Some little girls dream of owning a pony. Courtney Watt dreamed of owning a dance studio.
Watt began dancing at Franklin School of Dance in Kent when she was just 3. She continued taking classes there throughout high school and started teaching at the school after earning her certification through Dance Masters of America.
Last summer, she fulfilled her lifelong wish and became the owner and lead instructor at the dance school, which was founded by Bill Franklin and recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.
“Of all the jobs I’ve had, nothing has been as satisfying as teaching people to dance,” she says. “Being your own boss doing something that you love is a pretty special thing.”
Your studio offers classes in ballet, tap, pointe, hip-hop, cheer dance, lyrical, jazz and tumbling. What’s your favorite?
CW: Lyrical. This style has a base of ballet but also the fusion of jazz, contemporary and modern. I love the emotion, expressiveness and musicality.
What kind of dance teacher are you more like: Jennifer Lopez in “Shall We Dance?” or Debbie Allen in “Fame”?
CW: Debbie Allen. I have great respect for her. I watched ‘Fame’ on TV growing up and always loved the scenes of her teaching dance classes: ‘You want fame? Well, fame costs, and right here is where you start paying … in sweat.’
Which kind of student is harder to teach: a 4-year-old, a teenager or an adult?
CW: The attention span of a 4-year-old is very short so you have to stay on your toes! It’s harder to keep them engaged so you must keep the classes fun, can’t spend too much time on the same movement and need to nurture them with praise and encouragement.
Is “having rhythm” something you can learn, or do you have to come by it
CW: A lot of people are lucky to naturally have a sense of rhythm, but it can be learned as well. For some people, it takes extra practice, which could be as simple as tapping along to the beat of a song on the radio, clapping hands or counting along: 1-2-3-4. The important thing is to try and stay loose. Rhythm isn’t just something you hear; it’s something that you feel.
Have you ever turned away students who couldn’t dance?
CW: I’ve never turned a student away. They do the best that they can, and the bottom line is that they have fun.
What do you think of TV shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance”?
CW: To have these types of shows on network TV with such a great audience-following is wonderful. I think it can encourage people to want to take dance classes or simply to appreciate dance in general. Ballroom dancing is on the rise because of ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ and styles like locking, popping, krumping, street, contemporary and many others are being introduced to the public with ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ I’m a huge fan. The talent on that show is unreal. I’m inspired every time I watch it.
Is there a dance style you still want to learn?
CW: Ballroom dancing. I’ve actually never taken ballroom dancing but would love to learn. It can be such an elegant and beautiful dance form. It’s nice to see renewed interest in it these days.
The Pole Fitness Association and other groups are petitioning to get pole dancing added as a sport for the 2012 London Olympic Games. They argue that serious pole dancers have athletic chops similar to some Olympic gymnasts. Is pole dancing a real form of dance?
CW: I suppose it’s all in the eye of the beholder. I’ve seen a little of it on TV competition shows, and it certainly must require a lot of strength and endurance.
What’s your favorite pop song to dance to?
CW: At the moment, I’d say ‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO. My advanced jazz class is dancing to this song, and they love it! To see their energy, excitement and eagerness to learn is awesome.
What are your thoughts on disco? (My editor is a Bee Gees fan.)
CW: All for disco! I remember my dad playing the Bee Gees on the home stereo when I was growing up. It’s such fun music that just makes you want to move.
Speaking of moving, are you always graceful, or do you bump into walls like the rest of us?
CW: No, I’m not always graceful. I still lose my balance on movements, forget things, trip over things.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
CW: I love to run. I’ve been running for about two years, and I’ve run countless 5K races, three half-marathons and one full marathon.
What makes a great dancer?
CW: Technique and determination are hugely important parts of being a dancer, but what makes a great dancer is an ability to harness emotion and communicate it through body movement. It’s less about trying to be a great dancer and more about being brave enough to tap into the emotions inside of you and letting other people in.