In the summer of 2008, Patricia Dickinson fell into a backyard fire pit, leaving 60 percent of her body covered in serious burns (the severity was caused by the incinerated rayon tunic she was wearing). Many worried that the highly debilitating accident might sideline the devoted teacher and dancer for good, but Dickinson persevered through the pain and went back to teaching nine months later at Dance Theatre Southwest, her studio in Albuquerque. “Many thought that was the end, but not Pat,” says Bill Evans, a longtime collaborator and colleague. “She’s so strong and has such a positive outlook that she was able to return to what she does best.”

One look at Dickinson’s resumé and it’s easy to see why living without dance wasn’t an option. The artform has always been an integral part of her life—starting in the seventh grade when she began giving dance classes to neighborhood kids at her childhood home in Atlanta, Georgia. “We used the backs of kitchen chairs in lieu of a proper barre,” says Dickinson.

Along with founding Dance Theatre Southwest in 1994, the former ballerina has also taught master classes around the country and abroad and developed a successful “History of Dance” workshop that has been incorporated into school programs in New Mexico and Texas. She’s also been a driving force for New Mexico Ballet Company, Dallas Ballet, Southwest Civic Ballet (which she founded and ran for three years until it disbanded in 1997) and Festival Ballet, Albuquerque (which she founded in 2009).

One of the dance experiences that influenced Dickinson the most was helping to create Dancers Unlimited in the early ’80s. She acted as co-artistic director of the Dallas-based modern dance company for close to a decade. The group’s repertory included works by Evans, Bill T. Jones and Moses Pendleton. It was also Dickinson’s first professional exposure to the world outside classical ballet: “I’d always been a bit of a bunhead, thinking modern dance was ‘bug dancing’ because so much of the movement happened on the floor,” she says. “I even insisted on wearing my ballet skirt in modern class. But I eventually realized, thank goodness, that modern was both a passion and a viable style for me.”

Dickinson soon displayed proficiency across both classical and contemporary styles. “Her personal movement vocabulary is very extensive,” says Evans, who has known Dickinson for 30 years. “She’s not a small and delicate mover; she is expansive and exciting.”

Today Dickinson brings that wealth of experience to her work at Dance Theatre Southwest, where she advances what she calls “Vaganova-based movement infused with an American style—a conglomeration of my many different schools of ballet training.” Students receive highly personalized attention, with classes for younger dancers adhering to a 12:1 student/teacher ratio. There are 14 regular teachers at the studio, and Dickinson teaches six classes a week and acts as the “official sub” for all classes.

Though she has spent her career teaching and choreographing for dancers of all ages, it’s working with young dancers that gratifies her most today. “I’ve discovered how much I enjoy having an impact on their careers and life choices,” says Dickinson. “Every dancer in your studio won’t grow up to become a tutu-toting ballerina, but the discipline and teamwork they learn are skills that will enhance their lives.”

Photo by Pat Berrett, courtesy of Patricia Dickinson

OTHER 2011 DANCE TEACHER AWARDEES:

Tony Williams

Jamee Schleifer

Diane Frank

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Teaching arabesque can be a challenge for educators and students alike. Differences in body types, flexibility and strength can leave dancers feeling dejected about the possibility of improving this essential position.

To help each of us in our quest for establishing beautiful arabesques in our students without bringing them to tears, we caught up with University of Utah ballet teacher Jennie Creer-King. After her professional career dancing with Ballet West and Oregon Ballet Theater and her years of teaching at the studio and college levels, she's become a bit of an arabesque expert.

Here she shares five important tips for increasing the height of your students' arabesques.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via Instagram

Happy Father's Day to all of the dance dads in the world! Whether you're professional dancers, dance teachers, dance directors or simply just dance supporters, you are a key ingredient to what makes the dance world such a happy, thriving place, and we love you!

To celebrate, here are our four favorite Instagram dance dads. Prepare to say "Awwwwwwwweeeeeee!!!!!!"

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jennifer Kleinman, courtesy of Danell Hathaway

It's high school dance concert season, which means a lot of you K–12 teachers are likely feeling a bit overwhelmed. The long nights of editing music, rounding up costumes and printing programs are upon you, and we salute you. You do great work, and if you just hang on a little while longer, you'll be able to bathe in the applause that comes after the final Saturday night curtain.

To give you a bit of inspiration for your upcoming performances, we talked with Olympus High School dance teacher Danell Hathaway, who just wrapped her school's latest dance company concert. The Salt Lake City–based K–12 teacher shares her six pieces of advice for knocking your show out of the park.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox