An interview with Shannon Murray
Owner/Program Director of Urban Beat Dance in Skokie, IL
|Just for fun facts on Shannon Murray|
|Years of dance training?||30|
|Years teaching dance?||16|
||All of the traditional styles: jazz, ballet, tap, modern, hip hop. My 2 brothers were breakers so I had break dance and street dance influence. Studied with Giordano and Joel Hall, then Columbia College for a couple of years. Graduated from NEIU with a dance and business major.|
|Favorite style?||Contemporary and jazz are my first love, and hip hop for sure.|
|Most motivating teacher?
||Kirby Reed. Not only a good friend but a big motivator in my late teens. He was an inspiration because he did a lot in jazz funk, fusing urban dance with traditional dance. I’m a fan of that style.|
|3 words that illustrate your personality?||Energetic, understanding, passionate.|
|What stretch feels great on your body?||Triangle pose.|
|Favorite teaching outfit?||Always jazz pants or capris, a basic leo or tank, and off the shoulder sweatshirts and t-shirts. For hip hop, baggy sweatpants.|
Allegro Dance Boutique: If a student walks away having learned just one thing from you, what would you want that one thing to be?
Shannon Murray: The confidence that dance can instill in a student and how that carries through to all other avenues in life. I’ve always taught with that in mind. The energy they give to me, giving that back and letting them shine. Giving them that boost.
ADB: What is the biggest “no-no” for a student to do in your class?
SM: Being lackluster, having a lack of energy and focus. You don’t want to approach anything with zero energy and interest.
ADB: Give a few words to describe your teaching method/philosophy.
SM: Fun, discipline. The energy that you give off is what you get back. Having a fun environment with both fun and discipline is key. Developing those tools over the years helped me to develop that kind of class. My goal is to see every kid’s smiling face.
ADB: What type(s) of music “moves” you?
SM: The old school house music I grew up with. I also enjoy contemporary music like Adele, Florence and the Machine, Ellie Goulding and Mira.
ADB: Do you have a favorite age group to teach?
SM: I like my elementary kids because they’re so eager to learn and everything you do is super cool to them. They tend to be very capable of understanding more complex choreography.
ADB: Give an example of a moment when you, as a teacher/director, were most proud.
SM: Across the board, I’m really proud of all of the students no matter what. I’m most proud as a business owner after hitting 5 years. Seeing kids that started as Junior Company dancers that are now in Elite Company, seeing the growth of families that have been here for 6 years now. They’ve grown into fabulous dancers, going off to college.
ADB: Is there a choreographer that enthuses and inspires you?
SM: I’ve been a huge fan of Wade Robson because he was an untrained hip hop dancer that fused into more of a contemporary dancer. Also Mia Michaels and Tabitha Napoleon.
ADB: What’s your response to a student with a “can’t-do” attitude?
SM: Always start over. Hit the restart button, take a deep breath. I’ll walk you through it to understand the mechanics and then you can try it over again.
ADB: How do you challenge your students mentally? How do you challenge your students physically?
SM: It goes hand in hand. I throw out a lot of choreography, which is physically challenging as well. I challenge them with new exercises like yoga poses and strength training exercises for the core and upper body.
ADB: Teachers often say that they learn just as much from their students as their students learn from them. What is something valuable that your students have taught you over the years?
SM: Patience. Also, one thing I can recall is having a student choreography day with elementary students and being surprised, [telling myself] don’t underestimate their skills and creativity. I find that to be inspring. Never underestimate, even if it’s not technically perfect.
ADB: Fill in the blank (mad libs- style): When I dance I feel _______. SM: Alive. ADB: Teaching is _________. SM: My passion. ADB: A good class is when _________. SM: I’m tired and sweaty. ADB: My love for _________ is almost as strong as my love for the performing arts! SM: Business.
ADB: What is the best thing about owning UBD?
SM: Watching the dancers grow and working with the staff. My amazing sister that manages everything. The relationship between our ability to keep the arts alive, our ability to provide teachers with work, and seeing students grow and enjoy themselves. It’s rewarding.
*Celebrate National Dance Day and check out what UBD has to offer with a FREE Hip Hop Workshop on July 28! Register online at www.urbanbeatdance.com.