I met Stephanie at Pure Barre. She’d been a client, but our schedules never lined up until one day she was in my class, standing at the back barre, and I look over and I just knew.
Her! That one! She’s a dancer.
It’s this radar we dancers have. The way they move, the way they carry themselves, the way they stretch their legs all the way through their ankles and feet…. she had it. Turns out, she’s IS a dancer but she is also a choreographer, dance teacher, school teacher, and has her own photography business! And these are just the job titles! She’s also a wife, dog mom, and all around rockstar!
Over the past year we’ve gotten to know each other a bit and it was my pleasure to be able to connect with her and learn a bit more! Also, if any of ya’ll are looking for a wedding photographer….. I mean… just check out her photography website! Get on her calendar!She truly has a gift!
A big thank you to Stephanie for taking time during her vacation to let us into her dance life and creative process and for being the blog’s first interview!
Stephanie, where are you originally from? I was born and raised in Coral Springs, Florida. I moved to Georgia to attend UGA and stayed!
How did you get started in dance? I started dance when I was in kindergarten at Cynthia Gayles School of Dance in Coral Springs because my best friend in my kindergarten class was taking dance there, too! My friend ended up eventually quitting but I stuck with it and was a competitive dancer growing up.
Who was your most influential teacher and why? Wow – this one is tough! Honestly, I feel like would be doing my teachers a disservice by not addressing my four main teachers and how they affected different aspects my life. I’m going to talk about my most influential teachers in chronological order. 🙂
1. Jack Bloeser was my tap teacher and director of my competitive dance studio, Dynasty Academy of Dance, growing up. I was his student from age 8 to age 17. He taught me how to hear music and weave percussive sounds into it. He taught me how to pick up choreography fast, how to perform the heck out of a piece, and how to lead a group of my peers. He amplified my love of Broadway shows and gave me my first job as a dance teacher. I learned so much from being his student for close to 10 years.
2. Tara Goodman was my jazz/lyrical/modern/everything else teacher at my dance studio and a dear friend of mine. She balanced out Jack and truly taught me everything I need to know about technique, stretching, caring for my body, choreography, and teaching. When I first met her, I was an awkward 11-year-old who knew how to tap… and that was pretty much it. She pushed us hard (and made us do triple pirouettes in bare feet over and over again) and cared for us deeply. She would let me give her CDs of songs to play in class, let me bounce ideas off of her, and eventually got me connected with her studio, Dance Theatre of Parkland.
3. (The late) Nick Watkins was a guest teacher who Jack brought in who was an answer to my prayers. The older I got, the more I wanted to express my musicality with harder hitting movements and quirkier choreography. When I met Nick for the first time, I thought to myself, “this is how I’ve been wanting to move.” He completely changed the choreography and improv game for me – we would often phrase or improv across the floor in his class which sparked my desire to choreograph more. I learned so much in the two years we worked together. The world lost an incredible artist.
4. Finally, Cherrise Wakeham. My soul sister. (Side note – the second I wrote this, I started crying.) Cherrise is someone I wish I had in my life earlier just so I could love her longer. She has infiltrated every part of my life in the best way and shaped the adult dancer that I am. I met Cherrise through Nick and ended up auditioning for her professional company based in Atlanta, Project 7 Contemporary Dance Company, in the summer of 2009. She taught me to get out of my comfort zone and out of my head. She has pushed me past what I thought was my breaking point. She has inspired me to create and move in ways I didn’t think I could. She has encouraged me through injuries, through doubts, and through life changes. She has taken me in as a part of her family, as her administrative assistant at one point, and has ALWAYS seen the hope that I have inside me… even as I get older and more out of shape. 😉 Cherrise’s choreography/way of movement inspires my own and I have been blessed to work with her and around her for the past ten years.
What is your teaching style? I know this might sound weird but my style of teaching can vary a lot! I can be a hardcore drill sergeant in one class and a free spirit in another. At the end of the day, what I want most for my students is that they are well-trained, disciplined dancers who are kind to everyone they meet in this industry and who also enjoy discovering who they are as artists.
Do you find your teaching styles change between the classroom and the studio? I don’t know that my teaching style differs but I know that the way I relate to my students does. I have such a strong personal connection to my dance students – maybe because I often witness them growing up… or maybe because they *want* to take my class (and most of my math students do not want to take my class, hah!).
What gives you inspiration for your beautiful choreography?! Well gosh, first of all – thank you! This is a tough question but I think that that music is my largest source of inspiration. The way someone sing a particular word, the way the music builds, the overall ambiance of the song… all of that factors into making the music come to life!
What do you wish you had known as a dance student that you know now? OH MAN. This one is so good and I wish I had known it in my life way sooner: There is always someone better than you. You are replaceable. Growing up, I was always front-and-center, the lead in every dance… and honestly, I don’t think I was the best dancer in my studio anyway but I was almost lead to the believe that I was. The real shock came when I auditioned for Project 7. I was humbled to the core when I walked in. The front line and the special part were not guaranteed anymore… but I let that fact fuel me to work my tail of
Do you find any similarities between dance and photography? I think there are a lot of similarities! Both art forms require a strong technical foundation. In order to be successful in either field, you’ve got to understand the basics: whether that be how someone holds their body or how you position a client in proper lighting. Both dance and photography are such visual fields of art – I feel like dance is moving pictures and pictures are memories preserve
8. What do you like to do in your spare time? When I’m not teaching school, teaching dance, or photographing weddings, my absolute favorite thing to do is hang out with my husband and our two dogs. We like to take them swimming at my husband’s family’s property and enjoy our time outside together.
9. What is your go-to for self care? I am a workaholic through and through so I am working on incorporating more self care into my life. I like going on walks with my pups around the neighborhood to clear my head or treating myself to a mani-pedi. But more often than not, my self care looks like going to the gym at 5am, drinking coffee on my couch for just a split second before getting ready for work, and spending a moment outside in the sunshine breathing deeply. Little moments of serenity and gratitude.
What do you like to do in your spare time? When I’m not teaching school, teaching dance, or photographing weddings, my absolute favorite thing to do is hang out with my husband and our two dogs. We like to take them swimming at my husband’s family’s property and enjoy our time outside together.
11. Most importantly, how do you take your coffee? 😉 One Truvia and a splash of Coffee-mate Sugar Free Italian Sweet Cream creamer!
For more about Stephanie, check out her website www.stephaniegorephoto.com!