Discount Dance recently held our annual Dance Teacher of the Year Award contest. Hundreds of dancers and dance families entered their teacher into the contest. It was such a joy reading all of the entries, and hearing about how these amazing people have dedicated their lives to dance education. It wasn’t an easy decision, but our judging panel and Discount Dance Cooperate chose Patricia Wilson of Heartland Dance Studio in Grants Pass, Oregon! Here are a few of the wonderful things her students had to say about her:
Ms. Patricia is the kindest, most patient, most encouraging instructor ever – the perfect embodiment of our studio’s motto: Be Kind.
Each year, she tirelessly choreographs an original ballet production based on the strengths of the dancers in our studio, making all the dancers involved feel valued, encouraged, and well trained, even though heartland is a non-profit organization!
Ms. Patricia is the kindest person I have ever met. She allows me to work in the studio to pay for my dance lessons, which has been such an awesome experience! I am so privileged to be her student!
DDS was also lucky enough to interview Ms. Patricia herself! She shared with us a bit of her dance past, and some really fantastic advice for other dance teachers and studio owners. Read what she had to say!
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Virginia while my father was in the military. We lived in various places from Austria to the Bay Area of California until he retired in 1966. That year we moved to Grants Pass, Oregon, where I attended middle and high school. I have hung my ballet shoes in Southern Oregon ever since.
At what age and why did you start dancing?
I was introduced to dance in Los Angeles at the age of 6. It was love at first step! Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to continue formal training. I started studying dance seriously at age 23 with Nancy Gordon at Heartland Dance in Grants Pass.
Tell us how your dance career brought you to where you are today:
I began teaching at Heartland in 1992. In 1998, Nancy passed the directorship of the company over to me. The studio has continued to grow, and as of last year we moved to a larger studio. With the support of the community we were able to install a sprung floor, Marley surface, barres, and are still working to complete the mirrors.
What is the most challenging thing about being a dance teacher?
Instilling, especially in the younger students, the desire to work as hard as dance demands, while still keeping their love and passion for dance.
What are some of the most rewarding things about being a dance teacher?
Watching a timid young child develop into an accomplished dancer performing with grace and confidence.
Outside of technique, what do you strive to teach your students in class?
Our motto at Heartland is “Be Kind.” We insist that our instructors and students give each other support and treat one another with kindness and respect. On the dance floor, beyond technique, I emphasize the use of expression and energy.
What are your favorite hobbies or pass-times outside of the studio?
Gardening, oil painting, and watching a good sappy movie.
What was the best live dance performance that you have ever seen?
The Joffrey Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty.”
What advice do you have for dance teachers or studio owners just starting their careers?
My advice would be to put the needs of your students first, illicit the support of your dancer families and the community at large, enroll in some basic business classes and realize you will never be able to please everyone.