At this point in my career, my biography is a love letter to Utah Dance Artists and to those who have enriched my life as a teacher, namely colleagues, employers, students, and parents.
I have had so many wonderful opportunities in the years since I attended BYU on scholarship. As a new Freshman, I was chosen through an audition process to teach for Sandra Allen, who was the head of BYU’s Ballet department, at her private ballet school in downtown Provo. This was a great opportunity because Sandy observed and critiqued my teaching, both in-writing and in one-on-one meetings (Some of those notes I still have today) throughout the year and again the following year. Her mentorship has been the cornerstone of who I am as a teacher.
As a Sophomore, I was invited to teach several classes for the Ballet program at BYU. Teaching with a pianist was something I had never done before. It felt daunting teaching students who were taking ballet for either an Arts credit or just for fun, but both represented a variety of different majors and included graduate students. Between supportive pianists, gracious students, and the continued teacher training of Sandra Allen, I continued to improve my teaching skills. During those two years, I also danced various roles and held administrative office with BYU’s Theatre Ballet. During this time, I began to experience a major health problem which required me to make the exceedingly difficult decision to leave BYU.
I was on the schedule to teach in the Ballet department for the Spring block that year, but it was just not possible. The following Spring after having been home for a year, recovered and running and dancing again I auditioned and was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Dance (a full scholarship) and ultimately graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Dance from the University of California.
Like most working mothers, I balanced my family (six children and a husband) and attempted to maintain my skills and my career. I remember the sick stomach I felt when I left my kids to go to ‘work’. I never called it “work”, I always called it teaching. I love being a mother and a ballet teacher. I think I was so passionate about teaching that some of my boys saw my teaching more as a hobby rather than a source of income for our family, or that being a ballet teacher was indeed work for me.
As a young mother with my B.A. completed, I had the amazing opportunity to continue to perform lead roles. Looking back now on dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker for multiple seasons and in-between babies, there are things I wish I could go back and savor. I wish I hadn’t been such a bunhead and so wrapped-up in the perfection of getting it ‘right’ that I didn’t go down to the orchestra pit to find and thank the talented artist that played the celesta while I danced my solo. I remember thanking the conductor, but it is still a wish of my grown-up self. Unless you’ve danced with live music, you can’t appreciate how a conductor and a bad tempo can make or break your performance.
When I danced the lead role in the Ballet Coppélia, a ballet of 3 Acts, I performed as Swanhilda who carries the ballet and I danced throughout all 3 Acts. I remember standing backstage before the first performance with an audience of 1,700 people and feeling scared to death. I was overcome by the magnitude of this full-length ballet and the fact that it was all sort of riding on me. Thankfully, when the curtain opened, muscle memory took over and in the end, I felt accomplishment and success.
My many performing experiences while I was growing up, in college and professionally taught me confidence, stability and faith. I gained the knowledge that I could do in life what was required of me, and that my body could do what I asked of it. This learned knowledge of mind over body, that I acquired through Ballet, has given me great strength. Strength that has included six natural child births and other physically painful experiences.
Throughout my teaching career and including UDA, I have had the opportunity to teach thousands of students. During the past 13 years at UDA, I have averaged 125 students a year. I estimate that I have put about 350 students en pointe. Teaching the Story Ballets: The Nutcracker, Coppélia, Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty and Peter and The Wolf, has been the highlight of teaching levels 1-4 at UDA. I have had students come back years later and reminisce with me about these stories and the feelings they had when they danced the pantomime that went with the music. I have a feeling that most students who study ballet when they were young don’t remember exactly what they learned in ballet classes, but they remember those stories and movements. I also believe that it has made them lifelong patrons of ballet because they lived the experience as a child. Pilates has also been a great gift and opportunity in my life and at UDA, thank you Brooke! Pilates continues to improve my life today because, and never forget this, your muscle mass is EVERYTHING!
Finally, working with UDA dancers has been a gift that I will always remember and be grateful for. There have been many parents who have become dear friends. Parents that I continue to admire for the way they guided, encouraged, and never gave up on the training of their budding dancer. To the parents, the students, the staff and especially Brooke, I thank you for your love and impact on my life!
Education and Professional Experience:
- Bachelor of Art Degree in Dance - University of California
- Pilates Training - Loma Linda University
- Dancing the same recurring character role consecutively for twenty years in The Nutcracker. Riverside Ballet, Riverside, California