Interview by Jessie Nowak
What was your first experience with dance?
It was my high school year and it was a small dance right after a football game. After the game, I changed into my dress outfit and went into the commons (location of the dance). I stood there with some friends not doing anything except watching others have a great time dancing. It was cool to see some of the upper classmates do some swing dancing, but other than that, it was miserable. I didn't go to a another dance until my Junior and Senior prom because you kinda had to. Not much happened at those two dances. I slow danced with my dates, but that was about it. Dancing was not something I enjoyed doing.
How has your perspective on dance changed since then?
I went off to college and started studying to become a Physical Education Teacher. I noticed on the list of required classes that dance was one of them. After putting if off for almost two years, I finally picked ballroom dancing as my required dance credit. In the class I learned how to swing dance, waltz, polka, cha cha, salsa, and more. I was very nervous my first couple of classes, but I was partnered up with someone who loved dancing and who already knew how to dance. The instructor did a great job breaking the dances down so that anyone could learn them. It only took about 1 month before my feelings of dance changed. After learning how to dance, having a partner who would set time aside outside of class to help me, and building my confidence up, I started loving dance. My partner and I started going out to dance clubs and dancing. I started going out with my friends just to dance. As I kept dancing, I started learning more dances and even making up my own dance moves. I even got my little brother to start going out and dancing with us.
How do you use dance now in your teaching and day to day?
I remember my interview for the PE position at the school I am teaching at right now. It was 13 years ago. One of the things that my boss really liked in the interview was that I enjoyed dancing and wanted to incorporate it into my classes. I know for a fact that helped me get the position. Since that day, I have had a dance unit in each of my classes (K - 8th Grade). I also put on a sock hop dance competition each year. I teach each class 4-5 different dances and then the classes pick one. At the sock-hop, each class gets up on stage and performs their dance. The class that gets the most votes from teachers and parents is the class that wins the sock-hop. This has been going on for about 12 years. I also collaborate with the classroom teachers to teach dances done during different decades. Eighth grade learns about the 50's so we teach some popular dances from back then. Seventh grade learns about the 20's and fifth grade has the Civil War Ball where they learn to waltz, polka, and do the Virginia reel. Dancing is a very large part of my curriculum and I try to go out dancing with my wife as much as I can. Each day I teach dance I thank my college professor for showing me how to make dancing easy to learn which in turn makes if fun!
Do you think you have been shaped at all by dance?
I would definitely say yes. All of my colleagues know me as the dancer in the school. They will come to me whenever a school dance is coming up or if they want their students to learn a specific dance. Whenever I answer the question, "What are your hobbies?" dance is always one of my top three. It has built my confidence not only in dance, but also speaking in front of large groups, showing my students how to do tasks that are not always easy, and helps me relieve unwanted stress. I will always believe that dance helped form who I am today and has always had a positive influence on my life.
Are you Dance CURIOUS?
Raise your hand if you've ever felt too old, too fat, too inflexible, too uncoordinated, too shy, too masculine, too ____________ to dance. The truth is, even professional dancers feel those things all the time because everyone plays the comparison game. At Dance Wire, we are determined to erase those stigmas. Dance is for EVERYONE.
Rhonda graciously agreed to tell her story to launch our new series Dance CURIOUS. Follow along especially if you are new to dance or working to reconnect with it. If you have a story you'd like to tell, email firstname.lastname@example.org using subject line Dance CURIOUS Story to Tell
And if you want to hear more stories like this and help us expand our resources on the website, please make a one-time or recurring donation. Together we can Keep Portland Dancing!