By: Alana Tillim

When I was a little girl in a tutu, twenty years seemed like an eternity.   Just waiting the next week for my dance class seemed like an eternity.  I would have never guessed that this new and incredible passion I found would, one day, be my career.  Twenty years later, I look back on my journey and all of you who have shaped it and I am profoundly grateful.

I am grateful for… The students push me to grow as a teacher and leader.  The families put their trust in me and my teachers to provide a safe space for their children. The team of staff and instructors who make the studio a home for thousands of kids.  My mentors guided me to this point in life: Rich Wohlstadter owned the summer camp where I spent my childhood and it inspired Destination Dance and the community spirit at Dance Arts, Page Cook Perez was my favorite teacher who believed in me through so many tough times, Steven Lovelace for taking a chance on a 20 year old girl and trusting me to grow what he started.  My family has supported  me in every way possible to pursue this passion. Lastly, I am thankful for DANCE because it provides such release and even hope during my darkest days and helps me be a better person, wife, and mother.  I find when the world is painful or difficult to face, dance can help bring meaning and healing.  Sharing this gift with others and watching a child’s eyes light up when they feel their body move and find joy is so meaningful.  I genuinely find joy watching others find purpose and happiness through dance. 

I asked some of our favorite teachers and master teachers to reflect back on why they are thankful for this incredible art form.

Nathan Burdine-Ortega  (faculty: Jazz, Hip Hop, Acro, Minis) I am thankful for Dance because I was finally able to express myself from the deepest parts of my cells. In turn it gave me a power I never knew I had. 

Phil Wright (Master Teacher) I am thankful for dance because it saved my life.

Napoleon D’Umo (Master Teacher, Producer, and Choreographer): I am thankful for dance because it was the driving force behind all the blessings and opportunities I have been given.

Lauren Serrano (faculty: Jazz, Contemporary, and Choreographer) I am thankful for dance because movement allows me to reach a state of mind and being that nothing else can.

Janaya Cradle (faculty: Jazz, Hip Hop, Choreographer)  I am thankful for dance because it allows me to express emotions in a way that words do not, and it gives me an outlet to express myself in any way that I want to, without constraints.

Kenzie Crosley (Master Teacher and Choreographer) I am thankful for dance because it gave me a voice, the courage to express it and the ability to evoke change in myself, in others, and in the world. I am also thankful for dance for it's ability to be what I need on my happiest day and on my darkest day and all the grey in between. . .it's the best medicine I've ever known!

Kelli Forman (faculty:  Hip Hop, Improv, Choreographer) I am thankful for dance because it gives my soul the ability to communicate to whomever will listen/watch, which facilitates genuine connections and transformation.