Thursday, February 24, 2011

She’s the ringleader of her own circus


Kathy Halfacre lives in a Walla Walla firehouse converted into a dance studio.
Video: Kathy and troupe dance to a Lady Gaga song.
A skateboard ramp sits at each end, a drum kit waits in the back, and a black cat named Girlfriend lounges wherever she likes.
     “It’s like a circus,” Kathy said from the living quarters of Substance Dance Center. “Middle-school kids with skateboards, kids coming in for dance class, their moms – with all their problems – and then the band comes in to rehearse. It’s crazy. But it’s never boring.”
     “Never boring” sums up Kathy’s life so far. Besides teaching dance, she’s been a waitress at Denny’s, owned the Waitsburg (Wash.) Inn and an espresso bar, done office work, written 30 songs and sung in a rock band, and was a code enforcement officer for Benton City, where she tried to recall the mayor after he allegedly shoved her during a parade. (The recall failed but Bryan Robinson got only 40 votes in the next election.)
     “My life’s been a patchwork,” Kathy said. “I don’t think there’s anything I haven’t done.” That includes things she shouldn’t have done, like falling into drugs and alcohol as a teenager in Sarasota, Fla. More...     “I like to say that I went to a party when I was 13 and didn’t leave until I was 26,” she said. “I was a wreck.” Now, after 27 years of clean living, she sees the positive aspects of having an addictive personality.
     “We are driven,” she said. “Once we make a decision to do something, it’s ‘Katie, bar the door.’ Nothing will stop us. When I got clean and sober, all that energy channeled in a positive direction. That’s why I’ve been able to do so many things.”
    Kathy discovered dance at Walla Walla Community College in the early 1980s. Friends asked her to participate in a modern dance event: “We were running down the aisles throwing popcorn.” The teacher invited her to join the dance program. After earning her associate’s degree in liberal arts, she got a job at Whitman College teaching modern jazz dance.
     “I decided dance was what I was going do,” she said. “Dance keeps me emotionally balanced. All my emotions come out in the movement.”
     Kathy once taught creative dance to an autistic 5-year-old, who didn’t speak. “Three months into the class, I got a call from her teacher,” she said. “They couldn’t shut her up. Dance did something for this kid.”
     That inspired her next goal: to offer dance therapy for autistic children. She plans to earn a master’s degree in psychology – “I’m considering WSU Tri-Cities” – after she graduates from WSU Online in December with her bachelor’s degree in social sciences.
     “Online was the obvious choice. I needed to study on my own schedule,” she said. “I recommend WSU Online to other people, especially moms who really care and don’t want to be away from their kids.”
     Kathy not only stayed home with her son, Ravyn, she let him look over her shoulder during her online studies.
     “Any coursework that came on DVD, we watched together. He watched the entire DVD on the Missoula floods. It was fascinating to him. We had great discussions.”
     Ravyn’s college-level knowledge sometimes surprises his middle-school teachers, she said.
     “They ask me, ‘where does he learn this stuff?’ From WSU, I tell them.”

By Richard H. Miller/WSU Online

1 comment:

  1. I remember the first time I met Kathy at an open house seminar in Walla Walla. It was her first semester. I was impressed by her dedication, intellect, and energy. I knew we were kindred spirits. It is an amazing opportunity to meet my students, and often after graduation they go on to become my friends; neither their degree or our friendship would have been possible without WSU Online.
    Jaqueline Almdale