The life-long learning of a dancer

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Photo Courtesy of Dana Findley

Abby Wolf, cub writer

From tapping and twirling at the age of three to studying acclaimed choreographers in college, Dana Findley followed her passion in life: the art of dance.

Her path began at a very young age in Chicago, Illinois. 

“I was one of those kids [who] right away went into ballet and tap,” Findley said.  

Throughout these early years, Findley studied in the studio basement of family friend and accomplished dancer Susan Johnston. 

“[Johnston] was actually one of Balanchine’s Claras and her daughter, Tiffany, was a year older than me and we danced together… our whole lives…” Findley said.

Teenage Findley trained locally at her studio in Chicago, but her love of dance took her to Utah during the summer, where she attended intensive classes.

“Between high school and dance [I danced] daily… I think I took maybe three or four classes a week and then in the summer… I would do dance workshops in Utah,” Findley explained. “[I would] go and live on campus at BYU and dance all day and live in the dorms.” 

Findley’s dance journey did not end with her high school graduation. She auditioned for the dance program at the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign. 

“[I] got accepted to the department in October and [received] a scholarship,” Findley said.

After graduating college, Findley traveled to California, and embarked upon a career in dance. 

“The dance teacher [who] was currently [at Beverly Hills High School] was just going on maternity leave for maybe a semester. Right before the school year started, she decided that she was not going to be coming back and she resigned and they said, ‘The job is yours,’” Findley explained. 

Findley worked as a full-time teacher during the day at Beverly Hills High School and spent her evenings in the classroom as a student working toward a teaching credential. During her first year of teaching, Findley coached the Dance Company, but by her second year, she went on to supervise the dance and cheer programs.

“From 1996 to 2003 I built [the program so that there was] a JV team… and a varsity dance and a varsity cheer,” Findley said. 

In 2003, Findley became the assistant principal at the high school, but stayed involved in the dance program. 

“I co-taught one of the classes with the new teacher who was hired so that she would feel like she was supported… and during that time, the principal, Dr. Dan Stepenosky, and I performed in the company show,” Findley said.

After serving as assistant principal for two years, Findley left Beverly Hills High School for three years to receive her masters degree in dance from California State University, Long Beach. 

“I taught [dance] at the University level… while I was getting my MFA. I taught an intro to modern class, a jazz class, and then for dance majors, I taught dance notation,” Findley said. 

Although she studied under a number of different dance professionals at several universities, Findley recalls her love of learning that bloomed in Johnston’s basement.

“The thing I remember really clearly about Mrs. Johnston was yes, we did technique, but that was not our focus. Our focus was… the love of moving and moving through space,” Findley said. 

As Findley speaks about her studies and career in dance, she recognizes the most important lesson she learned.   

“I think what I learned from dance was really having a passion… and… perseverance, because it’s never really perfect,” Findley said.  “It’s never really good enough and just… pushing yourself to… find that perfection, but also being okay… with just losing yourself in [the dance] whether or not it’s ever going to be perfect.” 

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