By Juliya Popova – Cougar News Contributor
Phylise Smith has been a dedicated dance instructor at College of the Canyons since 1998. Today, with years of experience and an M.A from UCLA, Phylise is the school’s Dance Chair. She has been dancing since a young age and has loved the art of expressing herself through movement. However, during my interview with her, I discovered that Phylise didn’t always see dance as being her main focus during her schooling years.
While attending UCLA, Phylise declared Law as her major and saw her future being a lawyer. During her first two years at the University, the majority of her classes were dance. It wasn’t until one of her advisers pointed her in the direction of dance, and suggested her to change her major, and study the subject on a deeper level.
Following what her heart had always known was for her, Phylise listened to the proposal made by her adviser, and changed her major to Dance.
After graduating UCLA, Phylise taught at Pierce, Los Angeles Harbor, Valley, Orange Coast College and Scripps College. When a position at College of the Canyons had opened, the opportunity was something she could not pass up. With a resume full of experience and an obvious talent, Phylise had snatched the job from the start.
This semester at the school, Phylise is teaching Dance Appreciation, Yoga, and works with a dance company. All of which she believes are a great benefit for all her students. In her Dance Appreciation class she tries to teach students to truly appreciate all forms of dance. In her yoga class, she teaches to focus on breathing, trying to be quite and to meditate. In her dance company her focus is to get the students a feel of what it would be in a real professional dance company.
Every year Phylise and a few other choreographers arrange a dance concert. This year’s Spring Dance Concert, “A Day in the Life”, was based on everyday happenings. The idea came to Phylise during a trip to New York while she rode on the subway. There she encountered fights, homosexuality, and a few other events, that gave her perfect examples of how the concert should be choreographed.
Phylise believes though the entertainment industry is becoming more competitive, students need to focus on not only dance, but also acting and singing; which she calls a triple threat. Phylise also believes that technique is a very important talent students need to learn in today’s competitive entertainment world.
Though Phylise has always loved to dance, she didn’t begin her dance career until college. She is a strong believer of movement, and expressing her emotions and feelings through a song. Not only does she enjoy expressing emotions, but also telling a story in terms of dance, “…the other semester I did a piece on Obama and how he developed, how he grew up in Hawaii, and it was basically based on his autobiography.”
The impact dance has had on Phylise has given her the desire to share with others that everyone dances whether they realize it or not. She believes that anyone can move their body, whether it be a person in a wheel chair or someone trying to dance in the shower. Phylise says everyone has what it takes to express emotions through movement and rhythm. “I just think it’s very interesting how everybody can dance, and the impact dance has in their life. We all dance. If you can move, you can dance.”