This week we have some time with Nichelle Strzepek, Owner/Editor of Dance Advantage, a wonderful dance resource on the web…enjoy!
Intro: I am Nichelle Strzepek. No one ever has a clue how to pronounce that Polish last name! I say it as if the ‘z’ were silent – Streh-peck. I won’t attempt the Polish pronunciation.
I am the writer/editor at Dance Advantage and a full-time mom to a busy and beautiful 2-year-old boy. Before that, I worked as a dancer and dance teacher. I’ve taught consistently since I was a teenager so I have about 17 years of teaching experience in studios, community programs, at a university. Plus, some years of assisting before that. My degree is in dance and I’ve dabbled in professional performance with modern dance companies here in Houston and “back home” in Pennsylvania.
1. What made you create this dance blog?
Dance Advantage really grew out of the experiences I had as a teacher, feeling as though there was just never enough time to say or express all I wanted my students to learn in the limited time I had with them each week. Also, in the early part of the last decade (getting used to thinking of the 2000’s that way), I was a young teacher, using the internet to get ideas and look for resources, and was coming up with little. I actually began thinking about a site then, had the name and everything! I was just too busy teaching to do much with it. When I had my son in 2007, I began using a blog to update family and learn from and connect with other parents, I saw an opportunity. I had decided to stay-at-home with my son so, while I won’t say I had the time, I was at home, near a computer, and could devote some energy.
2. What are the top three pieces of advice you have for other dance bloggers?
Do some research. Work and plan ahead of yourself. Be yourself. When I started, I did do a bit of research (enough to know that WordPress was a preferred platform for publishing and that self-hosting sounded scary)! It was good that I had done a lot of thinking about the material I wanted to share, it helped shape the focus of the blog. What I didn’t do is write and plan before getting started. I just jumped in with both feet and, looking back, I wish I had gotten a head start before ever publishing a word. As for being yourself, the blogosphere is a busy and talkative place. Share who you are and what you are passionate about because that’s what will make your blog special.
3. What is your organizational routine when it comes to blogging (for example, do you research one day and write the next….do you post every day…etc.)?
Ha ha! Organizing has been the toughest part of all this for me. I’ve been learning to be a mother and a blogger at the same time. Plus early on, my writing got noticed and I was encouraged to cover dance happening in Houston as a critic, and I still wanted to dance! Last year I was mad enough to do all those things on top of everything else.
I’ve always been so structured in my teaching – planning classes, designing curriculum for the year. Sometimes my perfectionism gets in the way of true organization but I’ve always been very methodical. Organization is a different game when you have a child. I’m not sure I’ve settled into a blogging routine as much as I have worked around my routine with the kiddo. I generally research a post over time. Some require more research than others so I intersperse these with the ones that are easier to write from the top of my head. I generally post 3-4 articles a week, though, I’ve had to be satisfied with some flexibility and forgiveness of myself when I just can’t get it done.
4. What would you say are your blog’s strengths?
The blog is really an extension of myself and my interests. I’ve never been good at talking about my own strengths (that was always the interview question I hated!) so this is a hard question for me. I feel Dance Advantage succeeds in providing a high-quality reference that continues to grow in scope. I pour much of what I learned in college and plenty of research into the blog. I also feel that while it has a wide audience (students, teachers, and parents) that it is very focused on the community that surrounds dance education.
5. Do you have anything new coming up on the horizon?
Newest this year has been adding a professionally rendered logo and re-working the site to match. I’m also working to step up the newsletter content that I provide to people who invite Dance Advantage into their inbox. In addition, readers will be hearing from some “columnists.” These are folks that I’ve come to really respect as I’ve navigated the online dance world and I am so happy to add their voices to the blog on a regular basis.
6. If you had to describe your blog in just five words, what would they be?
Thorough. Fieldguide. Constructive. Convenient. Wholehearted.
7. Can you recommend another dance blog?
There are so many different kinds of dance blogs! There is a new crop of blogs focused on dance training. I am excited about 4dancers as well as move.create.educate but, an instructional blog of which I’ve been a fan for some time is Deborah Vogel’s The Body Series blog, which was formerly the Dancing Smart newsletter. For performance recaps, reviews, and even updates on SYTYCD, I enjoy Tonya Plank’s Swan Lake Samba Girl.
8. Who are your all-time favorite dancers?
Coming from contemporary dance, I don’t know that I hold that same kind of reverence for individual dancers as one who comes from the ballet world might. I enjoy strong ensemble dancing that makes me think and feel. With that said, my all-time favorites reveal my love of theatrical dancing and musicals – I find I always stop what I’m doing when Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, and Ann Miller (both ladies Texas natives, I might add), come on the screen.
9. What is your favorite piece of music?
The music I listen to is often different from the music I dance to. Classically, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata Adagio never fails to take my breath away. It’s wonderfully melancholy and dramatic, gorgeous and tender. A more modern all-time favorite is Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve. Surprisingly, not a U2 song though it shares that big, expansive sound I love (if you get to know me you’ll know I’m a shameless U2 fan).
10. Tell us something about yourself that may come as a surprise…
People might be surprised that I never aspired to be a writer. I had many friends growing up that wanted to be journalists or novelists. I enjoyed writing in school and tried pouring out my heart in poetry as a teenager. I had a college professor in dance who emphasized repeatedly that my written work was strong and suited for graduate work. But I planned to dance and teach. I never really saw myself pursuing any kind of writing career until I started writing Dance Advantage.