With only $500 saved, and just before her 21st birthday, Lisa Holtz Odell set out to start her own studio in Denver. Thirty-three students showed up to her first master class at a local YMCA and set the stage for what would become Starstruck Academy of Dance. She now welcomes roughly 500 dancers to her studio each week, instructs at a local private high school (Valor Christian High School) and is involved with a nonprofit dance-education organization (Hope Haven) in Rwanda.
Over the years, Odell has found that success as a teacher comes through humility and holding herself accountable as a role model. "I've had to make good choices in my life from a young age, because of my decision to become a teacher," she says. "I can't say one thing and do another. I have to be a good example." Part of being a good example, she says, is being willing to seek and accept correction from her students. Like when at the end of Nationals a few years back, a student approached her with a hug and said, "Thank you so much. I know that I wasn't one of your stars, and that when I leave I'm going to be one of the dancers you don't remember. But I want you to know that I will think of you often, and that I will remember my time here forever."
"I went to my car and cried," Odell says. "It opened my eyes to how I could improve at making all of my dancers feel valued and important. Then I decided that I can do better, and I've worked harder at it ever since. Naturally, I've never forgotten that dancer." DT
TEACHERS' TOOLS GO-TO
FAVORITE FOOD: Sushi!
TO STAY IN SHAPE: "I like to do a mix of Cyclebar and a workout on a Pilates reformer called Fierce 45. I try to do each of those two times per week."
FAVORITE NONDANCE ACTIVITY: "I love spending time with my husband and my daughters. My girls are all grown up, so I get to spend a lot more quality time with each of them."
TEACHING ENERGY BOOSTER: "I have to have my Starbucks venti nonfat latte daily."
RECOMMENDED TEACHING VIDEOS: "We really love CLI Studios [an online dance program, produced by Teddy Forance, tWitch, Allison Holker, Caitlin Kinney and Jon Arpino, that connects top choreographers with studios around the world through technology] and Operation Tap [an online forum, founded by Anthony Morigerato, Ayodele Casel and Mike Minery, for tap dancers, teachers and choreographers to discuss and debate ideas surrounding tap]."