The Energetiks Victorian Dance Festival (VDF) continues to roll out exciting instructor announcements. One of the latest is American entrepreneur Misty Lown, who will be a Keynote Speaker for VDF Teachers Day on Friday, February 16, 2018.
Presented by Energetiks, Dance Informa, SHOW WORKS Creative Solutions, DanceSurance and TP World Tours, the VDF Teachers Day aims to offer Australia’s leading professional development conference for dance studio owners, teachers and administrators. The full day of seminars will include different streams for business owners and educators, plus dance masterclasses with practical lessons specifically for teachers.
Lown, who’s visit is sponsored by dance tour travel experts TP World Tours, is excited to be a part of VDF 2018. She recently chatted with Dance Informa in anticipation of the event.
Congratulations on being announced as a Keynote Speaker for the 2018 VDF Teachers Day! Why are you excited for this opportunity?
“Thank you! I am beyond excited to be a part of the Victorian Dance Festival as a Keynote Speaker. I first visited Australia as a Keynote Speaker for Australian Teachers of Dancing’s Come Together Dance Convention on the Gold Coast in 2014. I met the most amazing people through that event – people who have since become close friends. Ever since that time, I’ve been looking forward to my next opportunity to connect again with the Australian dance community, so I was thrilled to receive the invitation to be a part of VDF in Melbourne.”
For those Australian dance teachers who may not be familiar with you, can you tell them about your background?
“I was enrolled in ballet as a child based on the recommendation of our family doctor because I was born with a club foot that was surgically corrected when I was one. It was thought that ballet would help to keep my foot straight. Boy, did it ever! Not only did it help to keep my foot from turning in, but I was able to gain enough turnout to become a proficient student of ballet.
When I graduated high school, I set my eyes on New York City and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center training program in particular. I flew out to NYC, auditioned and got a placement in the program, but something I can only call a God-whisper in my heart told me that the classroom would be my stage. So I turned down the acceptance to the Ailey training program and opened a dance school at the age of 21. This year, we are celebrating our 20th year of business by building a new International Performing Arts Training Center, which will house our dance studio (home to 700 students), our semi-professional ballet program (Ballet La Crosse), a dancewear and gift store, a cafe and one more family-focused business that is yet to be determined.
I am currently focusing on the administrative and leadership side of the studio, so that I can focus on raising my five children, and doing guest teaching for conventions in U.S. on various weekends throughout the year.”
You’ve also set out to found several more companies, including More Than Just Great Dancing, which provides studio owners and teachers systematic principles, methods and rhythms for running a successful studio. Can you tell us more about MTJGD?
“I started More Than Just Great Dancing in 2012, to provide the kind of full service systems and support that I needed myself when I was growing my business. Not many studios can afford to hire full-time school directors and business managers, or even part-time financial and marketing directors, but as members of More Than Just Great Dancing, they have access to all of those resources and more! We have a full-time staff of eight who provide around-the-clock support and services for our members, including online trainings, a business resource library, graphic design services, marketing resources and templates, curricula, coaching calls, newsletters, training courses, live events, discounts with industry suppliers, and online forums. Our program was built to serve 300 studios, and we currently have 200 studios in our affiliation.
The feedback we’ve heard has been amazing. There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t get an email or message of gratitude from a member. And, although we get many reports of the enrolment and growth gains our affiliated studios experience, my favourite messages are the kind where studio owners tell us about how they now are able to spend time with their families because of our program. The reality is that you can always get another student, but you can never get more time with your own kids. We work hard to keep that front and centre.”
You also founded a regional dance competition, Midwest Dance Connection, and have taught at various dance competitions, conventions and conferences nationally. Why do you love the environments that special events like these facilitate?
“I love participating in events where people come together to celebrate all that is right and good about being involved in dance – the discipline, the fun, the camaraderie, the life lessons, the expression, the joy, the friendships, the creativity, the process of being in class and the moments on stage. Those are the things that keep me excited about bringing dance to the next generation! Competition is just a tool to facilitate an environment where those kinds of experiences can take place.”
One of your latest ventures has been A Chance To Dance Foundation. Can you tell us about the heart behind this organisation?
“Over our first 15 years of business, we had quietly provided over $250,000 in cash and in-kind scholarship for kids and teachers at our studio. It wasn’t anything we talked about; we just simply stood in the gap for kids and families who had needs. A lot of people had helped me stay in dance lessons when I was a student and our family came upon some challenging times. It was only natural to want to pay that forward. So, when we hit that 15-year mark, I decided it was time to bring that work to the forefront and make sure that every kid who wanted to could have a ‘chance to dance’. To that end, we developed a Board of Directors and filed for non-profit status in the U.S., and A Chance to Dance Foundation was born.”
What can teachers and studio owners attending your Keynote at VDF Teachers Day expect to hear?
“I’m just like you. I am a dancer, a studio owner, a wife, a mom, a sister, a teacher and a passionate advocate for kids and the arts. I’m going to share some of the insights from my new Amazon #1 Bestselling book, One Small Yes. We are going to learn together, laugh together and maybe even cry together. But mostly, we are going to remember why we chose this career in the first place and get geared up to make it the best season yet.”
By Chelsea Thomas of Dance Informa.
All photos provided by Megan McCluskey.