Amanda McConaghey, a Chehalem Valley Dance Academy alum, is our featured instructor this month. It is so special when our former dancers transition into gifted teachers, and share their time and talents, mentoring other dancers at our studio. We are grateful to have Amanda in the CVDA family!
Chehalem Valley Dance Academy: What is your dance background?
Amanda McConaghey: I started dancing at age 8 because my mom’s cousin, Kimberly, worked at CVDA. I really looked up to her! So I took Kimberly’s tumbling class, then tap, then ballet, and finally added jazz. I loved every class so much, and was invited to join PC (Performing Company) when I was 10. I danced on PC until I graduated from high school (at CS Lewis Academy).
I wasn’t a very focused person when I was younger. PC helped teach me how to be focused and driven. I gained so much confidence through PC that influenced every area of my life. I had the opportunity to assume leadership roles in each PC group. When I was 15 a lot of dancers my age left the the studio so I jumped into the leadership position and took my role as a role model pretty seriously.
CVDA: What is a memory that stands out?
When I was a junior I was the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker. I loved that! Whenever we performed at a retirement home or community event, I played into the character. Little kids wanted to take a photo with me. I liked being in that position of connecting with my audience. I felt called to go out, meet and talk with people, especially the little kids. It was wonderful!
CVDA: What classes do you teach and how long have you been teaching at CVDA?
AM: I started teaching in June 2013 after high school graduation. Currently, I teach pre-ballet and beginning tap/jazz (ages 4-6). I’ve also taught creative movement for 2-3 year olds. I sub for Kristen in jazz, contemporary and technique. This summer I’m teaching seven classes (going to start teaching Charissa’s classes) including ballet 1, 2, & 3, teen ballet, and pointe 1. I never anticipated taking over the ballet program and I’m really excited about it! I’ve learned so much teaching the younger dancers about non-technical movement and feel confident I can teach the basics and technique to the older girls.
CVDA: What do you do when you’re not dancing?
AM: I’m attending George Fox University full-time pursuing a major in exercise science.
I’m a co-captain of the GFU cheerleading team. We cheer at home football and basketball games. I also have a part-time job on campus as an office assistant in the music department.
My boyfriend and I love the outdoors, the beach, and go hiking lot. He likes to fish, too. A favorite hike is Drift Creek Falls. We have friends who live in Otis and own a horseback riding camp. So we get the opportunity to ride horses on the beach!
CVDA: What’s your teaching style?
AM: I’ve grown up at CVDA and I love the people there, so it’s comfortable. I bring a sense of fun and humor to my style of teaching, even though I take it seriously. You need to be able to laugh with the kids and keep it lighthearted. If they enjoy it, they want to learn and work hard. I have a lot of experience and try to bring innovative ways to teach the skills. I know what worked for me, and I’m aware of what works and what doesn’t.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
I’m not certain of my career plans yet. I know I want to work in the health/wellness profession; focus on nutrition, exercise, injury prevention. I’m not sure if I’ll get into PT (physical therapy) school, but that’s a goal.
In 5 years I hope to be working in the physical therapy field. Maybe buy a house in the country. Perhaps starting my family. I would still like to teach a dance class or two. I think teaching would fit well with my career, especially if I could work with dancers through a physical therapy practice. I actually just met a physical therapist, Kester Cotton, who danced with OBT (Oregon Ballet Theater) and San Francisco Ballet for several years and then became a physical therapist. Most of his patients are dancers. It was great to observe his sessions!
CVDA: Anything else you’d like to add?
AM: If I hadn’t danced at CVDA I wouldn’t have met my boyfriend, Jamos. He and I both danced in The Nutcracker. We were friends for the first three years, then we started dating when I turned 18. We still love to dance together and are learning ballroom dancing.
This past winter we choreographed ballet and contemporary dances for the GFU music department’s annual Christmas concert. We danced in the performance, too!
I LOVE to travel. This summer I’m going to Italy, Switzerland, and The Netherlands for 6 weeks. The first three weeks is a GFU “Juniors Abroad” trip to Rome, Venice, Milan and the Italian Riviera. The second half I’ll be staying with family friends and traveling. I went to Paris when I was 18 so I’m excited to go back to Europe! I value other cultures, so I doubt this will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. My best friend is Vietnamese and I got to visit Vietnam and Korea with her when I was 13. I’ve been to Mexico a few times (I’m still learning Spanish!) My hope is to live overseas for a while at some point.
We have loved watching Amanda grow up at CVDA and are thrilled to have her taking on a more active role this summer!