Dee Dee Johnson, MDE
Dee Dee Johnson has been at Bataille Academie of the Danse in Barrington, Illinois, for 46 years—18 years as a student and 29 years as the owner of the studio. Along the way, she earned a teaching degree from Illinois State University and has expanded the influence of Bataille Academie beyond its studio walls through a thriving outreach program for her dancers. In 2016, she’ll celebrate 30 loyal years of membership in CNADM.
With two locations in Barrington, Bataille Academie has over 350 students and 12 faculty and staff members, most of whom are also long-time members of the Bataille family, having taught there for a decade or more. Johnson says her faculty shares her passion for building the whole dancer, and her teaching certificate gives her an advantage as a studio owner. “When you understand child development and how to teach, you can apply those skills to many different genres,” she explains. “My degree makes me a much better teacher, and organizations like CNADM fulfill my need to learn how to teach a specific discipline.”
Several of Bataille Academie’s teachers also have teaching degrees, and she encourages them to develop their skills further every year with workshops and classes. “We work together to build a foundation,” she says. “I think a lot of our students are used to things being quick and easy. But dance hasn’t really changed, and the work that you put in is what makes you a great dancer.”
Johnson says teaching the fundamentals is just one part of being a well-rounded artist; in an effort to further round out the dance education of her students, she has developed several innovative partnerships with local organizations that bring her dancers out into the community and vice versa.
“Dance is something to be shared; it’s not self-serving,” she explains.
One of her most rewarding programs is Shining Stars, which connects her dancers with local youth who have Down syndrome. They teach and learn from each other and, ultimately, perform together. “Working on a project like that gets you recharged and lets you rediscover your passion,” says Johnson.
Johnson and her dancers partner with GiGi’s Playhouse in Barrington, a nationwide Down Syndrome achievement center for kids and their families. A little girl with Down Syndrome named Gigi was the inspiration for the center—she was also one of Johnson’s students. “I’ve never done anything so amazing,” she says of the experience, which is currently in its sixth year. “Nothing I’ve ever done has come close to this.”
The Shining Stars dancers have appeared in Johnson’s Dancers Making a Difference concert, for which guest choreographers are invited to coordinate a piece in honor of a local non-profit such as The United Way.
These are just two examples of Bataille Academie’s active role in the community; the Academie’s dancers can also be regularly found marching in parades and performing at community events. It certainly spotlights the studio’s name in the community, but Johnson says the experiences ultimately make her dancers better artists.
“Giving back is really healthy, especially for teen girls. So many girls 12 to 18 years old are so self-critical, and giving back makes them aware of their gifts,” she explains. “It’s good to teach them how to do good for others and for them to see how great that makes them feel; then they can put that emotion into their dance.”