Kristina Crane, MDE
Kristina Crane, MDE, grew up dancing at Debra Collier’s School of Dance in Warsaw, Ind., and is now a dance instructor and the community outreach director for the studio – but not after planning on another career path that didn’t work out. “I really wanted to be in musical theater in New York,” she explains, “but I hated auditioning and I hate change.”
Crane found her nirvana at home in Indiana and is entering her 14th season at her studio as an instructor. Along the way, she’s learned one of the truths of teaching – that seeing the “a-ha!” moment in a student makes all the work worthwhile. “We can plant that seed and instill that passion in our students,” she says. The studio teaches about 400 students with five total faculty members in a wide range of disciplines. They also teach students who are on-track to study dance professionally or those that are just looking for a diversion. “If someone is interested in the performing arts, we don’t exclude them because of lack of experience.”
The curriculum focuses on the steps but they also teach the related vocabulary, history and method of the dance. “That way, students learn more than just following our movements,” Crane explains. Despite all the different facets of their teaching, she says they still face a number of challenges with today’s dance students. “We’re living in a very instant society with the Internet and social media. We have to teach them that there’s a process to learning something and doing it well.” The Internet also has given rise to one of the biggest benefits of making a living as a dance teacher today – iTunes. “I don’t have to go through the music closet to find something. Now you just type in a genre and you find it.”
Crane also serves as the studio’s Community Outreach Director, which takes her into the community to preschools, daycare centers, elementary schools and senior centers, among other venues, to spread the enjoyment of dance. Her role even includes a quite convincing turn every summer as any one of the famed “princesses” – Cinderella or Princess Jasmine, for example – as part of the studio’s Pretty Princess summer camps. “There was one little girl who actually thought I was Cinderella,” she says. “She came up to me and said, ‘I was just at your house!’ because her family had just come back from Disneyworld.” She says she’s played nearly every Princess from fairy tale lore, and often shows up in the community dressed as Cinderella.
But dance isn’t only about pixie dust and pigtails, and the studio also recently started a dance curriculum just for boys called Boys Jam. It’s a jazz-based class and limited to boys only to give them a place where they feel comfortable and accepted. Crane says, however, the biggest change has been among the fathers. “It’s really opened the dads’ eyes about how much dance can help with athletic skills,” she says.
Crane doesn’t show any signs of slowing down – or trading in her princess costumes. “I’m so fulfilled in what I do, and I feel very fortunate that I have a career that I love,” she says. “I’ve worked outside of the dance world, but with dance, you’re surrounded by those with the same passion, which makes it easy to do your job.”