by Terry Rogers
Michele Xiques-Arnold, owner and director of First State Dance Academy, was recently awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts. Xiques-Arnold was recognized with an Established Professional Award in the area of dance and choreography, earning a $6,000 stipend.
“Being named among the best in Established Professionals only confirms what we, her family, friends and current students, already knew about her talent, creativity and dedication to dance art through her original choreography,” her brother, David Xiques, who is a Professor of Music at San Francisco State University, said. “First State Dance Academy is the place for high quality dance instruction and education. She makes incredible things happen. Milford and all of Delmarva should be proud.”
Xiques-Arnold was born on Dover Air Force Base, but her family moved to South Carolina where she began her dance training. When her father, who was in the Air Force, transferred back to Delaware, she began dance training with Tatiana Akinfieva-Smith at the Marion Tracy Dance Studio in Dover.
“My mother put me in dance and gymnastics and swimming as a young girl,” Xiques-Arnold said. “But I had to make a choice around the age of ten what I really wanted to do. Dance gives me a purpose on this Earth. I’ve dabbled in other careers, such as emergency response, nursing, communications, secretarial, restaurants, etc., but dance has come full circle back in my life. Thanks to Maria Fry Bagley, allowing me the opportunity to continue Milford’s dance school opportunities. She owned a dance studio called A Dance Class before I became the new owner and changed the name to First State Dance Academy.”
In addition to owning the dance studio, Xiques-Arnold has an established resume of dance performances and choreography. She performed in Annie and My Fair Lady as a dancer and singer as well as dancing in the opera Hansel and Gretel with the Civic Light Opera in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the Lakeview Theatre in Morgantown, West Virginia, Xiques-Arnold danced and sang in 42nd Street, Fiddler on the Roof and Funny Girl. She also performed as a professional ballerina in Hansel and Gretel for the Empire State Ballet in Buffalo, New Jersey.
“With the Atlanta Ballet in Georgia and the Delaware Ballet, I was a professional ballerina in performances of Romeo and Juliet and the Nutcracker,” Xiques-Arnold said. “With the Delaware Ballet and Diamond Dance Company, I was a performer, dance instructor, ballet mistress and choreographer. I was trained at Point Park University , the Joffrey Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts and the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education. I have been the owner and instructor at First State Dance Academy for 19 years.”
Xiques-Arnold explained that the recognition by the Delaware Division of the Arts will help parents and guardians choose the right place to send their child for dance lessons. According to Xiques-Arnold, anyone can be a dancer but it takes special skills and aptitude to be an effective dance instructor. She believes it takes a lot of strength to mold awkward beginners into skilled professionals.
“There are no regulations on who can open a dance studio,” Xiques-Arnold said. “Hopefully, people will review the instructor’s dance resume and biography as well as acknowledge the accolades, experience and other factors that demonstrate the school’s knowledge while also listening to successful stories fom others who have attended. My staff and I have the capabilities to allow an inspiring dancer the chance of achieving their personal goals. We take pride in putting our student’s well being first with our recognitions and professional knowledge of dance. For example, there is research that indicates a child under the age of ten should not be placed en pointe. We are also aware of when the best time to move a child up levels is, even when it may impact our business. This award helps me with the confidence and inspiration I need to continue to produce new works to share with the dancers and the public.”
The monetary award will go toward the current First State Dance Academy production based on the first Harry Potter movie which ill be presented by the dance academy’s performing branch, DanceCompany-X at Cape Henlopen High School on April 25 at 6 PM.
“Dance helps children with their self-confidence, social and mental skills, teamwork, coordination and a feeling of accomplishment,” Xiques-Arnold-Arnold explained. “Dance can benefit the overall mental and physical health of a student. It teaches students to take on a challenge, work through it with determination and patience while also letting them experience failures that help teach life lessons. It also helps them achieve their personal dreams and goals while being vulnerable as well as mold them into a dancer in a safe environment. The award validates the fact that Milford has a top notch dance studio that has been recognized by the state twice now with a director, dance, teacher, choreographer that knows what she is doing and is able to provide such a place to offer dance hopefuls the proper training and performance experiences.”
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