A deeper look into what a dance family is built upon
By Jackie Pennington
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
It is July 2011 and the lifelong dream of a little girl is about to come true as Natalie Orr-Andrea opens Creative Motion Studios with the slogan “Move and Be Moved.” Creative Motion Studios is built upon a strong foundation of dance family values: be kind, family first, be brave and try new things, be responsible, stand up for those who can’t, spread love everywhere you go, be humble, live with integrity, help others, work hard, live with passion and dance every dance as if it is your last. A dance studio with such strong morals is a rarity in the industry, which makes one wonder, “Who exactly is the woman behind it all?”
“I grew up dancing at local studios wherever I lived from the time I was 3 years old,” Orr-Andrea states. “Then I danced at the same studio in Akron until I went to college. I went to the University of Akron and I started as a dance major.”
“I finished two-and-a-half years in that major before I fractured my back, and then I switched to a dance minor; and at that point, I had pretty much finished dance as a major, so I was done with the minor and then I pursued a business degree after that,” Orr-Andrea continues. “I studied under lots of different people at the university and I did master classes and would go to New York when I could.”
“I opened the studio because I love teaching and I love sharing dance with students,” she testifies. “I had an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down to be able to be home and teach here in this area.”
“So, I had the opportunity and I was like ‘Well, I might as well do this!’ It wasn’t the way I was going to execute my plan, but since I was 10 years old the plan had always been to open a studio. There was a hole and I was able to fill it.”
Nearly 11 years later, Orr-Andrea has established the studio as a safe and educational space.
“I am certified by Youth Protection Advocates in Dance,” she states. “That is an organization that is working to create a governing body for dance to help figure out best practices for studios and educators, and to train educators to understand signs of abuse, eating disorders, mental health issues, etc.
“I have my CPR and first aid certifications. I also have my mUvmethod certification. That is an in-depth training program in anatomy and safe stretching techniques, because there are a lot of practices that have been found to be unsafe and that are counterproductive to gaining flexibility, but also finding strength at the same time.”
Creative Motion Studios is fueled by her passion for teaching kids.
“In my career, I have taught pretty much everything,” she says. “I’ve taught ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, acro, cardio classes, flexibility classes, belly dance and ballroom. My favorite style to teach is lyrical, because it’s my favorite way to move.
“I really love teaching tap, especially to preteens, because they’re so absorbent of it and they’re so excited about it. It’s an age where they’re going from doing really simple stuff to doing a lot harder stuff; so it’s like a challenge for them. But I love to choreograph lyrical and I love to move that way. I like teaching flexibility and I like teaching skills and anything where I can break down the fundamentals. I like it all.”
Orr-Andrea has two favorite parts of teaching.
“The first is watching kids grow up, having them year after year, and then watching them go from being little kids to adolescents to young adults and then into adulthood,” she remarks.
“I have had the opportunity to watch many kids go from being small children to adults graduating from college, having kids, and getting married. Being able to watch a child grow up is the coolest thing, because you watch them be young and silly and ridiculous and then see them start to get a better idea of who they are; and then you watch them go through really tough situations and then come out at the end of it. It’s just really cool to watch that.”
“The second part is being able to create safe spaces for kids. That’s kind of become my focus over the last several years, just more and more. Just being able to create a place where kids feel like they are loved and appreciated for who they are.
“It’s not about what their dance skills are; it’s more about just loving them, because they are who they are, and helping them feel welcome and be welcoming to other kids. I love knowing that I can provide a place where they can be vulnerable and share the tough things that they go through and know that they’re still safe whether it’s with me or another instructor or their peers. A lot of kids don’t feel comfortable talking to their own parents, so being able to be someone that their parents can trust and know that their child is safe, I like being able to be in that position and provide that for kids.”
This aspect of her teaching is a testament shared by many students of hers.
Maddie Mennett, a 16-year-old elite company member, shares, “Natalie has done so many things for me and everyone at CMS. Whether it’s needing a hug, getting advice, or having someone just listen to you. Natalie is always there for me. She has not only taught me countless things in the studio but in life, too. Personally what sticks out to me from this year is that Natalie has taught me what a true genuine friend is. I hope that I can be as good as a friend and mentor as she is when I get older.”
Molly Moshier, another 16-year-old elite company member, states, “She has always been there for me through good days and bad days. She cares for us like we’re her own kids and always makes sure we’re safe. She has been a safe space for me and many of my teammates for as long as I can remember. In class, Natalie has pushed me past my limits, but also helped teach me how to do it safely. She helps take care of our bodies and cares about how we feel inside and outside of the studio.”
Kensi Evans, a 17-year-old company member, acknowledges, “She has helped me grow as a dancer and as a person. She’s inspired me in so many ways and really created a safe space for so many people.”
“My favorite part is that it’s my kids and it’s my family,” Orr-Andrea remarks. “I’ve gotten to build this place that just feels like home. I know that, if I go in and it doesn’t feel good, I can make decisions that can change that and make it feel good again. I like being in a position where I can do those things and where it just feels like family.”
Brenton Andrea, the instructor of the advanced hip-hop and superheroes classes at the studio, shares, “The best part about being a teacher at CMS is definitely the atmosphere and the culture of just everybody being cool,” as he puts in his naturally laid-back tone that the kids love.
Mennett shares the aspect she loves most about Creative Motion Studios: “I love the community at CMS. Whenever you walk into the studio, especially on hard days, you just feel a strong sense of home.”
Similarly, Moshier states, “I love the close-knit community that forms into a family at CMS.”
Evans shares this sentiment: “I love the people I’ve met. I’ve gotten a second family, and they’re some of the most amazing people in my life. CMS has given me lifelong friends and an amazing dance family that I’ll have forever.”
Naturally, a dance family like this shares fond memories.
Orr-Andrea shares a special moment, near and dear to her heart.
“There are a handful of dances that watching them on stage has been an extremely gratifying moment for me, but it’s also transformative to watch students understand something that’s so much bigger than themselves. At the top of that list is Torchlight.”
Moshier agrees and shares her take on the memory of the dance. “One of my favorites has to be during the 2018-19 season when our group dance, Torchlight, won first place after having finished it only a week before competition. We all connected so well on stage, and it really showed through our performance.”
Becoming speechless, Orr-Andrea describes her sentiment with the performance. “Watching that dance, like it’s gonna make me cry, but watching that dance on stage and just feeling the energy in the room shift … just watching it and the emotion of it … seeing the kids reach an understanding that, because it was a really personal piece for me and it was something that was so deep for me … and even though the dancers didn’t know everything about it, meant so much for me to be able to tell a story that was just so. …”
“It was very therapeutic for me and it was very personal and very special,” she continues. “It was a very special group of kids, half of whom are now adults, and it was just a really special year. That one performance at Boardman High School was just magical. The dancers all came off stage and we just fell into a hug and it just felt so good and real and raw and I just felt a shift in everyone.”
It can go without saying that Creative Motion Studios has provided many students and instructors with an environment that compares to no other, and that is all thanks to Natalie Orr-Andrea and her persistence in never giving up on her dream.
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