Dani Altiere is one of my first and favorite dance teachers, ever.
She was one of the first people to show me how to do a clean shuffle or chaîné turn.
She taught me tap, and ballet, and theatre, at two different studios over the course of 5 years. She helped me buy my first ever pair of pointe shoes. She taught me how to do the moonwalk. She taught me how to assist and teach the younger kids. She created a safe environment for me to grow, and just be me. She was, and still is, a chill and nurturing soul in a den of competitions and dance moms.
Dani, refreshingly, was never afraid to just be herself. She was progressive in ways that quietly jived with me and not always the rest of the world, which never flustered her. She helped me feel better about having both boyish and girlish qualities. She taught me what the psoas muscle was and how to strengthen it (for you non-dancer, non-athletes, non-physical therapy peeps, the psoas basically connects your whole torso with your lower half and dependably supports the spine and posture in every activity on your feet, and even some sitting down, and taking good care of it will change your life in unexpected ways). She cared about animals, and physical wellness, and mental health. Dani grew up in Chicago and resided in New York before landing in my small Canadian town, and she explained some important historical injustices imbued in the Michael Jackson songs I always chose for solos. She gently explained cultural appropriation to me when hip hop classes started trending at dance studios in small town, white communities. She always treated every kid with respect, genuine acceptance, and amusement.
As I've grown into a fully formed woman with my own teachings and travel stories, Miss Dani has kept up an extensive teaching practice and has probably influenced a thousand other young lives for the better, through her company: Dani Altiere Inc. She messaged me out of the blue two days ago, to share her latest Earth Day creation (an upbeat dance combo for kids) and a photo of her and her partner of nearly two decades, Brett Miles, at last year's Edmonton Music Awards, where Brett won for Best Latin Single. They are two of the most beautiful and inspiring people I've met to this day. How utterly fitting to receive a message from her in a phase of more unfettered self exploration and humbled gratitude.
I always felt a kind of magic around her. I still revere her as a kind of dance and life guru, a beacon of grounded optimism, worldly knowledge, and deep acceptance. It takes a village to raise a self-aware, kind woman in an unfair world, and Dani is one of the warmest and wisest people from my village.
The year after I graduated high school, I met her for tea at her house in South Edmonton. I pointed out a painting in her kitchen of a woman that she herself painted. I thought it was a self-portrait but she revealed it was actually made in dedication to me. "That's you", she said casually. She asked what I saw myself doing in the next ten years. I said I was going to go to school for science and try to be a dancer.
"I always pictured you becoming a writer," she said with a carefree twinkle.
**For studio owners, dance educators, and anyone looking to bring dance into kids' lives through school or other programs, read about Dani's extensive background credentials and past work, and contact her here.