By Natasha Tharp
Some people can’t help but teach what they know.
Middle College science instructor Stephanie Blake is that kind, and her subject matter extends beyond physics, chemistry, and biology into the artistic world of dance.
Her pupils cover a wide range of ages, and boy… kids do say the darnedest things.
“I was teaching a class of 3-year-olds and had the flu really badly,” Blake said. “The little girls were following me around the room walking on our tip toes like ballerinas when I accidentally passed gas and the little girl behind me yells, ‘Teacher, your butt stinks!’”
Blake said the rigor starts to increase as the students mature.
“After five years old, dance lessons are really about learning discipline, rhythm, and body control,” Blake said. “You have to learn to sit still, stretch still, pose still, all kinds of don’t move. As a kid, learning not to move is harder than learning to move.”
“Then, once the movement starts it is all about careful controlled progression of appendages. Even when you extent your leg forward, your toe must be pointed, your knee and hip twisted to the side, the tummy sucked in, the back up straight, the shoulders down, the chin up, and the arms strong yet relaxed,” Blake said.
As you can see, the study of dance is not for everyone at that age. Dance lessons is not about turning pop music on and shaking your booty. Many girls start dance lessons thinking they will look like a princess or just get to flit about as they wish and then they quit because the drill, practice and perfect execution is too strict and self-restraining.
While Blake teaches at OTC, she also is the cheerleading and dance coach at Parkview High School and has two beautiful kids.
“Brooklynn [her daughter] was involved in dance since she was a fetus- literally,” Blake said. “I taught dance during her gestation, her infancy, her toddlerhood, her entire life. She grew up going to cheer team practice, vikettes dance team practice, musical rehearsal, flag and color guard rehearsal, and classes at my dance studio.”
Like most young children, it took Brooklynn a while to choose to make the commitment to studying dance.
“She started dance class on her own at age 3 and quit. Then again at age 4 and quit. And again at age 5 and quit,” Blake said. “She was the kid who loved to boogie to music but didn’t have the attention span for the precision that true dance takes.”
Brooklynn, however, eventually developed the proper commitment, Blake sid.
“Interestingly, I think this often makes her a better choreographer than me because her mind is not confined to a traditional train of thought, which allows her to be more creative than me,” Blake said. “Brooklynn chose to train at and compete at soccer until her sophomore year of high school. My dance practices was something she endured while doing homework at the back, not something she participated in. But then her freshman year of high school the dance gene. I passed on awoke with a vengeance and suddenly she was choreographing her own musicals and Vikette dances.”
So, what is Blake’s future? Well, she compared her future to the three parts of dance as she sees it: movement, creativity, and performance.
“Movement will always be a part of my life- whether that is running a marathon, hiking a mountain, Zumba, granny water aerobics, yoga, or pushing myself around in a wheelchair,” Blake said. “Creativity in the future will probably be through writing. As for performance, I do aspire to be in a musical again someday when I work less. Maybe I will play the grandma on ‘Oklahoma!’”