Louise Dickenson has been dancing since she was 4. She and her twin sister, Paula saw their friends in dance costumes and watched them practice their recital dances, and they were hooked. "Our dance teachers were talented, and my sister and I loved all types of dance, and we loved creating and performing dance routines," she says.
From that beginning, grew a career in dance. Dickenson began teaching dance as an assistant at Holloway Dance Studio when she was 16. She moved to another studio at 18 and opened her own studio, Indian Springs School of Dance, with another dance teacher at 21. Her studio grew from 10 students to 250 students. She expanded her studio and started Kingsport's ShowTime Productions and opened a new location in Kingsport, the Academy of Dance Arts.
"I hired several local dance teachers to teach classes and Dorothy Ratcliff, a former Radio City Rockette and an amazing ballet, tap and jazz teacher. After a few years in Kingsport, I had over 500 talented students with wonderful, supportive parents. I sold the studio in 1998 and continue to produce Kingsport's ShowTime and teach social dance, mostly Carolina Shag," she says.
After she sold her studio, she earned a master's degree in liberal arts and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis. She teaches English and humanities at Northeast State Community College, Blountville, Tennessee, and is an adjunct instructor in the Clemmer College of Education at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee.
"I enjoy teaching. Over the years, I have taught hundreds of non-dancers. It is important to teach in a logical structured order with plenty of explanations, informative communication and positive encouragement. With the proper instruction, non-dancers gain confidence, become open to learning new steps, and then they appreciate and enjoy dance lessons.
"The benefits of dance are priceless because dance benefits all ages – physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Dance helps with all areas of physical fitness including balance, muscle tone, strength and endurance. Dance provides opportunities for increasing mental capacity and exercising the brain and muscles. Dance creates outlets for emotional expression and pleasure. Dance generates opportunities for social interaction and development of social skills.
"The social interaction and teamwork for dancers is as important as learning and executing the steps. Most dancers develop self-discipline, self-awareness and self-confidence through their experience with other dancers under the direction of a dance instructor or choreographer. A bond is created between the dancers as they work toward performances or achievement of his or her goals. Dancers often encourage other dancers, help with steps and include other dancers in personal social events," she says.
Her Kingsport's ShowTime performances are family-oriented. ShowTime performers range in age from 4 to 74. For several dance sections, they have elementary age students, middle and high school age students, and the adult cast performing the same song. They perform to all types of music - Broadway show tunes, rock "n' roll, country, classical, gospel and patriotic.
This year they performed 10 decades of music and dance celebrating Kingsport's Centennial. "It is delightful to hear the young children performing songs from the 1920s or 1940s and to have the adults perform songs from contemporary musicians like Justin Bieber. The children and teens learn from the adult cast, and the adult class learns from the children," Dickenson says.
She also creates wedding choreography for brides and grooms, and/or parents of the bride and groom. She and her husband, Todd, enjoy dancing and teaching the Carolina Shag. They are building a new house with a large studio for teaching the Carolina Shag and for Kingsport ShowTime Productions.
"Dance offers a multitude of benefits for all types of people and all ages. There are opportunities in the Tri-Cities through local studios, YMCAs and other fitness centers, dance clubs and music venues. Dance is enjoyable for physical fitness, mental and emotional health and social interaction," she says.
Dickenson can be reached at 423-534-8874, LouiseBaileyDickson@gmail.com.