Today we’d like to introduce you to Alice Heller.
Alice, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have been dancing for most of my life and my passion turned to vocation after two major events: A major dance performance and the birth of my son. I performed African dance at a big festival and I was asked to teach. My journey of African dance and drum was soon paralleled with my being hired to teach music and movement to babies and toddlers. I started teaching young ones as a part-time job while raising my sons.
I always sang and danced with my children, and it was perfect hours to work in preschool/daycares as a movement specialist. I later started my own business after working as an independent contractor. I started African dance in late 1989 with Fatou- Carol Sylla and performed and studied ever since. I have worked with almost everyone is the Boston area and have been to West Africa twice.
My third venture is Nia and the Nia Technique. Nia stands for neuromuscular integrative action or basically non-impact aerobics. Its a blend of dance martial arts and healing arts and is belted like the martial arts. I am currently a brown belt Nia instructor and I teach both children and adults and informs my teaching in all genres.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The balance between family life and working life, getting paid what you are worth especially in the arts and making choices with your time are the challenges. I feel pretty blessed with my life and choices. Acceptance is another obstacle – teaching African dance as an American (white) woman has its challenges and I had to prove myself in many ways.
I was always a serious student- in the front line, I picked up on choreography and moves quickly. 20 minutes into my first African dance class I understood the breaks and the rhythms spoke to me. I always credit my many teachers and share my teachings in class. I am still a student and always will be growing and learning and that is part of acceptance. I can be a teacher and still learn and grow.
Please tell us about Alicehellerdance.
Alicehellerdance has 3 components: African Dance, Nia and Children’s music and movement. I used to have a dance troupe and we performed African dance regularly but now its mainly offering classes.
I am most proud of the results of working privately as well as public classes. I love to see students who thought they could never dance or move or young ones who are shy, come out and shine and enjoy the dance. I am proud of the lack of judgment around new students: there is no reason to show off as I have always wanted folks to JOIN ME not follow me.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I could start over, I would have bought my own dance studio and hosted guest artists and held trainings all in one place. I would have had more autonomy around schedule and funding.
I know having my own space would have presented other challenges but I wonder how it would have unfolded. I performed and taught for non-profits and events that did not pay and I “paid my dues” and I have learned to say no to free publicity as there is always a cost.
- Nia classes: $15
- African dance: $16/18
- Address: 22 Corporal Burns Rd
Cambridge MA 02138
- Website: www.alicehellerdance.com
- Phone: 617-620-7654
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: Alicehellerdance
- Twitter: A_Heller_Dance
Meg Nicols, Studio550, Aileen Pyne