From dance styles in jazz to contemporary to hip-hop and more, Texas State students have the opportunity to take over the dance floor with the help of Dance Works, a student organization that meets at Jowers Studio B178 every Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Starting in 2017, Kenna Priore, a dance education alumna who graduated in 2019, created Dance Works in hopes of allowing students to learn new dances every week from new choreographers.
LaClea Miles, the current president of Dance Works and an elementary education junior, joined Dance Works in the spring of 2020 after searching for student organizations that Texas State had to offer. With her new role as president this semester and her previous experience with Dance Works, she encourages all students to join no matter their dancing background.
"You don't have to be in dance or a dance major." Miles said. "You can just come to this space to learn new styles with different choreographers that we switch up every week. It's a place where you can come teach dance, learn dance or just get back into it."
Dance Works also caters to students who have previous dance experience, whether it is in competitions or high school drill teams. The organization's purpose is to give these students a place to get back into dancing without worrying about perfecting a dance for competitions or performances.
Vee Blyden, vice president for Dance Works and a theatre performance and production and dance junior, danced for his high school drill team during the pandemic, and his performance and competition opportunities were taken away.
Blyden encountered drama within his high school drill team that created a negative environment, due to performance cancellations because of COVID-19 and the cynical tensions of his high school drill team. Blyden started to feel that dancing had become more of a chore than a passion. After joining Dance Works at the end of the spring 2021 semester, he has been able to find his love for dancing again with the support of new talented friends in a more positive environment.
"When I started Dance Works it all started coming back to me," Blyden said. "It was more of my tempo and it helped me get into the comfort of my own body. It was also just a lot of positive energy and beautiful souls coming together and being supportive. Everyone was just eating it up and leaving no crumbs."
Along with being able to learn dances, students also have the opportunity to choreograph a class by filling out an application and emailing the Dance Works organization.
When it comes to choreography, Dance Works helps dancers connect and gives future instructors an opportunity for experience. Current communications officer for Dance Works, Adelyna Gonzales, a dance education sophomore, plans to become a dance teacher. From finding a song to choreograph to picking a dance style, to putting everything together for a routine, Gonzalez enjoys learning the ropes of choreographing.
This semester, Gonzales choreographed a jazz routine to Lizzo's "2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)." Gonzales said that choreographing is just like lesson planning as she is required to map out a plan on how to prepare to teach a routine. She is grateful for the experience and believes that it will prepare her for the future dance studio that she aspires to have.
It's becoming more apparent for Dance Works of the number of people that are excited to learn dance routines in a stress-free environment. During COVID-19, Miles said only six dancers were allowed to reserve times to participate in weekly classes. Now, every Wednesday class holds a full studio, ranging from 30-50 students who are eager to hit the dance floor.
One of the students who was excited to come back to the dance floor is Damoned Brown, a theatre performance and production junior, who was a senior lieutenant of his high school's drill team. He had a memorable experience in high school as a drill team leader but missed the thrill that dance gave him in high school and longed for an organization like Dance Works that could get him back into what he loved.
After joining Dance Works his sophomore year, Brown participated in five dances last semester and a few this semester with the hopes of choreographing for Dance Works soon.
"Learning routines from this organization took me back to my days in high school," Brown said. "It really taught me that there's so much to discover within yourself and so much to let go of when you're performing a piece. I am so excited to dance again and there is so much in store. This will certainly not be the last time you hear of Damoned Brown."
Whether students want to teach or participate in dance classes, Miles encourages students to come to Dance Works to join in on the fun.
"Come to Dance Works," Miles said. "Even if you haven't danced in 10-15 years, just come on down. You can make the dance fit you, and it's free, so you can just walk on in and come join us."
To learn more about Dance Works, visit its Instagram @txstdanceworks.