December 2013 | On My Mind

Words from the publisher

Recently on Facebook, someone with a college degree referred to me as a high school dropout. They claimed to be “outing me” and insinuated that I should not be allowed to run my seminars because of my lack of formal education.

This person was, in fact, right that I don’t have a high school diploma. After my junior year (and enduring bullying nearly every day of high school), I decided dance was my thing. I was ready to live in a world where being a guy who danced was OK and where dance could be my priority.

Today, I preach the importance of continuing education. However, I’m not ashamed of the education I’ve had. It might not be conventional, but it’s extensive and varied.

At 15, I taught dance classes at a low-income housing project, where I learned one of my core beliefs: that dance is a gift every child (and adult) needs to experience.

At 16, I began teaching master classes for dance organizations, conventions, and conferences around the country. Today, at 52, I don’t teach movement classes anymore, but I travel the world doing speaking gigs and dance-teacher seminars. The education I’ve gotten from the thousands of teachers and dancers I work with is priceless.

At 17, I launched American Dance Awards, which became one of the largest and most respected competitions in the world. That was 24 years of education, education, and more education.

At 21, I opened Dance Theatre of Boston with my brother Rennie. After three years and many nights sleeping at the studio because we couldn’t afford to get our car out of the parking garage, that school boomed. Talk about an education!

At 24, I was elected president of Dance Masters of New England. I had no idea what I was doing, but the chapter had started to thrive by the time I handed the gavel to the next president. I learned how to be a good leader.

At 25, I was elected to the board of Dance Masters of America. Again, I was in deep, but I learned so much that I was elected as DMA’s national president—its youngest ever.

At 27, I started writing for Dancer and Dance Magazine. Each time an editor sent my work back to me, I studied it. I was learning how to edit myself, and that made me a better writer. I still appreciate having an editor because there is more to learn.

At 30, I apparently had enough education for the publisher and editors of Dance Magazine because I began writing an education column for them. I gained confidence and continued to learn about writing.

At 33, I took on my mom’s dance school after she died. For two years I worked 15 to 18 hours a day teaching classes, running two businesses, and bringing the school back to financial stability. This was one of my most “educational” experiences to date.

At 36, I launched Project Motivate, a business and motivational seminar, with Gloria Jean Cuming. Instinct told me to take this track. The first seminar had 20 attendees and the next year had fewer, but I learned how to make it work. Last August, the DanceLife Teacher Conference (formerly Project Motivate), with more than 30 faculty members, attracted 750 dance teachers and school owners. I learned how to run an organized, honest, and successful event that has never stopped growing.

At 41, I sold American Dance Awards and launched Dance Studio Life. Again, I went with my instinct. Today Dance Studio Life is the largest single magazine in the dance field. And what an education becoming a publisher has been.

At 49, I built my dream, the DanceLife Retreat Center. If I tried to explain everything I learned during this adventure, I would need 20 pages.

For me, my education has been, and continues to be, living my dream. I am not ashamed of that. By the way, college professors come to my conferences and seminars, and they are learning from me. Imagine that!

I love education and I will continue to learn every day. And I will always be thankful for the opportunity.