For the past eight years, Miss Danielle has created a following of miniature dancers. As the “Baby Class” Teacher, she can often be found surrounded by small children in baby blue leotards with pink tights and shoes. The children love her, leaving her classroom with smiles on their faces. Miss Danielle is known around Tacoma City Ballet for teaching ballet with a song and a smile, and students graduate from her classes with solid ballet fundamentals.
Classically Trained Ballet Dancer
Audience members from The Nutcracker may recognize her from her five-year stint as the Sugar Plum Fairy, 2005-2009. With her benevolent smile and vivacious dancing, she welcomed audiences to the Land of Sweets, and brought the spirit of Christmas to the watching children and families, year after year. For Danielle’s final season performing the iconic role, she danced with a new Cavalier, Joel Myers (now Tacoma City Ballet’s Assistant Artistic Director).
Graduate from Tacoma’s School of the Arts & Cornish College of the Arts
Tacoma City Ballet school parents and Nutcracker audience members may not know that Danielle attended high school at Tacoma’s School of the Arts (SOTA) as a member of their first graduating class in 2004. After graduation, Danielle went on to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Cornish College of the Arts. These illustrious schools gave Miss Danielle her first footsteps into the worlds of Modern and Contemporary Dance. SOTA also provided the backdrop for the first time Joel saw Danielle dance:
“My first memory of seeing Danielle perform is in a dance piece at SOTA back when she was attending High School there. I can’t remember a single step of the piece nor do I have any idea what the music was. What I do remember is a petite blond girl in a bright red dress who could jump like crazy and who had a presence that lit up the stage like no one else. I remember going up to her after the show to tell her how amazing I though she was and she just shrugged it off with the same sincere modesty she has about her dancing even now.” ~Joel Myers
And now? Performing in a Contemporary Piece Choreographed by Joel Myers
Miss Danielle continues to perform with Tacoma City Ballet, most recently as Arabian Chocolate in The Nutcracker this past year. For Spring Dance Extravaganza, Miss Danielle is dancing in Songs for My Father with choreography by Tacoma City Ballet Assistant Artistic Director Joel Myers. Danielle is performing alongside Senior Company Members Jennifer Rudsit and Ashley Phan, Guest Artist Natalie Berg, and Joel himself. We thought it might be nice to interview Miss Danielle to share her experience working on our upcoming show!
Q: Tell us about dancing in Songs for My Father.
A: I really enjoy Joel’s movement style in Songs for My Father. It reminds me so much of my time at Cornish. One of my last shows there was done by Donald McCale and this piece feels very similar, especially the rhythm section. I haven’t done any Contemporary Dance since 2009 and it’s fun to get my body moving that way again.
One of the great things about being in Joel’s piece is working alongside Jennifer Rudsit (one of TCB’s high school seniors this year). When I was an apprentice to the company, I helped in one of the baby classes and Jennifer was one of the kids in that class. It has been such a great pleasure to watch her grow and turn into a beautiful young lady and dancer.
Q: Songs for My Father will be performed with a live band – what has that been like for rehearsals?
A: Live music is so wonderful to dance to. I feel very privileged to have an accompanist playing the piano when I teach ballet at TCB. At Cornish, even though all Modern and Ballet classes were taught with live accompaniment, it wasn’t necessarily piano. They had everything from drummers, electric violin, guitar, and other “non-traditional” ballet instruments. Rehearsing with the band has brought back fond memories of those times. For Joel’s piece, it is so nice to be collaborating with other artists.
Q: What did you learn at SOTA and Cornish that have helped prepare you for this piece?
A: At both SOTA and Cornish, I learned so much about my body and learned how much I enjoy Modern Dance. When I first started, it took me some time to step out of my comfortable “ballet box.” Once I did, I had so much fun exploring all the different types of movement. My favorite was Martha Graham’s technique, maybe because it reminded me so much of ballet. Both schools taught me how to pick up on movement faster and make it work with my body, which helps a lot with Songs fro My Father.
Working with Natalie and Jennifer reminds me of when I did my first Contemporary piece. I said to myself, “What do you mean, I don’t get to turn out my legs?” But it’s great to see them enjoying themselves and picking up on it.
Q: What is it like working with Ashley Phan, who is currently a senior at your alma mater, SOTA?
A: It is so great to work with Ashley. I have always enjoyed watching Ashley dance. I remember that when she told me she was planning on going to SOTA, I knew it was perfect for her. When I first saw her perform a section from Songs for My Father at the Tacoma City Ballet Art Gallery last year, I thought to myself, “I really want to do that piece; it looks like fun.” Later that night, Joel came to me and said he would love for me to perform it as a duet with Ashley in October at BCPA’s Fall Free for All. It was such a joy to work with Ashley and Joel for that performance, and here we are, adding on and creating a longer piece.
Q: Is there anything else we should know?
A: Eight years ago, Miss Erin asked me to be the baby teacher and I have enjoyed every year and every student that has come through the doors. When I was at Cornish, I thought long and hard about going off and pursuing a career as a dancer, but in my senior year, I realized that teaching is my passion. I have such a blessed life, wonderful loving husband and family, my health, supportive ballet family, and such amazing students that teach me so much about life.
Over the years, I have had so many great opportunities. Although I learned a lot both at SOTA and Cornish, nothing compares to what I’ve learned at Tacoma City Ballet. I came to Tacoma City Ballet in 1997, looking to learn more about classical ballet. But really, I found a home. Miss Erin has taught me so much about being a dancer and a teacher, with so many life lessons along the way!
Thank you to Miss Danielle for taking the time to share a little more about herself! If you haven’t gotten your Spring Dance Extravaganza tickets yet, they are still available from the Broadway Center Box Office at 253.591.5894