Here at DanceWear Corner, we pride ourselves on having a staff that are versed in all things dance. Today we would like to introduce one of our team members Sarah Oepen.
When did you start dancing? Was it love at first class?
I took my first ballet/tap combo class when I was five. I enjoyed it but thought my family was having more fun while I was in class so I took a year off when I was seven. Once I realized all the fun was actually at the dance studio I went back the following year and was hooked!! I decided I wanted to pursue dance professionally when I was about ten and started working towards earning my first pointe shoes.
Name all of the dance related things you are apart of?
Currently, I teach at two studios. I teach all levels of Jazz at The School of Performing Arts in Maitland, FL and I teach Musical Theatre, Ballet, and Pointe at Highland School of Dance in Lakeland, FL. I am also a parade performer at Walt Disney World and have been lucky enough to be performing with the company since 2008. I also have been choreographing for Lakeland Community Theatre for the past two years. I started off by performing in their shows in 2014 and have since transitioned into choreographing for both their theatre for youth and their main stage productions. During the summers I also choreograph for the youth summer camps at the Athens Theatre in DeLand, FL. I have also judged and taught for the Florida Dance Masters for the past three years. And of course, I work at DWC where my favorite part of the job is pointe shoe fittings!
You teach and judge dancing, but what is your favorite thing about each?
My favorite thing about judging is getting to connect with other teachers and students outside of my studios. I love so many aspects about teaching; building relationships with my students, choreographing, being in the studio and dancing, but the most rewarding part is seeing the transformation from the start of the school year to recital time. Especially when the beginner students come in the following year and you can reflect back on the kids that have moved up and where they came from.
What was the most exciting thing that you have been a part of?
When I was a company member for Florida Dance Theatre we traveled to NYC to perform in the APAP (Association of Performing Arts Professionals) showcase. New York is my favorite city and getting to perform on a professional level among so many other talented dancers was a dream come true! I also loved the original work I was performing and one of my favorite teachers saw the showcase and said it was the most passionate he has ever seen me on stage which was the cherry on top of the whole experience.
What is the best thing about dancing for Disney?
I think the best thing about performing at Disney is being so close to the guests. When you are on a stage you can’t see the audience’s reactions but when I’m dancing in a parade I can see everyone’s smiling faces. You can also talk to the guests and interact and I think that connection is the most unique and rewarding part of the job. Not to mention the costumes and makeup are so over the top and fun!
If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself two things. One would be to cross train! I learned this the hard way when I had my ACL tear. Dance focuses on specific muscle groups, so I find it so important to develop the other muscles to balance and support your entire body. The second thing I would tell myself is to not be so hard or compare yourself to others. The fear of not measuring up is just a hindrance to your growth.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I just moved into a new home and I’m getting married in November so I have spent most of my days off redecorating and planning my wedding. I also like to stay in shape by going to the gym or taking classes at Orlando Ballet when I find the time.
If you could perform a duet with any dancer who would it be and why?
Sascha Radetsky, just because my middle school self had a huge crush on him in Center Stage.
You can pick up a phone and talk to your number one dance idol -living or dead- but you can only ask them three questions. What are the three questions you would ask them? Why?
Gelsey Kirkland, I read her biography so many times I had to get a second copy because the binding fell apart. I would ask her, “What was Balanchine’s choreographic process like? How was Baryshnikov as a partner? Will you autograph my book?” 🙂