Faculty Spotlight: Shannon Atkins

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We jumped at the chance to chat with our own Shannon Atkins, who is currently teaching our dancers at #Convention! Read on to find out what some of her favorite dance memories are.

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Q: How long have you been dancing, and how long have you been teaching dance?

A: I have been dancing since I was 5 and I’ve been teaching since I was 13. I jumped at the chance to become an assistant as soon as I was old enough and I haven’t stopped. I actually performed my own self-choreographed jazz solo when I was 10, much to my teacher’s horror!

 

Q: Do you have a favorite type of dance to teach and why is it your favorite?

A: I love to teach all styles; however, I would have to say that my favorite is tap. I enjoy creating different rhythms and seeing students get such enjoyment from them. I love it when kids come up to me at the end of class at workshops and conventions and say “I’m going to get back into tap” or “You’ve inspired me to take tap”. I feel like tap is that one style that gets left behind with the trends of contemporary, lyrical and hip hop and it is therefore extremely important for us tap lovers to continue to pass on the joy of tapping!

 

Q: Which classes are you teaching at Convention?

A: I will be teaching the tap and musical theatre in the junior and senior rooms. Get ready to work up a sweat but also have a great time!

 

Q: There’s always that one move or combination that gives you a hard time. Is there any specific dance move that has been difficult for you? If so, how did you get better at it?

A: I have always struggled with jumping and leaping – I just wasn’t naturally able to achieve elevation. I would see all my friends leaping through the sky effortlessly and I would be green with envy. So, being the determined little dancer I was, I would practice and practice. I would go into the studio whenever I could and just leap and leap and leap. This did help me build strength – I guess, like anything, practice makes perfect. I also used it as an excuse to jump for hours on the trampoline. Ultimately, I think taking on extra ballet classes is what helped me. Ballet is always the answer!

 

Q: What is your favorite dance memory?

A: Aside from getting to perform in my dream musical, 42nd Street, which was incredible, it would have to be a memory from a competition with my students in Australia. We discovered we had an extra entry in the contemporary category and thought we would do something spontaneous and create something in the three hours we had on break and put it on stage. Three of my other teachers and all the kids banded together and we came up with a piece and the kids competed.  Nobody suspected it was a last-minute creation and, in fact, we got complimented on what a great routine it was. The thrill and rush combined with the fun that was had is something we will all talk about forever. We all bonded in a way that took things even further than just traveling away to compete. It was one of those “aha” moments where I thought this is what this is all about – it’s not the trophies won but the crazy memories made.

 

Q: Who are your favorite people to follow on social media (dance related or not!)?

A: This might sound corny but I like to follow my friends and family from back home on social media. It helps me to feel like I am still involved and not missing out. Our time zones are completely opposite, so it is exciting to wake up and see what the other half of the world has been up to. Like any dancer, I’m also obsessed with dance videos! Social media is great for getting new ideas and showcasing talent. I’m looking forward to seeing and sharing some videos from Convention.

 

Q: You came here all the way from Australia! What has been the biggest difference or adjustment you have had to make?

A: Learning to brave the New York weather! Winter is brutal! Snow and blizzards are very different in Australia, where you can pretty much go to the beach all year round, and the most important clothing issue is not having enough bikinis rather than worrying about whether your winter coat is warm enough. In terms of dance, learning that most kids here only have 1-2 solos was a major shock to me. In Australia, an average kid would have around 10-12 or sometimes up to 20 solos – most dance teachers here almost fall over when they hear that.

 

Q: What do you think the biggest challenge is for young dancers today, and how can they overcome it?

A: I think the biggest challenge for young dancers is finding balance in day-to-day life. Even if dance is your priority, it’s important to still make time for family life, education, time with friends, and dance training.  It is very easy to get caught up in this idea that everything revolves around dance and that you are definitely going to become a professional dancer when you are a young aspiring dancer. However, the reality is that dreams change, and it’s important to still enjoy your life outside dance and make sure you don’t miss out on making memories with family and friends. Experiences outside of dance can all be fed into your routines, and having some downtime is just what you need to make sure you crush it at competition. Sacrifices need to be made sometimes, but don’t lose sight of why we all dance – because we love it!

 

Q: Are you on social media? Our dancers would love to follow you!

A: Come and check me out at @shanzy1982 on Instagram! I’m looking forward to checking some of the dancers out on social media before convention.

 

Q: What has dance taught you?

A: If you work hard and do what you love, anything is possible! My passion for dance has brought me all the way from Australia to New York city and let me travel the world chasing my dreams. I still have to pinch myself when I remember I can walk to Broadway and see shows whenever I want!

 

Q: Dancing is tiring! What is your favorite food to help you refuel after a day of dancing?

A: I’m obsessed with the vanilla protein shakes from Juice Press. For all the Australians, I have to say it – there is no better way to feel good than eating some Vegemite toast!

Faculty Spotlight: Kyle Shukis

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Convention season is in full swing, and we couldn’t be more excited! Our dancers and staff are in it to win this year. We had the chance to speak with one of our great faculty members, Kyle Shukis, about why he loves to teach at Convention – and what he hopes you’ll learn this year. Read on to learn more about Kyle!

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Q: What are you most looking forward to about Convention this year?

A: I am always excited to work with a bunch of new dancers but also look forward to the students who return each year.  Getting to see their growth over time is so rewarding!

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to the dancers coming to Convention, what would it be?

A: Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  So many dancers get used to the same teachers and styles and let that box them in.  Conventions are a great place to challenge yourself in new ways and you can grow so much as a dancer in just one day!

Q: How long have you been teaching dance?

A: I started teaching dance as an assistant when I was only fifteen and haven’t stopped since!

Q: What kind of dance classes do you enjoy teaching the most? Which ones will you be teaching at Convention?

A: I love teaching classes that push your thought process as well as your technique – improvisation, choreography, movement studies etc.  I will be teaching both contemporary and jazz at the convention and love those, as well!

Q: You have a lot of experience in many areas of the dance world – which part of this industry is your favorite?

A: I used to do a lot of work on the side as a lighting designer in NYC – it was a great way to supplement my income as well as have a flexible schedule.  It’s amazing how much lighting can change and influence a piece of work and you truly feel as though you are a part of what is happening on stage.

Q: What do you think the biggest challenge is for young dancers today, and how can they overcome it?

A: I honestly think that much as the way magazines can cause people to have image problems, social media and what is posted dance wise often has the same effect on young dancers.  Most of what people post and share are things that are “perfect” and when inundated with these videos and images it causes young dancers to think they aren’t good enough.  Always remember that people are only going to post their best, and no matter how amazing a dancer is, they have both fallen and failed at something – you just aren’t there to see it.  Use these posts for inspiration, but don’t let it dictate what you feel like you need to be as a dancer.

Q: You have been involved quite a few productions – which one is your favorite?

A: I was in an all-dance production of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.”  I got to play Edmund and it was so fun to have to portray a child while also performing challenging movement.

Q: There’s always that one move or combination that gives you a hard time. Is there any specific dance move that has been difficult for you? If so, how did you get better at it?

A: I always struggled with flexibility as a younger competition dancer.  Learning how to stay warm and stretch properly and for the right amount of time helped increase my range by a huge amount.

Q: What is your favorite dance memory?

A: I have so many! One of my favorites was getting to work an extended residency in the Cayman Islands where we taught residents in the community about dance.  Everyone was so welcoming and so open minded and excited to learn new things.  We also got to perform on an open air stage outside where chickens would wander into the wings – it was so cool!

Q: Who are your favorite people to follow on social media (dance related or not!)? 

A: I love Michelle Obama on social media – she is so inspirational as a person and does so much good work around the world.  She has a snapchat that really lets you in to see how much she does each day and she is always full of positivity.

Q: Are you on social media? Our dancers would love to follow you!

A: Yes! My Instagram is kyleasaurusrex.

 

We can’t wait to see you at our next Convention stop, Kyle! Dancers, check back here to learn more about our amazing faculty and what’s in store for you this season! Are you coming to convention? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Dance Your Way into the Perfect Career

We think that dance is awesome. (Obviously.) It is not only fun and challenging, but it also promotes growth and maturation over time within the dancer. This is our FAVORITE part of dance: seeing young dancers work hard as little caterpillars, only to emerge after some time as beautiful butterflies.

And while it is likely every little caterpillar’s dream to grow up and be a professional dancer or hold a career in the world of dance, we know that our butterflies often flitter away to other industries and career paths. Which is simply more proof that dance is awesome: dancers don’t just learn technique, they learn lasting values and principles that help prepare them for the real world. BOOM. Dance wins! (Can you tell we enjoy a little friendly competition?!)

So what does dance really teach? Glad you asked! The list is long and includes many skills and traits that will prove useful in any profession. By spending plenty of time before instructors and judges, dancers learn the ability to accept critique and disappointment in a productive way.

Dancers also learn a level of healthy competition along with the ability to work well on a team. In putting lots of time in practicing to work towards their goals, dancers learn a great work ethic. The dancer will also learn a level of humility and respect on their journey from little caterpillar to beautiful butterfly.

But wait, there’s more! There are several, more specific skills and traits that the well-practiced dancer will learn – and we’ve paired career choices that match them below:

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As you can see (and probably already know), the many lessons learned in dance are sure to prepare the dancer for a lifetime of success – both on and off the dance floor. While these are well-matched career choices for the dancer, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to possibilities. Just as we say when it comes to dance, we believe that you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to!

Now we’d like to hear back from YOU! If you have a career that you feel dance has helped prepare you for, we’d love to hear from you. Connect with us on Facebook, Google +, or Instagram to let us know all about it!