INTERVIEW WITH OSMD’s Charity Dorner (Dance Instructor)
Who are you and what is your role at the Omaha School of Music and Dance? How long have you been teaching at OSMD?
I am a dance instructor. I teach mostly ballet (my favorite) but also tap, lyrical jazz and hip hop. I started teaching at OSMD as a substitute and assistant in dance classes a year ago, but became a primary teacher this past summer.
What do you like about teaching at OSMD?
I like the people and the atmosphere. It’s very positive, it’s a good vibe. The office is very well organized. Everything runs smoothly, which makes my job as a dance instructor easier.
How long have you been dancing?
I didn’t discover dance until I was 12, which is considered kind of late. I became instantly passionately about it, taking part-time jobs so I could afford to take lessons throughout the week and attend summer classes. With the guidance of some really amazing teachers, I was able to quickly advance my technique. I really knew I wanted to pursue dance as a career after my experiences dancing in the Nutcracker, and in a boundary-pushing modern dance recital. This recital had a very Avant garde global theme, where we wore our hair down and had very beautiful ‘rainforest’ costumes. Getting out of my comfort zone—the structure of ballet—turned out to be a lot of fun!
What drew you to dance? What do you find fulfilling about it?
I was drawn to the structure of ballet, and loved the exposure to the full catalog of classical music. Now, I love interacting with all the different personalities I teach, and watching these kids grow. I love witnessing the brain development in the smaller children, especially raising my own daughter with dance. I get so excited to give kids the ability to explore and discover who they are, and to give them a form of self-expression that’s constructive. When I incorporate students’ ideas into the dances we’re working on, they are so proud and invested in the work.
How has dance affected or benefited your life? What skills do you apply to your daily life?
At this time in my life, it is such a blessing to dance every day. As an instructor, I’m developing a life-skill of being confident in my authority on the subject, and managing a classroom of students. I love the physicality of dancing and teaching every day. I’ve always loved the emotional connection I’m able to make with the people I work with—on a level that feels incredibly harmonious—and I get to do that every day at my job!
What kinds of challenges do you face as a dancer? How do you rise to meet them?
The time commitment required of dance is perhaps the biggest challenge. No matter how tedious or tired, you have to put the time in. The dancers who “make it,” are those that work hard within the structures of the style. It takes a long time to master.
When I wanted to give up, a really great dance instructor told me, “There’s always going to be someone better.” I had to give up the idea of “perfection.” I had to remember to dance for myself.
I still take classes and utilize as many resources as I can to stay on top of my skills. Right now, the challenge is balancing my time between teaching and performing. I absolutely adore teaching.
What are the top three pieces of advice you would give to young dancers to encourage their progress?
1—Choose your genre. While it’s awesome to be a well-rounded dancer, I’d recommend focusing on one particular style (be it ballet, or jazz, or lyrical), for a sound foundation from which to draw.
2—Make and take the time. Take more than one class a week, practice at home. You will get from dance, what you put in.
3—Perseverance. Be tough and believe in yourself. People see dancers and they might think soft and delicate, like cupcakes, but in the middle of that cupcake is a steel rod of skill, technicality, years of practice, and the physical ailments that go along with it. If you think you will fail, then that’s what will happen, but if you think you can do it—you can.
What are your favorite things to do in your free time?
I have a daughter, so I like to spend my extra time with her. I like to plan choreography and listen to music. I also like watching documentaries on Netflix.
When you were “little,” what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, part of me wanted to work with animals—like a conservationist. But another part of me thought it would be so cool to be in a band!
If you could have picked a different art form to study, what would you do?
I would study realism, for painting or drawing—if only there was the time, I’d do it now! Or I would play the cello.
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