Dancing Goodbye: Teacher and Choreographer Answers a Senior’s Questions

As I reflect on my time at Ursuline, I am appreciative to so many peers and teachers who have helped me become who I am today. One person who rises chiefly in my memory is Stephanie Butler.

During freshman year, one of my close friends took her morning dance class and urged me to sign up because she knew I would love the teacher. I have always respected and appreciated my dance teachers but forming a friendship with one seemed out of the question – I was accustomed to fearing my dance teachers. But when I joined the Performing Arts department the spring of my sophomore year, Ms. Butler welcomed me with open arms.

We regularly laugh together about how quiet I was during my first rehearsal with her, a trait I typically do not display. Just a few years ago, I had no idea that the woman I was afraid to speak to would become one of the most impactful people in my life.

Ms. Butler’s faculty photo
Courtesy of Ursuline Dallas

Ms. Butler has the strongest spirit: her infectious energy brings an explosion of light to any room. She has taught me just as much – and maybe even more – about life as she has dance. She leads by example, inspiring everyone she meets. It has been a blessing to be one of her students, and I know she will continue to lead with wisdom and grace. She has let me pick her mind and pester her with questions ever since I have known her, so here is a little taste of that.

What are your duties at Ursuline?

Zero-hour dance and advanced dance teacher, spring musical choreographer and volunteer whenever and wherever I can as a part-time teacher

What is one of your favorite memories from Ursuline?

Wow! I have so many…from all the wonderful moments with my students every morning at 7 a.m. with the lights off in the multi-purpose room – it is too early for florescent lights. I do remember playing in the faculty volleyball tournament during Catholic Schools Week…I was on the freshman team – she may not remember this, but I do – I was at the net against Mrs. Kane and we both went for the ball…I somehow managed to tip the ball past her. I was in shock and a little scared. But she smiled at me, I took a deep breath, and we continued the game.  Then our team won, and all the freshman flooded the entire gym floor as we cheered and celebrated.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I love to ride horses and dirt bikes. I am left-handed. And I was once on an episode of extreme home makeover (don’t look it up).

What led you to Ursuline?

I am at Ursuline thanks to my mentor and now best friend, Terri Ferguson. We [had] worked together already with a children’s theatre program called “Imagination Players,” with her as the director and me as the choreographer. So when the dance teacher position became available, I was the first person she contacted and I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t think I would still be here 6 years later, and I couldn’t be at a better place.

How many people are taking your morning dance classes this year?

27 [students] – 17 in dance and 10 in advanced.

Why should people take your morning dance classes?

We have a good time and I feel [that] they learn a lot. I try to make my class a safe space to feel free to try new things and not be judged.

What has been one of your favorite performances to be in?

I have two that come to mind the fastest. One is an original show [developed by] the theatre company I used to help run called “Her Song.” It was about an African American woman’s place in the music industry in 1935. We did it for six years in a row. I was obviously the choreographer and featured female dancer. But by the sixth year, I was also the producer. I have so many wonderful memories of choreographing and dancing with some of my closest, most talented friends to some of my favorite songs from the ‘30s and before.

A still from “Sister Act” presented by Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas in 2017. Courtesy of Broadwayworld

The other memory I have was when I got a call to be in “Sister Act.” I was one of the nuns. I had a blast!!! And the best part was when Sr. Lois came to see me in the show and the entire cast couldn’t wait to meet her because she is a real nun! You can only guess which audience member was most popular that night.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

“Love yourself” and “Have you given yourself a pat on the back today…?”

Could you speak a little on your new tap class?

The tap class is going to be very classically driven but we will also touch on rhythmic tap. I can teach from basic to advanced and its usually pretty mixed. There will be many warm-ups, variations, and fun combos. I know there will be girls who have their own tap shoes already or would like to get their own. But if not, tap shoes will be provided for them. This class will be like zero hour dance…fun and not stressful. My goal isn’t to produce a bunch of tap dancers. My goal is to show the girls how to appreciate dance and movement just a little by it more. And if I develop a class of tap dancers, then my ultimate goal will be achieved.

What about the theater intensive this summer?

Summer hip-hop is in June and unfortunately, the class will be done virtually, but we are going to make the best of it! We will start out with learning to count using TikTok dances, because I know almost every girl at UA knows at least two. Then we will continue on with basic moves and body awareness. After that, we will move on to other hip-hop choreographers and their styles…aka Galen Hooks and Brian Freedman (for that touch on basic voguing). I just hope I can do the class justice. This will be a bit challenging, but I’ve been teaching tap, Broadway dance, and ballet via zoom so it shouldn’t be too hard.

In July, (hopefully), Ms. Ferguson, Mr. Schweikhard and I will be doing two musical theatre intensives. One for younger kiddos and one for high school students. It will be treated a lot like our musical theatre class…Mr. Schweikhard will teach a few songs (solos and group), I will be teaching choreography for the group numbers – I try to stick to original Broadway choreography, while Ms. Ferguson will coach everyone through it all. The three of us make an amazing team. Plus, this is an amazing class to take if you want to prep for any auditions for musicals.

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