Owner/teacher, Chris Collins Dance Studio, Alexandria, VA
NOMINATED BY: Tiffany Hopper, teacher: “Chris is a wonderful role model and a wonderful boss. He has been an inspiration to so many over the years. We’ve danced at Disney World, on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, performed for special-needs friends, participated in March of Dimes walks, and attended countless workshops and competitions. Although we participate in competitions, our primary focus is on education.
Chris started the Awesome Dancer Button Project years ago to help make competitions a more positive experience. Each company dancer receives an Awesome Dancer Button before each competition; it’s the dancers’ job to find someone from a different studio to give it to. Our dancers have made great friends from other studios, and we’ve found that competitions are more enjoyable when everyone roots for one another.”
YEARS TEACHING: 38
AGES TAUGHT: Ages 4 to adult (I have a couple of tappers in their 70s.)
GENRE TAUGHT: Tap
WHY HE CHOSE DANCE AS A CAREER: I always loved being around the dance studio, although in my day it was very unusual for a male. I was a student teacher when I was a teenager and loved working with young students.
HIS GREATEST INSPIRATION: Many former teachers have been great inspirations to me, as was Tony Grant, who produced Tony Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow, a children’s talent show in Atlantic City. Ironically, now my young teachers (including my daughter) and former students inspire me. It’s exciting to teach second-generation students and see people who got their start with me, like Andrew Nemr, doing so well.
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: I want classes to be fun so that children will want to continue to dance. I also want them to learn proper technique and, most of all, to become confident performers. Even if they do not pursue dance, I hope their time at my studio gives them confidence in life.
WHAT MAKES HIM A GOOD TEACHER: As a studio owner I surround myself with an excellent staff. As a teacher, I try to stay in tune with the kids. They keep me feeling young! Even though tap steps are the same as they have always been, I try to relate to the students I work with. My studio is a second home to many people.
FONDEST TEACHING MEMORY: My favorite recent memory is the many alumni visits and messages on my 35th anniversary, including a very special video presentation from Andrew Nemr. Many students who came back to visit are no longer dancing, but it’s gratifying to know I made a difference in their lives. Often I get wrapped up in the studio-owner side of the business and its frustrations. That’s one reason I like to work with some of the youngest students—so I’m reminded of why I first started teaching.
ADVICE TO STUDENTS AND TEACHERS: Enjoy dance at any age. For teachers: owning a studio might age you, but teaching and dancing will keep you young! For students: you only get out of it what you put into it. I believe that dance training gives students much more than dance. The confidence built and long-lasting friendships formed at my studio make me proud.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: Teaching dance is like no other career. There will always be some unhappy students—and you go home thinking about them. However, in the last 38 years, I know how many people have been extremely happy expressing themselves through dance at my studio, where our motto is “We measure success in smiles!” I started from the ground up, in rented space in a church basement, without soliciting students from other studios. Looking back, it’s amazing how far the school has come.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to Arisa@rheegold.com or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, P.O. Box 2150, Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.