I'm gonna be totally honest with you all for a second. Creative/dance/entrepreneurial work is HARD. Which is why I love doing the Backstage With blog series so much... I get to talk to other awesome women who are making it happen and living their passions, and let them wax poetic about their work (aka I don't have to write anything for a week). :) But truly, it is wonderful to be able to connect with other dance teachers and studio owners, and I'm so pleased to bring this month's interview to you!
Andrea Trench is the Owner & Founder of DiscoverDance, a wonderfully smart, engaging and fun early childhood dance education program. I suggest you take notes on her thoughtful comments below - let's hop to it!
KC:What are your earliest memories of dance?
AT: My earliest memory of dance is performing. Thinking back, it feels like I was at a performance or competition every single weekend. I loved it!
KC: How did the idea for DiscoverDance come about?
AT: DiscoverDance began as a summer camp in 2006. I was teaching at a preschool with my now business partner, Renee Deets, when we decided to add dance into the curriculum. That summer we offered a camp to our 3 and 4 year olds. The success from that camp lead to the creation of our dance studio, Elite Dance Academy. I titled our early childhood division DiscoverDance. At that time, the program only included 3 and 4 year olds. As we continued to grow over the years, we added 2 year olds and eventually parent and tot classes. I built the curriculum from what I learned about child development and conceptual teaching as a dance major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
KC: What are you most proud of about your work with DiscoverDance?
AT: When I decided to open a studio, my main focus was to not only offer something unique and different in our studio-saturated area but to also teach what, I believe, is the most effective approach to teaching children. I taught for 8 years at multiple studios before opening my own. When I first started teaching I had no idea what I was doing and I had no guidance. After college, I taught at studios that had their own programs, but they were not effective. DiscoverDance works. It engages the children, it teaches them the essence of movement, and it allows them to experience the pure joy of dancing and I am so proud of that!
KC: How did you get into teaching? What is your favorite thing about it?
AT: When I was in high school I started dancing at my friend’s dance studio. While there, two instructors quit midyear and the owner was looking for replacements. My friend and I quickly offered to help her out. I fell in love. I love sharing my passion with my students. I also love creating a safe space where my students can explore and take risks without feeling judged. It is a beautiful moment when a dancer loses themselves in the movement and grows as a dancer (and person) right in front of your eyes.
KC: Do you have a least favorite thing about being a business owner?
AT: I am so busy running the studio and DiscoverDance that I never get the chance to sit back and enjoy what my hard work (with the help from an amazing team of course) has created. I finally took a step back this year and promoted one of my instructors to direct our performance company. I am really looking forward to sitting in the audience for our company concert this year. It’s my daughter’s first year in company. :)
KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?
AT: I have one super dance hero at the moment and that is Kate Kuper! I met Kate 13 years ago as a dance major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Knowing that teaching was a passion of mine, a professor highly recommended that I take Kate’s new course “Creative Dance for Children”. Soon after the course started, Kate asked if I would be her assistant for the remainder of my time at UIUC. Not only did Kate teach me the most effective and developmentally appropriate way to teach children, we also did many things together outside of the classroom. We took trips to the fabric store to find the perfect material for scarves and stretchy bands. We travelled to the area public schools where I watched Kate’s classroom management skills work like magic in a gym filled with energetic students. And, every Saturday morning, we invited the community children to come take class with us where Kate taught us, hands on, how to be the best teacher we can be. Because of her knowledge and the passion she shared, it was an easy decision to follow her path and make teaching my life’s work.
KC: How do you describe what you do for a living to people you're just meeting for the first time?
AT: It’s always fun to see people’s reactions that’s for sure! Even though I am passionate about DiscoverDance, my first love is my studio. So, I tell people I direct a dance studio.
KC: What's the funniest, or most heart-warming story about teaching or dancing you have?
AT: The most heart-warming stories come from parents of my students who are now adults. Whenever I see them, they still tell me how grateful they are that their child had Elite in their life. To know that I am still impacting my students long after they leave the studio makes it all worth it.
KC: What one preconception or cliche about dance would you like to correct?
AT: It totally bugs me when dance studios market dance as a pretty pink girly activity. I get it. It’s cute. It’s marketable. But I feel it’s a huge cliché and a disservice to the art form. Having a son who loves his DiscoverDance classes, I can’t help but think about how many other boys aren’t getting the opportunity to explore dance because parents aren’t likely to sign their sons up for a class that’s called “Sparkle Fairy Ballerinas”.
And now.... just for funsies....
KC:Burritos or tacos?
AT:Tacos…now I want a taco.
KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts?
KC: Disco balls or rainbows?
AT: Don’t make me choose!
KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?
KC: One word to describe yourself?
AT: If you ask my students they will say CRAZY! If you ask me, I say passionate.
Thank you Andrea, for sharing your time and passion with me - so much good stuff in your interview! If you're itching to be interviewed, or know someone who'd be perfect for the Backstage blogs, let me know! I always love hearing from you! Happy Dancing!