At a young age, Ainsley Van Deun dreamed of being a hip hop dancer. Now a Millard West sophomore, Van Deun has since trained and performed in many more styles of dance such as tap, contemporary, ballet, lyrical, and her favorite, jazz. She began her dance career in Olney, MD, but moved to Omaha, NE, four years ago and hasn’t missed a beat.
Edge: What drew you to dance?
Van Deun: I watched a competition team practice when I was about five years old, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. At my previous studio in Maryland, I auditioned for the competition team my second year and made the team. I’ve been dancing in Omaha at The Dance Authority since 2018, and it’s my favorite place to be. So, it’s safe to say it feels like a second home. I love all my teammates and teachers. We are like family. The girls I dance with are some of the closest friends I’ve ever had.
Edge: Has anyone influenced your dance career?
Van Deun: My first teacher, Ms. Allison Bawek, and all the teachers I had at The Studio of Ballet Arts in Olney, saw something in me at age four. They encouraged me to try new things and have fun. However, my current mentor at The Dance Authority is my studio director and owner, Darci Bray. She has cultivated my love for all types of dances. She is always pushing me to be better at dance and to be a good person. She treats me with respect and often has to show me some tough love when I am not doing things right. She is always looking out for the best interests of the team and me.
Edge: What challenges have you encountered while performing?
Van Deun: It’s always difficult to be a dancer. Because it is such a physical sport, we constantly deal with injury, sore muscles, and juggling dance with other obligations like school and part-time jobs. Dance keeps me on my toes! I’ve gotten really good at time management.
Edge: Do you plan to continue dancing as you grow older?
Van Deun: My short-term goal is to make the Penn State Lionettes Dance team. Dancing in college is a big dream of mine because I love the sport so much. However, bodies age and priorities change, so I have a long-term goal of going into the medical field.
Edge: What are you most proud of regarding your dance experiences?
Van Deun: One of my favorite moments was last year at Nexstar Nationals in Round Rock, TX. My small group dance called Leave Your Hat On beat every other dance in the senior age category, and we won a national cup and first place. The feeling of achieving something so big with my best friends is a feeling that cannot be topped.
More stories like this one can be found at Our Youth.