people that basically did the work of two sometimes three people.


6: What is your favorite thing about working in integrated dance?
Teaching dance to people with disabilities (including learning and developmental disabilities) pushes you to be the best teacher you can be. You need to be on your toes and stay focused. I love seeing how people push themselves to go beyond what they thought they were capable of.


7: What have you learned from working in integrated dance?
See above


8: Can you tell me a little bit about Amy Seiwert’s Imagery?

Amy Seiwert’s Imagery is a contemporary ballet company based in San Francisco. Imagery’s artists are constantly pushing the preconceptions of what ballet is and can be. We respect swans and sylphs, but it’s not where the companies interest lies. Through risk taking and collaboration we strive to push the field of ballet forward.

Amy works from a classical ballet technique, but engages her dancers in a creative process that is more common in modern dance. She asks her dancers to make creative choices, to manipulate movement. Through this her work is constantly fresh and unique, plus she fosters strong creative dance makers. Something that you don’t see a lot in the traditional ballet world.

9: What is your advice to someone pursuing a career in dance?
Get to know people in the world of dance. Talk to them, visit companies, ask questions. Know that when you work for a small company or start your own, you’ll need to be an all rounder and be able to do a lot of things. Don’t expect to know it all, you will learn and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Once you start working find friends among colleagues in the field, it’s good to know you have a network and people to fall back on.
10: How has integrated dance changed you?
It taught me to look at everyone as an individual not as (part of) a group. To look at someone’s strengths and to believe that everyone can grow and learn. This growth and learning might look different for everyone, but it will be there as long as you look closely.

Dizzy Feet Foundation, And AXIS Dance Company:

This is the PSA for the Dizzy Feet Foundation:

They help to fund dance education and programs like the Youth Camp, at AXIS. This is the link to the AXIS Youth Camp:

I actually just found out I’m in the PSA, and the picture at AXIS. I’m in the hot pink shirt, and black shorts, towards the beginning of the PSA, and I’m in the bright blue shirt and black shorts, at the back of the AXIS picture.

Please support the Dizzy Feet Foundation, and AXIS Dance. I attended AXIS Youth Camp on a full scholarship, in 2013.

Also thank you to dance4dreams, for reblogging some of my posts! ❀

Thanks for readin! πŸ™‚ ❀