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Meet Sandra Blackman of Dance & BodyWorks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandra Blackman.

Hi Sandra, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
Dance has always been my happy place. For as long as I can remember, it has been all I wanted to do, but I was not convinced that pursuing a career in the dance field would allow me the lifestyle I wanted. I did not want to be a struggling artist, so I went to North Carolina A&T, where I received an Architectural Engineering degree. I worked a 9-5 in various related fields throughout the years while reserving weekends and evenings for my first love, dance. I started Dance & BodyWorks 25 years ago as a full-time Government employee, a wife, and the mother of two young girls who loved to dance and showed great potential. I needed to nurture their craft but could not find a dance program in the area that offered a disciplined, nurturing environment with people who looked like them. I had been taking and teaching dance classes all my adult life and figured, why not me? So, I took that leap of faith and leased a 2500 sq. ft. space that became our home away from home for 16 years. We have since grown and are now located in a beautiful 8,200 sq. ft. facility where my two daughters assist in running the business, and my granddaughter is claiming her space in this dancing family. I retired earlier this year with 38 years of Government service, and I am excited and ready to take Dance & BodyWorks to the next level.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has mostly been a smooth road, but there have been some ups and downs. When Dance & BodyWorks was very young in our fourth year, my lead instructor secretly solicited the studio parents to leave and join her at her new studio. At the time, the studio had about 200 students. Most of the students left that year, and we had to rebuild. I was devastated, but when I stopped to breathe, I realized this was a huge blessing and opportunity for learning. There was a culture shift, a lightness in the studio that forced me to step up and lead in a different, more effective way.

The COVID pandemic was challenging, but we made it through. Incorporating innovative and creative ideas into the program kept the studio open. Finding a performance venue accommodating our needs during this time was nearly impossible. So, for our 2021 recital, we built a 32 x24 sq. ft. stage in the studio’s lobby area and could seat about 75 people for each of our three shows.

Thanks – so, what else should our readers know about Dance & BodyWorks?
Dance & BodyWorks was founded in 1998 as a community-based non-profit arts organization. We provide instruction in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, Praise Dance, Hip-Hop, and Creative Movement to students from 18 months to adults. Dance & BodyWorks has a family vibe you feel when you enter the building. Equipped with four large studios, dressing rooms, a huge waiting area, and teachers who love what they do, we welcome students of all skill levels and look forward to guiding them in their dance journeys. We also offer a variety of community programs such as work-study, scholarships, volunteer opportunities, creative arts for toddlers, master classes, workshops, and out-of-state dance excursions. We are also home to D&BW’s nationally ranked All Start Competition Team for dancers ages 4-18.

I am most proud of developing dancers and their love and appreciation for the arts. More than half of our teaching staff started their dance journeys at Dance & BodyWorks. They went off to college and pursued other life experiences, but they found their way back to share their love of dance with the next generation. It warms my heart to know that former students come back to teach and bring their children and grandchildren to share in the Dance & BodyWorks experience.

What matters most to you?
What matters most to me is giving back. Dance has given me so much. It has positively impacted my life and is a massive part of my identity. The benefits of dance are vast, including developing physical, creative, imaginative, emotional, social, intellectual capacities, and so much more. But for me, it’s that moment of awareness that sparkle in the student’s eye when they realize that they’re falling in love with dance.

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