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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Dance

Kentuckians in Dance

Artist/Educator Antoinette Crawford-Willis
Louisville, Kentucky

Who Antoinette Crawford-Willis holds a Master of Arts degree in dance education from the Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater and dance from the University of Memphis. She has extensive experience as a dance educator, having worked with schools throughout the state through the Kentucky Arts Council and with special-needs children through Very Special Arts Kentucky. Antoinette is executive director of Dance!Kentucky, an organization formed in 2004 to promote dance education and performance across the state. Before coming to Kentucky, she was a part-time adjunct faculty member at the University of Memphis and Shelby State Community College in Memphis as well as the Wolf Trap program coordinator and lead teaching artist with the Memphis Arts Council, Center for Arts Education. Antoinette is also developing her own one-woman show.

What “I am a dance educator. I promote dance education in the schools. I advocate arts education and dance careers past high school. I'm also the executive director of Dance!Kentucky, a new statewide dance education association. We act as a referral service if a student wants to pursue a career in dance. Our goal is to promote and support dance education in Kentucky. I also do professional development workshops [with teachers].”

Where “I work in schools. I visit the sites—school and community residencies, also churches—anywhere in the state of Kentucky.”

When “My typical hours are from 9:00 to 3:00—school hours. I also do after-school programs, summer art academies, and summer art programs in Louisville and around the state.”

How “I work with students, teachers, parents. My biggest challenge is trying to find the comfort zone for the students. I want to work with middle school to focus on self-esteem. I like to work with young kids so [that] by the time they're older, they feel comfortable dancing. You want kids to feel safe doing movement and developing their character. I want them to attempt to find their true selves through character exploration based on their life experiences. It's a good way to study a middle school student's behavior and understand their choices.”

Why “I enjoy meeting the people and the teachers. When I first approach them, they know what they want in a classroom, and they don't feel like they can do it. When I leave them, they're dancing, even if it's just from a chair.... I feel like I leave something with the teacher when I leave the classroom. My goal for Kentucky is to help educators understand that there is a place in academia for dance education and dance educators. One of the objectives of Dance!Kentucky is that the state Department of Education has to understand you don't just hand out dance education certification.”

Getting There “Go to college. Get an undergraduate degree in theater and dance. If you have a professional performance career ... when you can't go up on your toes anymore, get a graduate degree and teach. You can major in dance, and a lot of parents don't know that. For example, there are theater and dance departments at Northern Kentucky University and Murray State.”


600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951