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.
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!