Oklahoma dance teacher offering classes in Montevideo this month

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

When Anna Jans was in her junior year of high school, she decided to join the world of dance with the former Montevideo dance studio, Puttin’ on the Ritz. “From what I knew it was the only dance studio in town. Gold Dusters, Kick Line, and Cheerleading were available but it didn’t really spark anything in my soul to really want to be a part of that,” says Jans. “I think they are wonderful art forms, I just think that every person has a different desire and I was definitely more of an expressive, loose grounded dancer. I was looking for something that would give me that. Because Puttin’ on the Ritz offered Jazz, Tap, Modern, Contemporary, and Ballet, I was able to take a little bit of all of that, but Modern was definitely the one I loved the most.”

From there, Jans went on to take ballroom dancing lessons after High School, and then after a break from dancing altogether, went on to do her college undergrad in Dance Administration. “I kind of had an off and on relationship with dance,” she says. “I think a lot of people think that once you start you don’t stop and you just keep going your whole life, but dance is something that you can take a break from if you need to and it’s going to be there when you want to go back.” As a dance administration undergrad, Jans spent her four years of college dancing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, then taking business classes online in the evenings. “I was busy, but it was a lot of fun. I would never change those four years of being able to dance all day every day.”

Now, Jans lives in Oklahoma City where she teaches at the Oklahoma City Ballet, does substitute work for various schools throughout the city for dance teachers, and works at an arts center in administration. Despite that busy schedule, when she travels to Montevideo a couple of times a year to spend time with family, Jans also offers classes through the Montevideo Community Ed for kids who, like her, want a different kind of dance experience. The Community Ed classes begin July 15 and will be held for three days. There are three different classes for different age groups on offer. 

The first class is titled “Dance, Baby, Dance” and is designed for four-year-olds, beginning daily at 9 a.m. and lasting 45 minutes. The class is fairly new as Jans says she typically hosts the older age groups but decided recently to start working with the younger age groups. Jans describes the class, saying, “I always leave teaching that class. I am in awe of what those four-year-olds can come up with on their own. We do a lot of imagery and spatial awareness - understanding where you are in the room, what space you have, how not to run into your friends. So if you were a flower waving in the wind, what would you look like, and then what if that wind was really, really strong… what would happen? Or, what if that wind was really, really soft.. what would happen? You go through those opposites, and they learn a spectrum. You talk to them about picking up a feather, and it’s very light and easy, and you can jump with it. It gives them that opposite - heaviness is grounded and lightness is up, it has a lift to it. You give them that kind of imagery when they’re young so that if they keep going in dance later on in life, then when the instructor gives that kind of imagery they know what they’re talking about because they have that deeper understanding.”

For grades 6th through 8th, Jans is offering a Creative Movement Class that begins at 10 a.m. and lasts 45 minutes... “For children in those ages it is really an exploratory time,” says Jans. “They’re still really developing in their bodies, and they’re changing all the time. They’re growing so fast in that age range and also learning how their opinions matter in the world with their peers. Creative Movement is a lot of exploratory movement, and a little bit of play, but also a lot of me asking them questions to see what their response is and then taking it from there. I kind of let them lead the class without realizing that they’re doing it. I have a structure, but I really let the kids decide what it is they really want to dive into that day as a group and then we really tap into that.”

For high school students, the Modern Dance Class can be for beginners or for those who already take other forms of dance classes who would like to try a new style. The class begins at 11 a.m. and is one hour in duration. “It’s going to provide something different because from what I know there isn’t a lot of Modern dance being provided in Montevideo. It’s going to be a lot of how to utilize gravity and the floor to make your movement stronger and more defined and direct,” Jans says. “A lot of times you see on Instagram or YouTube these amazing dancers that jump up in the air and they land and they roll over, and they do all these really cool tricks, but to be able to do all these tricks you have to know where you can roll on your body that doesn’t hurt. We’re humans and we’ve got joints and bones and it hurts when you don’t roll over the right way and you damage your body, so it’s a lot of time just spent on figuring out your body and how to be comfortable with it when you’re using it to move across the floor.”

Jans also notes that high school students who may think it’s too late to start dancing don’t need to think that’s the case. “You can start whenever you want,” she says. “If there are adults out there who are thinking about starting dance for the first time, or if they used to dance and want to start again I’m more than happy to make an adult class. We will do this together and there will be no judgment there, and there will be only fun and laughter and acceptance of where everyone is at in their dance journey. You don’t have to start when you’re three. You don’t have to start when you’re 10. You don’t have to start in high school. You can start any time you want.”

Jans plans to continue the classes during visits home, with goals to do more of that kind of class in Montevideo. “Whenever I go home to visit family I like to teach classes. For anyone looking for anything different than what they’re already taking, I try to provide something with a little extra oomph to what is already going on. And I just really do love teaching, so even when I’m on vacation I like to do a little bit of teaching for a few days. I have big goals. I would love it if when I came home to visit my family I could have a week-long camp or something similar, but first I need to build up students who are excited about it and would want to come, so that’s what I’m doing right now. When I was a kid, I wanted it, so I wanted to offer it to any other kids like me out there.”

Interested participants can register through Community Ed for the classes up until the day of. There are limits to class sizes, and Jans recommends signing up early. “I would say definitely sign up as early as you can because if I know that there’s only going to be three kids in the class, I will design it a little bit differently than if I know there’s going to be all ten kids in the class,” she says. Anyone interested in adult classes or who would like any additional information can contact Anna by email at annabjans@gmail.com.