Chanel Holland is a lead teaching artist for BalletX’s in-school dance education program, Dance eXchange. She also teaches weekly dance classes at BalletX’s Center for World Premiere Choreography at 1923 Washington Ave. We recently caught up with Chanel to learn more about her awesome BalletX team spirit!
When did you realize dance would become your career path?
I was accepted into the Alvin Ailey School in the summer of 2007, when I was 16 years old. At the time my neighborhood was experiencing extremely high crime rate, so I felt then that dance saved me and that I would be destined for greatness. My acceptance into the program opened my eyes to the term “the road to success is inevitable.”
Who are your dance heroes, and how have they inspired you?
For me, all artists inspire me. Children, adults, the wise, etc. Any human being who has invested time into learning and building a skill inspires me. Everyone from Judith Jamison, a legend in the dance industry, to my dance eXchange students. They all inspire me to continue to grow as an artist, teaching artist, and dancer.
You are a very charismatic dance instructor, able to captivate an entire classroom of young dancers with your positivity and good energy. What’s your secret?
Thank you! I must say my secret is no secret at all: Passion! I love what I do and it shows in my work ethic.
After a day of outputting such great energy and enthusiasm for dance, how do you unwind?
After a long day of working I like to relax by reading.
Do you have other creative outlets outside of dance?
My other creative release outside of dance is acting. I started out as an actress when I attended the New Freedom Theatre on Broad St. in Philadelphia. Acting was and still is a huge passion in my life. I have participated in roles with legendary Philadelphia actors Johnnie Hobbs Jr., Walter Dallas, and many others. Acting is like a sport to me in that it challenges and exercises different parts of me.
Tell us about your work in BalletX’s Dance eXchange program. How did you become involved, what’s your role, why do you believe in the program, and why is it important?
I joined Dance eXchange as a lead teaching artist in 2017. I saw the job posting on Philadance.org and I immediately applied. I met with the program coordinator for an interview, and as she described the program I immediately fell in love with the mission. I have always been a fan of Christine Cox, and the amazing artists of BalletX, so once I got the job I was super excited. When we were granted the opportunity to train at the National Dance Institute in the summer, it completely changed me as a teaching artist. I learned so many things, connected with so many amazing students, and created lifetime friendships. Dance eXchange does so much more than teach the fundamentals of dance in a fun and creative way. It changes lives. It gives the youth a chance to see life from a different perspective and to experience success within the program. Now that we have The Center for World Premiere Choreography, we can offer Dance eXchange to the surrounding communities with the hope to touch many more young lives in Philadelphia.
Tell us a little about the dance classes that you teach at BalletX’s new dance studio. What do you love about them?
I teach Street dance eXpress, Dance eXchange, and Pay-What-You-Wish Family Fridays. I love teaching these classes because they give me a chance to share my current dance hip-hop style with young dancers.
What would you say to someone who has never taken a dance class? How would you convince them to give one of your classes a chance, even if they are shy?
I would say my dance classes are a safe place. When you step into the studio you will feel welcomed. My class can be a resource for whatever it is you need to end your day. It can be fun, or a sense of therapy, or a chance to connect and meet friends. It can be your second home, and a chance to show off those steps you may practice in front of the mirror in your own home. It’s a safe haven. I want people to gain confidence from my classes, and build friendships, not just with other students, but with me as the teaching artist.
What is the number one thing BalletX is doing to win hearts and minds? How is the company changing people’s preconceptions about ballet and dance in general?
BalletX is sharing the arts with various communities in Philadelphia, and I believe that is the most amazing thing a company can do for its city. BalletX is breaking down the barriers between audience and performers, and opening their doors to invite the community in to see what the arts have to offer. Through Pop Up dance performances, BalletX is taking the time to share the performing arts with the community, face to face, for little-to-no cost, and that inspires and provides dancers of all ages a chance to believe in themselves as artists. Christine Cox is a genius when it comes to connecting people of all ages and backgrounds.
Catch Chanel Holland’s Dance eXchange students’ community performances at the Mandell Theater at Drexel University, Feb. 19, 20, and 21 at 6:30pm. Click here to RSVP.