On any given day, a handful of Advanced Dance students can be found in the dance studio at lunch, practicing their choreography. These dancers' hard work is indicative of the outstanding leadership of Rhonda Cinotto and Alicia Mullikin, the co-directors of the Advanced Dance class. Without any request or supervision from Cinotto or Mullikin, these dancers have the motivation to spend their free time rehearsing dances.
“Because of their hard work, each week [their dancing] is light years beyond the week before,” says Mullikin. Mullikin and Cinotto are excited about the growth of the Advanced Dance Program over the years.
Cinotto and Mullikin are able to bring years of experience and education in dance to their roles as teachers. Cinotto, who grew up dancing, majored in dance at UW and danced with Spectrum dance theatre for years before she started teaching. Mullikin, whose first movement training was Kung-Fu, started dancing in high school. She then went on to get her degree in dance from Cornish College. They have co-taught the Advanced Dance class for four years now.
"When I first came [to SAAS] in 2009, Advanced Dance didn't exist," Cinotto explains. "The first group had seven kids, and they weren't super into it, so it's pretty different now. Now, it's more of an honor to be in it, the kids take it seriously, and we've worked super hard to develop that kind of culture."
As Advanced Dance continues to grow in the number of dancers, the dancers are becoming more committed and skillful. Mullikin even added that many of their dancers are pursuing dance in college, as a major, minor, or extracurricular activity.
Sam Picart, a well-known guest choreographer for Advanced Dance, told Cinotto that he has “noticed a shift in work ethic” in the students. The maturity level of the dancers has increased within the past couple years.
The dancer’s work ethic is what Mullikin and Cinotto believe is the key to the optimal Advanced Dance environment. They explained that once the dancers know how to work hard and master the moves, there is space to have fun as well.
Amani Stewart, a senior captain of Advanced Dance, has another angle on how to foster the best environment for the Advanced Dance studio: "My main goal for the year is [for everyone] to bond and all become super close with each other," says Stewart. "When everyone is comfortable and enjoying each other, dance class is extremely fun."
Stewart also hopes for each dancer to find their style of dance and apply it to the choreography. With the support of Cinotto and Mullikin, as well as the senior captains, each dancer is encouraged to try their best and express themselves.
"I think both of us take on the philosophy that any of them can do anything, any of the movement," says Mullikin, “so it’s not about talent or ability because with time and the work ethic you will get there.