Empowerment through movement: Dance academy builds confidence, allows expression

“Dance empowered me in overcoming many of my own issues with self esteem and body image, and I wanted to share that with my home community,” explains Casey Crow, founder of Pagosa Springs Dance Academy (PSDA).

Crow grew up as a competitive gymnast and, after getting injured, turned to dance to fill the void.

“I set foot in my first dance class when I was 16 years old, which is incredibly late for a dancer,” explains Crow, adding, “I fell in love with it immediately!”

And, it turns out, she put herself on a trajectory to change the lives of hundreds each year.

Crow began her dance career with ballet classes with a local instructor, Stephanie Jones, and, during her junior and senior years at Pagosa Springs High School, would travel to Durango to study other styles of dance.

A year after Crow began dancing, she began teaching. Jones trained Crow to teach her pre-ballet classes, which was only the beginning.

“At the time, no one in Pagosa taught the dance styles I was most drawn to, like jazz and contemporary, so I essentially got my friends together and taught them what I learned. Over the years, I taught in between breaks in college, gaining more and more students,” she explains. 

She founded PSDA in 2016 and now serves about 150 to 200 students per year between PSDA’s school-year program, summer classes, camps and workshops. This spring, PSDA was running 32 classes a week and an audition-only show group.

But, for Crow, dance isn’t about perfection or entertainment.

It, like many aspects of her life, runs much deeper: Crow also has a bachelor’s in political science and global studies; a master’s in international development and humanitarian emergencies; operates a nonprofit that has served in multiple countries to promote healing, transformation and reconciliation through recreational and therapeutic arts; and this fall will begin a Ph.D. in global health.

“At PSDA we are less concerned with producing perfect dancers and much more invested in using dance as a vehicle for confidence, body positivity and creative expression,” she explains. “Seeing this goal realized is always the most fulfilling part. I love watching kids come alive in the studio, particularly those who tend to be scared and reserved in the beginning, and find their voice through movement. Dance allows us to express ourselves, it encourages vulnerability, and it teaches us the value of discipline, patience and hard work. For many kids who haven’t found belonging in athletics or other activities, dance provides a sense of family as well.”

PSDA offers several summer dance intensives that are open to visitors and locals alike.

In the course of a week, the intensives introduce students to all styles of dance, including ballet, jazz, lyrical, acrobatics and more. The week culminates in a big performance for friends and family.

To see what’s available during your vacation, and for more information, visit pagosadanceacademy.com.