Ballet Shoes & Bobby Pins creator, Sheena Jeffers, was recently asked to be interviewed by a dance blog called All Around Dance. Below is the interview. Be sure to check out their blog!
Sheena Jeffers is a dance instructor from Richmond, Virginia. After graduating from Governor’s School for the Arts, she attended Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue degrees in English and Mass Communications. She continued her dance training while in college through VCU and Richmond Ballet. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Dance Education. She teaches Jazz, Tap, Musical Theater, Improvisation, Contemporary and Hip-hop to ages 3-adult. As a dance educator, she hopes to teach the history, terminology and proper execution of various styles to her students, while opening communication of the dance world through her blog: www.sheenajeffers.com/blog
Sheena:One day at pre-school, we performed for our parents. I was the little girl in front, bossy, sassy and in control! All of my classmates watched me for guidance, because I remembered all of the dance moves. My mom said she knew then that she had to sign me up for dance. She signed me up for ballet class when I was 5 years old, and from that day on… I’ve never stopped dancing!
Sheena: My favorite styles are Jazz and Contemporary. I love Jazz because you still get the Ballet technique in class to make you strong, but it’s stylized. I’ve always loved the spunk and flare that Jazz brings to the table. I feel like Contemporary is still growing and changing on a daily basis, but that’s one of the qualities I love about it. I’m a very emotional dancer, and Contemporary is an outlet to express stories, emotions, philosophies while pulling from various styles of dance. The style isn’t defined, which is fascinating, and yet it requires a properly trained dancer to execute properly.
Sheena: There is a scene from the 1948 movie, The Red Shoes, between the choreographer and the ballerina. He asks her, “Why do you want to dance?” She responds, “Why do you want to live?” To that, he ponders, than says, “Well I don’t know exactly why, but I must.” She smiles that says, “That’s my answer too.” The truth is, I could sit here and go on for days telling you how dance has helped me grow into the person I am, and that it’s taught me self-discipline, courage and confidence. I could describe to you all of the doors dance has opened for me, and how I’ll always believe in love because I have dance. But even after telling you all of that, it still wouldn’t be enough to adequately express my complete respect and overwhelming awe for this art form, and all those involved with it.
Sheena: It wasn’t an easy decision, because the world isn’t as accepting of wanting to work in the Arts as it is to those who want to work in business. However, the Arts and business are very much so related. I’ve always known I wanted to become a dance educator. So I’ve made it my priority to continue my own dance education in order to pass along the most detailed, accurate and up-to-date information to my students. This has taken time, money and effort on my part, but it’s all worth it in the end! I’d never change my career goals.
Sheena: I’d tell them they’d have to try it to believe me, but that this will be the best, most fun, most freeing thing they’ll ever do! It’s like bungee jumping, scuba diving, and mountain climbing all in one experience.
Sheena: Money and time. Working as a dancer and dance teacher, you have to plan ahead! You have to know when you’ll be working, and when the check will be coming. This way, you can manage your life on time. I would also say, when you open your passion up to the public, you open a very personal thing up to very public comments and criticism. You have to have tough skin in order to deal with the pressures and emotions that come along with that.
Sheena: I try not to think when I’m on stage! And it’s so fantastic! I do all of my “thinking” during classes and during rehearsals. I work everything out before hand: the counts, the entrances, the exits, the angles of the body, where my arms/legs/head/eyes/feet should be. I rehearse full-out every time so that my muscle memory kicks in, and the piece is absorbed into my body. Once I’m on stage, I trust my body and all of the hard work I’ve put into it. I free my mind, and go! Mentally, I’m in the piece. Physically, I’m in the piece. Emotionally, I’m in the piece. I’ve come off stage to notice that my foot or knee is bleeding, and I had no idea how or when it happened!
Sheena: I read, and read, and read. Books are keys into other worlds, personalities and times. I love reading so much that I got a degree in English. Reading has a lot to do with my dancing and my choreography. It’s all about telling stories and stringing together intricate pieces of everything in our world to share it with someone else. I also write, take yoga and ask a ridiculous amount of questions to those around me. I love getting to know people and their stories.
Sheena: “Just show up.” I have had so many wonderful teachers, and all of their advice I carry with me every day. But one day my teacher said, “Just show up.” This statement has made such a huge difference in my life. On those rainy days, when pulling on ballet tights was the last thing I wanted to do… I showed up anyway. On long rehearsal days when my feet were bleeding and my body was aching… I showed up to rehearse full-out again and again. It’s not just about physically showing up (though that will open many doors); it’s about showing up mentally and emotionally: being present in the moment.
Sheena: The dance world isn’t an easy one, know that going in. Trust your instinct. Don’t let criticism, or someone’s opinion destroy you. Know who you are, and then show the world. And always remember… dance is a gift but it’s also a responsibility. Once you’ve learned it, don’t forget to pass it on.
Read more interviews of dancers and dance educators from All Around Dance here!