Dig Baton Rouge

Just Dance

Studio promotes teamwork through dance

For Baton Rouge business owner and dance teacher Shamira Cummings, her love of art and activism combine in her dance studio: For the Love of Dance Studios.

The path to opening her studio last August began with the creation of her non-profit, For the Love of Dance, three years ago. Each year, Cummings focuses on a different cause, combining community efforts and dance to bring forth awareness and empowerment. Throughout the course of running her non-profit and teaching dance, Cummings discovered that opening a studio was a natural next step.

“I really want kids to fall in love with dance again,” Cummings said. “Things are so high strung now, and it’s stressful with school…let’s just learn and let’s have fun with it.”

The studio is unconventional as there are no recitals, nor do the students participate in competitions. Instead, there is a showcase that is pre-recorded, and Cummings holds a viewing party for the parents and students to watch the dancing while eating popcorn and having fun. Afterwards, the students are given trophies. The reason Cummings chose to remove the sense of competition was to instill a feeling of working as part of a team in her students.

Cummings has seen the effects of her teaching style on her students, citing they’re way more confident in their abilities and are more willing to learn. According to Cummings, working together and helping each other creates a new vibe that focuses on the essence of dance. What kind of jobs and opportunities are available, is education that will come later.

“We stress that every single person is an essential part to what we’re doing here,” Cummings said. “I feel a sense of pride doing that.”

Classes offered include ballet, hip-hop, tap, jazz, modern contemporary and stretch, and require no previous dance experience. The students are also exposed to different elements of performing, such as acting and pantomiming and incorporate that into their dance lessons. Adult classes are provided as well and drop-ins are welcome.

“We ended with 25 students for our first year,” Cummings said. “My enrollment is already peaking for next year. I’m looking forward to the growth and people latching onto what we offer.”

A lover of dance since she was 13, Cummings trained at various schools including Dallas Black Dance Theater, Grambling State University, Tari’s School of Dance, Cangelosi’s Dance Project, and McKinley Sr. High Dance Ensemble. Cummings has done work with different companies including the Manship Theatre of Downtown Baton Rouge, Mid City Dance Project and Essence Fest. As the years progressed, she has found a passion for the modern contemporary dance genre, enjoying its “free flow.”

“Once I found dance, I was finding myself,” Cummings said. “It was a way of expression for me personally, and it helps to connect the pieces of yourself, and it gives you that self-confidence you may need to speak in front of a crowd or to say different things on your mind. It’s a part of my life, and it’s my passion.”

On the horizon for the studio is an Open House Fair on Saturday, August 11 for interested parties to view the space and get to know Cummings along with her fellow instructors, as well as their plans for the upcoming year. Class registration for fall is now open.

Photos by Sean Gasser

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