Yep that's right, I have another Heather as this week's Dancing Through Life's featured dancer. I think Heathers just must be predisposed to dance as there seems to be a lot of us out there! Anyway, Heather Partington is a fabulous blogger, athlete, English teacher, Mom and dancer at heart. I am so grateful that she was willing to share a bit of how she keeps dancing through life! Check it out:
1. When did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was about three. I was a once-a-week kid until my 8th grade year, when I switched studios and decided that I wanted to really train properly. From then on I was hooked.
2. What styles did you train in and which is your favorite?
I trained the most extensively in ballet, specifically the Cecchetti or Italian method. When I was taking exams, American Cecchetti training still fell under the International Society of Teachers of Dancing, based in London. A few years after I left my studio, American Cecchetti broke off and became Cecchetti USA. I trained with them through all the student levels and several of the professional levels and took my Associate’s Teachers Exam when I was in college. My training also included tap and jazz dance. I liked jazz, but I basically only stayed in tap out of the fear that they’d cancel the class if I dropped and I didn’t want my friends to be mad at me.
I thought I was done dancing once I got married, but a few years ago after having children I returned and studied Contemporary. I love Contemporary dance. I feel like it blends the best of ballet with the angles of modern and the interest of pedestrian movement. I am most at home dancing Contemporary or (as I came to discover I also loved) doing improv.
3. Did you dance professionally or in college? If so, where, what schools, companies and/or shows?
I was an apprentice to Sacramento Ballet after college. My college degree is in English Literature. I also danced as a company member for CORE Dance Collective, a Contemporary company in Sacramento, California.
4. When did you decide to pursue a career other than that of a dancer?
My parents told me dance wasn’t a career option, so it was always this thing I did over on the side while I pursued academics. Strangely enough, though, I found myself making it a vocation when I apprenticed, and then again when I earned my Physical Education credential so I could teach dance and English at a public high school.
There have been three times when I decided to make a departure from dance. The first was when I got married. I had been a big fish in a small pond at a small studio for some time. I decided I was “done” dancing, I chopped my hair and… three months later I was dancing with a professional company because the opportunity presented itself. I decided I was “done” again when I had babies. My body transformed so much that I thought there was no way I’d ever spend time dancing myself again. And then I found myself auditioning for CORE. The latest departure came when I decided I could no longer run my school’s dance program because I needed to focus my attention at home. So I’m not currently dancing but I’m actually okay with it. I’ve been teaching English for ten years too, and that (for now) is enough.
5. What do you do now?
As I said, I’m an English teacher. I teach 9th grade English and AP English Literature to 12th graders. Even when I was teaching dance and dancing full time I was nurturing a love of literature. I’m very grateful for the teaching experience I received as a young dance teacher. I started teaching when I was sixteen and the training I underwent (even to teach) was strict and rigorous. I know that has impacted how I compose myself as a teacher. When I got my teaching credential I felt like I already had a leg up (sorry for the pun) because I’d been teaching dance for years.
I’m also a mom. I have the two best monkeys any mom could ask for.
6. How has dance affected your life? How does it inspire you?
Dance taught me discipline, manners, hard work, how to take criticism and not cry (that’s a hard one!) and how to continue working toward something for every day of my life. It also taught me a lot about the unspoken bonds between people. Performing, rehearsing and improvising with someone is a very intimate experience. I learned a lot about me by working so closely with other people. You sort of have to learn to be a good partner and you have to think about what it means to work toward a common goal.
Dance has also helped me to see that people are capable of much more than they give themselves credit for. I have worked for several years with non-dancer teachers at my high school and it never fails to be rewarding. To help someone go from clueless about movement to giving a confident (even if silly) performance of a final product is amazing and uplifting.
7. Do you feel like your dance background helped you in other aspects of your life? Did it contribute to your other successes?
I feel like people respect the discipline of dance, so sometimes it has been an advantage. I also feel like a lot of people don’t understand that world, though, so I have probably given equal time to the answering of questions from people who don’t “get” why I’d want to spend hundreds of hours in pursuit of something like it. It’s an art, though, which means it serves no purpose except to inspire. Some people aren’t on that wavelength.
But yes, dance has contributed to my other successes in a big way. Through dance I’ve been given many opportunities to show what I can do—whether it is running a company or choreographing or dancing myself—and people notice those risks.
8. How do you keep a hand in the dance world? How do you support it?
I don’t have too much of a hand in the dance world, currently. I’ve backed off to let other areas of my life bloom a little bit more and I’m okay with it. I still go to see my friends dance and that makes me supremely happy but I don’t feel the call right now. There are times when I think that I might want to go back—what I miss most is improv, surprisingly enough—but my priorities are different for the time being. Dance can’t be a halfway thing, from my standpoint. I think knowing that I’d have to be “all in” makes it easier to step back. If I can’t do it right, I don’t want to do it (for now).
9. Do you have a favorite dance film, book or dancer?
I was obsessed with Dirty Dancing for most of high school, so I’d have to say that is it for me. Most of the dance things I like are little bits and pieces of weird things. Remember the GAP ads in the 90’s with the swing dancing? And the Joe Boxer dancing guy? I always enjoy random dance scenes in movies like the prom scene in “She’s All That” and the dancing park people in “(50) Days of Summer” and “Enchanted.” It’s little things like that which make me smile. I’m a fan of the “Safety Dance” from Glee and I have to say hands down my all-time favorite dance experience to watch is Revelations from Alvin Ailey Dance Company. It electrifies the room.
10. Do you plan to keep dancing throughout your life?
Even though I’m not dancing now, yes. I think running has taken the physical place of dancing for me right now and oddly enough, blogging has filled the need for a creative outlet. But I have a dancer’s heart—there will always be dance in my life in some form
Thanks Heather! I just love what she says about dance revealing unspoken bonds between people and how it helps you to learn how to work and support others. I think that is completely true and an aspect of dance that I often overlook or take for granted. But maybe that's why I feel a special connection with all my dancer friends. If you'd like to be one of my featured dancers, let me know! I would love to hear from you!