DeShonte’ Cobin’s dance studio goes well beyond instructing kids in dance. Cobin teaches to the whole child: social skills, ethics, appropriate dress and behavior — even their spiritual sides.
Her Shawnee studio, Creative Movements, has been located in the Shawnee Village Shopping Center at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Quivira Road, for four years. For four or five years before that, she taught out of the Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission and the Irene B. French Community Center in Merriam.
Her mission is unchanged: “Fostering individual student growth through the art of dance.” Most of her students are between the ages of three and 18.
For her “babies,” those under six years old, she begins each 55-minute Saturday class with circle time. “We go over everybody’s names so they can start to build relationships amongst themselves. I’ll let them share... ‘what do you want to share today?’...they’re very vocal,” Cobin says.
After circle, the children begin their dance instruction: ballet, tap, and interactive dance — think hokey-pokey. She says the youngest students need variety to hold their attention span.
Sarah Williams, of Merriam, has enrolled her daughter in the Saturday class twice. Elliot, age three, seems happy to go. “What (Cobin) is capable of getting these girls to do is nothing short of amazing,” Williams said. “What she teaches them extends way beyond dance. She has shown my daughter not to give up when something is difficult, and to be patient while waiting for someone else to learn something that may come easily to her.”
While Cobin mixes in social skills and basic coordination for the beginners, the older girls might need to talk about their stress at school or work on body image — Cobin is happy to make that part of her classes as well.
A fulltime data systems coordinator for the Turner School District, Cobin says her older pupils “have a lot to deal with, trying to learn what people think and how to fit in. I want them to be true to themselves.” Part of that is ensuring that everyone is comfortable in their costumes for their yearly recital.
“I understand dance at a professional level and understand that the body is art,” Cobin said. “However, when you’re dealing with kids and dealing with parents you want to make sure to show respect. We don’t want them to be viewed as a sex object, so I try to watch what they wear and the music content as well.”
Besides Cobin, the studio employs three other instructors: June Neal-Kay, James “SugEasy” Singleton, and Ashley Murray, who’s a cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Murray has been with the studio since high school, so many of the older students have known her for years. Cobin says it’s been exciting for the younger ones to see Murray’s progression from dancing for Piper High School, then K-State’s Classy Cats, and now the Chiefs. The students “see what’s possible,” Cobin said.
The school offers courses in ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, lyrical contemporary dance, and competitive tumbling and dance. Courses start at $40 per month, and are $15 for each additional course.
The competitive dance team, made up of 24 students between the ages of six and 16, competes at the regional or national level three times a year.
The non-competitive students show off their talent at the yearly June recital. Having only one recital a year was also a strategic move on Cobin’s part.
She says that a winter show is just too much. “When you start planning a Christmas show, you only really have a couple months of dance and then you’re spending your time working on a routine,” she said. “So, instead of taking that time to work on a routine, I’d rather keep working on technique and things that the child needs to help them continue to develop and grow.”
Cobin looks to involve students in the community as well, like volunteering at Harvesters, or participating in Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events in Kansas City and Lee’s Summit. Sometimes they perform at local churches.
Though her students are racially and religiously diverse, Cobin says it’s important to also offer the opportunity to use dance as a form of praise. Every Sunday afternoon, for no charge, she invites all students above the age of seven, to a praise class.
“It’s really to help them with wherever they’re at spiritually, within themselves,” she explains. She uses spiritual music and a form of lyrical, choreographed dance movements, called praise dance.
“It’s more like a lyrical, so we’re interpreting the music, but I’m using ballet technique in addition to sometimes modern or contemporary dance,” Cobin said. “There are certain movements that glorify God or symbolize certain things.”
Said Williams: DeShonte’ is teaching these girls to have respect for her and each other, and the difference she is making in my daughter’s life will shape the kind of young woman she grows up to be.”
Contact Anne at email@example.com or @annekniggendorf
6417 Quivira Road