Debbie Jacobs-Huffaker teaches teens and adults Intermediate Ballet Class in Kansas City Ballet School’s Studio program on Mondays in March from 7 to 8:30 p.m. In fact, she is the first studio program teacher from KCBS to lead in-person students simultaneously with virtual students in her class since the pandemic protocols started last year. While her in-person workshop capacity is limited due to mandatory distancing, the success of the class has given many something to celebrate. Learn more about Debbie in our Q & A below.
Q: TELL US ABOUT YOUR DANCE BACKGROUND.
A: I became interested in theater and musical theater in high school. My drama teacher encouraged me to take classes at a local dance studio. I started with jazz then ballet. This was my introduction to formal dance training. From there, I attended Wichita State University. Their dance program offered an emphasis in ballet and modern dance training along with jazz and tap studies. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance. I went on to dance with small modern companies and in musical theater productions. I also worked as a freelance dancer and choreographer.
I love the focus, discipline and hard work dance requires. When you dance, the rest of the world disappears. The problems of daily life are no longer on your mind. I love the beauty and power of dance. Dance can change lives, cultivate relationships, and provide comfort during difficult times (including a Pandemic).
Q: WHAT DREW YOU TO TEACHING?
A: Teaching found me! My teacher/mentor owned a studio and asked me to teach for her. Before that, I had not considered teaching as a career. I quickly discovered I had a passion for teaching and working with dancers of all ages and abilities. That was 30 years ago. I have been teaching ever since!
Q: WHAT IS YOUR HISTORY WITH THE JOHNSON COUNTY CAMPUS (FORMERLY SOMERSET BALLET)?
A: I began teaching at Somerset Ballet after moving to Kansas City. Somerset was a special place and I was fortunate to have found it. I taught there for 10 years before it became the KCBS Johnson County Campus. Several of my current Studio Class dancers have been with me since my Somerset days. When I started teaching for KCBS, I returned to the JoCo Campus. Talk about full circle!
Q: WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO CONVEY TO YOUR STUDENTS?
A: That I care about them, not only as dancers but as people. To understand dedication, determination and persistence pays off. I hope they leave with a sense of accomplishment and a renewed passion for dance. To trust the process and realize hard work is worth the effort.
Q: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO TEACH IN PERSON AGAIN?
A: To teach in person means the world to me!! After several months of teaching virtually, I was grateful to return to the Johnson County Campus. When I walked in the door, my spirits were immediately lifted. I was elated to be in the same space with my students. I was home.
Q: WHAT HAS TOUCHED YOU ABOUT TEACHING VIRTUALLY?
A: Teaching virtually has allowed me to stay connected with students and provide some sense of normalcy and community during a difficult time. It has allowed me the opportunity to teach dancers from all over the country. I even had a student join from Columbia, South America! It is a joy to see my dancers each week. Not to mention, our tradition of bringing pets to the camera at the end of class makes everyone smile!
Over the past several months, I received many emails and kind words from my remote students. I am grateful for them all. Here is one:
What a gift you are! You are giving us all so much during this extraordinary time Ballet has helped me dance through a lot in life and now this too. There are myriad online offerings. But yours is truly special with the connection, dialogue and bonding over fierce combinations & corrections! That’s even harder, to engage in a normal way. You are amazing and I’m sure I speak for us all when I say you are a brightest spot in all of this.
Debbie Jacobs-Huffaker’s headshot photograph by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.