By: Linda White-Francis
Recently I had the privilege of sitting down and talking with Christy Chesnut, owner, and director of Dance First, a dance studio of which she has been owner and director for five years. She, as well divides her time between her work as a dance instructor extraordinaire, and that of an HCCA Community Facilitator, and Children’s Week Local Coordinator. “I am also a part of Hernando Fit Kids, a new health initiative featuring virtual activities and nutrition tips to teach and encourage healthy habits when school is not in session,” the soft-spoken, energetic lady added.
“Dancing is in my blood,” she continued. Chesnut has been dancing since she was three years old. “My grandmother was a dance teacher, so I come by it naturally,” she admits. Chesnut is also the mother of three children: daughters, Delaney, 24, Molly, 16, and son Brendan, 14. Molly helps in her mother’s studio by teaching dance classes and is involved in the theatre programs.
“The art community has grown in our area by leaps and bounds; and I am working diligently, doing my part, and all I can to promote and initiate the growing interest in the spirit of dance,” Chesnut said. “It is a big part of my life! And, I eat, drink and breathe all the wonderful attributes of my work, which doesn’t seem like work at all because I love it so much!”
Chesnut was born in Gainesville, Florida. She graduated from Santa Fe College, Gainesville, with a minor in dance. One of her favorite and most inspiring college teachers was Alorah Haynes, who is Department Chair of Fine Arts at Santa Fe College. Happily, Chesnut eventually moved to Hernando County where she makes her home. Contact her at 352-222-3742, or 800 John Gray Grubbs Blvd., Brooksville, Fla.
Here is the interview I conducted on January 1, 2021. It was a delightful way to start the New Year.
1. What kinds of dance do you teach?
Currently I teach ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, improvisation, and creative movement. I also teach theatre. My students range in age from 3-adult.
2. What inspired your love of dance?
Dance is in my blood. My maternal grandmother was a dance teacher. But beyond that, when I was very young but unable to walk due to a surgery. I had a television next to my bed and would watch PBS for hours. I would see all kinds of performers and I knew I needed to create some kind of art like that someday. Once I started my training I was fortunate enough to study under many fantastic teachers locally, in other states, and to study under especially encouraging professors at Santa Fe College, where I minored in dance.
3. How many students do you teach?
I teach about 60 students between Spirit in Motion in Spring Hill, Chocachatti Elementary School, and my own little studio in Brooksville, Dance First.
4. How many hours a week do you devote to dance?I spend about 25 hours a week teaching. Then, of course, countless hours on technical theatre, perusing scripts, selecting and editing music, bookkeeping, selecting costumes...
5. Tell me about your community service work and activities--shows you're involved in...
Right now at Chocachatti, my Broadway Babies micro is working on a classroom production of a short play, The Best Balloon, which they’ll perform for their class at the end of the semester. When classes resume next week at Dance First and Spirit in Motion, we will begin pieces for our spring dance showcases. My Dance First theatre students begin our Annual Shakespeare Experience, which they’ll perform in March. When that wraps up, in May they will close out the performance season with our annual Playwright and Director showcase.
My dance families at Dance First share my passion for giving back to our community so we perform as often as we can. We have felt the sting of COVID 19 in a special way because it has so limited a usually full performance schedule that bring us so much joy. Participating again this year in the Kiwanis Christmas parade really boosted our spirits!
Past events we have so enjoyed and look forward to returning to include performances throughout the year at Brooksville Healthcare, Parent Academy’s Steam Night, Papa Joe’s Annual Fundraiser, Children’s Week, Main Street’s 25 Days of Christmas, City Hall arts shows, Brookridge Tree Lighting, and many others around the county.
6. Do you have a website?