SANDPOINT – Classical ballet is back in a big way at Dance Works studio. Owner Becky Lucas, who operates two locations – one in Sandpoint next door to the First Presbyterian Church and another in Priest River – has just welcomed Devyn Vaughan-Jolley to her teaching staff.
Vaughan-Jolley became fascinated with dance at the tender age of 3, and followed her passion into a dance career that has included both performing and teaching over the past 25-plus years. Her training included studies in multiple dance genres, as well joining the ranks of the LACB dance company at the age of 12, and acceptance into the Joffrey Ballet Summer Program before taking master classes with dance world notables such as Benji and Lacy Schwimmer from “So You Think You Can Dance.”
The dancer’s life then took a turn toward college and, later, raising of family with her husband, Jay, with whom she has six children. Despite a busy schedule, she has spent more than 10 years as a dance instructor, teaching beginning through advanced ballet technique.
And while Dance Works maintains a full schedule of class offerings in styles from tap to jazz to ballet, the addition of Vaughan-Jolley steps things up a few notches, according to Lucas. Her studio had a strong ballet component vis-ŕ-vis her business partner, Debi Terracciano, and her deep background in the form. Things changed when Terracciano moved to open her own dance business and Lucas has been waiting for the right person to fill the ballet instructor role.
“Dance Works went through a huge transition when Debi, my partner of 20 years, went on to open her own studio in Coeur d’Alene,” she said. “I had no intention of hiring a new instructor that I felt wasn’t going to have that kind of longevity. I needed someone who was qualified, number one, and who was wonderful with the kids and has strong ties to Sandpoint. Devyn is the first person I have found that I felt had all those qualities.”
Still an active dancer herself, with a career that has included studies at Eastern Washington State University and joining the touring company of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ Lucas has seen her share of changes since Dance Works first opened in 1994. One of them has been the “growth spurt” the studio has seen in enrollment over the past couple of years. Another is associated with changes in the art form.
“I think the dance scene is forever changing, but the basics, not so much,” said Lucas. “Tap, jazz and ballet have been around for generations. The joy of dance hasn’t changed. I tell people all the time that I have the best job in the world. I get to work with kids all day and listen to music and dance.”
As the new kid on the local dance instructor block, Vaughan-Jolley took a few minutes to chat about her love for ballet, how she very nearly made professional dance a career and what she views as the importance of dance in a child’s life and education.
Q: If you hadn’t followed academics, would have made ballet your career?
A: Most definitely! I was torn between becoming a teacher and helping others, or becoming a professional ballerina and sharing my passion for dance.
Q: Do you still dance outside of teaching?
A: Yes. Any chance I get to take classes, perform and choreograph, I jump on the opportunity.
Q: How big a part of your life was ballet?
A: Ballet was my life and I knew nothing different. I had a built-in, extended family that was made up of great dancers and friends, with an amazing artistic director. We enjoyed being around each other and spending time together. Ballet was a love that never failed me.
Q: Why do you think dance, in general, and ballet, in particular, is important?
A: I believe ballet constantly pushes you mentally and physically to the next level. It’s not easy; it takes motivation, discipline, and perseverance. When you pour your heart and soul and everything you have into it, you deserve nothing less than the rewards at the end.
Q: How do you see your role as a new teacher at Dance Works?
A: To be a positive mentor to young dancers by modeling a healthy lifestyle, providing a safe environment, showing respect to others, offering constructive criticism and acknowledging students’ achievements.
And by contributing my expertise in ballet, I’ll be an addition to the continued success of the studio and what Becky has been preserving.
Q: You grew up in a small town – how does Sandpoint stack up, in your opinion, in terms of opportunities for dance and the arts for children?
A: Sandpoint is a unique and wonderful place to live, with so many talented individuals. I have witnessed first-hand a positive growth in the dance culture, where children want to learn about the arts and parents are involved in supporting them.
Dance Works is located at 409 N. Fourth Ave., in Sandpoint. For information, call 208-627-8042, or visit sandpointdanceworks.com.