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Alumni Spotlight: Augustine Hardison

Ms. Hardison is currently working on her Dance Performance and Choreography major at Towson University in Maryland. She is taking ballet, pointe, and modern dance classes. She is also taking her first dance composition class working on both improv and choreography. The program also has a class called scientific basis of movement which is all about connecting anatomy to dance techniques. Augustine graduated from Alaska Dance Theatre's Program in 2020.

Interview with Augustine Hardison:

What was your first memory dancing as a child?

AH: I remember always dancing in my living room. Whenever we had the classical station playing on the radio, I would just start dancing. I always put on impromptu shows in the living room for my family and anyone we had over all the time.

Who was your first teacher?

AH: My first dance teacher was Ms. Deena at ADT, who first taught me in creative movement when I was three.

When did you know that you were serious about being a dancer?

AH: I did many activities growing up, dance being one of them. I slowly started having to drop activities as the commitments became more serious. Dance was the one activity never in question. I never considered quitting dance as an option, no matter how many times I was asked. At a certain point I realized I never wanted to stop dancing and I still don’t. I realized I wanted to find the path that would allow me to continue this passion as long as possible.

Augustine in Creative Movement class

What challenges did you face during your time training at ADT? How did you overcome them?

AH: Injuries were one of the biggest challenges I faced while at ADT. Injuries are a difficult thing to deal with, they can be extremely frustrating and force you to take a step back from what you love. Taking a break from dancing is always a difficult thing to do, it means missed opportunities and a setback in strength and progress. For me it also often felt like I was letting my teachers and peers down. One of my injuries was one that had a very slow healing process, and I was frustrated because I didn’t want to miss out and have to sit out of any shows. I also felt that I should have been healing faster even though that wasn’t true. Coming back slowly and not over doing it is such a delicate process and a difficult thing to do because all you want to do is dance without restrictions again. I had an amazing support system at ADT, between a great physical therapist and the student and teachers I had so many resources. I always felt supported by the teachers and students and felt that they had my best interests in mind. They were there to help me through that frustrating process and found ways to allow me to participate in as much as possible within my limitations. Having that support system allowed me to choose what recovery process was best for me and made having an open dialogue with my teachers about what injuries I was working through very easy.

What is your fondest memory of dancing at ADT?

It’s hard to point to one specific memory. I will always remember the fun of outdoor dance day, the rewarding feeling of seeing a full run of a show in those long Saturday rehearsals, and hanging with the people I grew up with between classes. But one of the best things was the environment in the classroom. We were able to find an amazing balance between working hard and being disciplined while allowing for humor and silliness. We were there to work hard but we were allowed to have fun. This is what made coming to dance fun everyday.

Augustine Performing at YAGP 2017

Interview with Janet Curran, Augustine's Mom:

Do you remember your daughter's very first dance class or recital? What was that like?

JC: Augustine started dance when she was 3 years old, and I still remember the first observation day when my husband and I got to be in the classroom to watch. The room was full of young dancers adorably scurrying around to live piano music at the teacher’s cues. Watching Augustine hop from lily pad to lily pad, I recall I was more impressed that she was paying attention than at her skills. I was amazed at Ms. Deana’s patience with these distractible young students and how cleverly she introduced dance concepts in a way that would obviously build to something larger over time. Those early lessons also led to many parent-bonding moments as we all waited in the lobby for our students to finish their lessons. Some of us are still trading stories about our students’ progress.

Do you remember her last performance at ADT? What was that like for you as a parent?

JC: Senior-year performances are always bittersweet, but the COVID-19 pandemic upended tradition and made her last performance both sentimental and a testament to perseverance and creativity. ADT pivoted amazingly quickly after classes shifted online and produced videos of safely distanced dancers for the year-end Showcase performance. We had fun helping with the video shoot for her dance acrobatics class at a location near the mountains, one of her favorite places to dance. We laid out widely spaced mats and watched from afar as three amazing dancers did what they love to do while the sun set. That took the sting out of never getting to see her in the lead role she was cast in for ADT’s pandemic-cancelled major spring performance. Although missing the special acknowledgement of ADT’s seniors and the last backstage moments that would normally come with Showcase was hard for her, I felt she had a bigger world of dance waiting for her and the time was right for her to move on.

Augustine in Beginning Children's Ballet

What made you choose ADT? Did you start here or transfer from another school? If so why?

JC: My husband and I read an article in the newspaper about how a local dance studio was engaging young students in a class called “Creative Movement” and thought this would be a great opportunity for our energetic young daughter who could never sit still. Little did we know that the dance studio, ADT, would become her home away from home, prepare her for successful auditions to college ballet programs, and one day invite her to teach classes. As she became more serious about dance, we re-evaluated local studio options with her and decided that ADT offered a good progression, diversity of classes, performance opportunities, and a setting that suited her.

At what point did you realize that your child was serious about pursuing dance?

JC: The year she was 5 and danced and twirled in a corner of the Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts lobby for a solid 20 minutes after watching the Nutcracker should have been a wake-up call that dance was becoming a passion. But I still chalked it up to youthful enthusiasm, even though no one else’s child lingered so long. We had always envisioned that she would take a few dance classes and move on to other activities. She enjoyed outdoor activities with our family, other sports, music, art – there didn’t seem to be a reason to focus on one activity. When we realized she could be in the professional production of the Nutcracker in one of the children’s roles, we thought that would make a great end game. She could experience a big performance and that would be the end of it. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The experience of being part of the cast just fueled her fire, and from that time on, we couldn’t have drug her away from dance. Her focus never wavered throughout local training, and, later, out-of-state summer intensives. By the time she developed and taught a dance class at her high school, it was clear she would pursue dance after school.

What was it about dance that appealed to your child so much?

JC: Dance provides her a way to channel her energy and fulfills her drive for pursuit of excellence. She also loves performing. At an early age, she regularly treated us to self-produced home dance and theatre shows. That slowly grew into dance as an outlet for her artistic and athletic nature.

What would you tell other parents about the journey of being a "dance mom"?

JC: Without a background in dance, becoming a dance parent can be an eye-opening dive into a new world. Staying open to discovering and enjoying that world can help navigate the unknowns. Like anything else new, the learning curve can be challenging, but there are so many resources, from teachers to other parents to the internet, to help out. Listen to your dancer, and learn from everyone around you. The rewards of watching your child find themselves in dance are worth it!


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