Tina Rogers never thought she’d spend her life teaching dance. When she was a UC Davis student she thought Economics was her bag. But somewhere in between Freshman Orientation and what would have been graduation, a vision of her future in business stopped her cold–
“I realized it was going to be board rooms and bored rooms.”
And boring was something Tina knew her life couldn’t be. So she left school, and when a friend suggested she start teaching dance she says she thought they were crazy. She’d always loved to dance and even choreographed her first show in third grade. But teach? She says she gave it a try anyway, and 20 years later she’s still teaching–giving lessons in break dancing, moon walks, rhythm and something much bigger–life.
“I use music and dance to reinforce life concepts. So based on what the CA state standards are let’s say for History and Culture, then I’ll (teach dance and their cultures) that apply to that (state standard).”
Tina’s teaching approach is something straight out of a Grammy show. Moves and music by the late Michael Jackson are a given in her class. And the kids who are jumping and sliding in there like the King of Pop aren’t only learning dance moves and their cultural roots, they’re also learning other things–like Math. While I watched one of her classes at the Davis Art Center, Tina started a dance move and then–pointing to her bent knee–gave a quick lesson on angles.
“Melina, do you know what this is? It’s a shape, it goes here, then here then here. It’s called a right angle.”
“If all they know is technology they will not be smart in every aspect of life, just the technological part. They need instincts, they need survival abilities, they need to know cultures and getting along and learning about other lives and cultures.”
For Tina, doing what she does is a natural extension of who she is as a person, from the first beat of the first song played during class to her signature high five to each child at the end. She says she’s done other things–she has her barber’s license, studied for the real estate exam and has managed rap groups. But teaching kids from the Bay area to Sacramento and beyond is where her heart is. So whether it’s the 8 beats of dance, the first chorus of “Thriller” or a little Geometry, Tina Rogers says she’s doing what she was meant to do in her lifetime–and it’s anything but boring.
“I believe it’s a calling. I call it the Code That Cracks The Kids. It’s a little secret– I can talk to any kid in any culture (through dance.) The pull is the music and the dance. And then I throw in the rest–(culture, Math) anything under the sun. And it works.”