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Girl Talk


Sheena Baskerville

It's a cold day in the Chi however there is work to be done & goals to accomplish. For Sheena Baskerville there has been one in the making for 20+ yrs. In just a few days her dance program will hosts its 2nd Annual Holiday Showcase at Stage 773,a staple in Chicago's Belmont Theater District. It's this event that has Sheena & her team in rehearsals day & night aiming to deliver excellence. Baskerville is the founder & lead choreographer of Dynamic Force Dance. A dance program committed to youth in the city of Chicago ages 2-18. One look at her track record & one can easily predict that the event will certainly be another win for the dream chaser. At the age of 4 she had her first encounter with the dance floor. By 11 she was booking gigs at Steppenwolf Theater & met with an opportunity to tour in a traveling production. The dance phenom has been in motion ever since with no intention of slowing down.

It's mid evening and as promised Sheena makes the call I've been awaiting. Her day has been spent with light operators & going over the elements of the upcoming production. Time has not been one of leisure, each minute of her day has been calculated & this call is no different. Without hesitation we greet each other in excitement & although we are "girls" this was personal! It's been only a few months since she & her former business partner amicably split. The decision presented its challenges however Sheena now welcomes them with open arms.  My respect for both her wisdom & integrity increased as she began to reflect on why it had to happen.

Sheena: "I'm not good with change, it comes so unexpected that we forget to see the beauty in it sometimes. This year was filled with changes & it became very trying  for me. When I began to realize that the balance between my partner & I was off it scared me. The balance of passion & commitment simply wasn't there. When it comes to passion, any dream we have, goal we seek without passion they will fail. Everything we worked so hard for would have failed. It wasn't easy at all because without my team I am nothing! I would be lost. I can't stress enough how important it is to have the right circle around you. As an entrepreneur I have learned that the people around me will either make or break the vision I carry. What I mean by this, is that if you are working with people who don't carry your vision & love what you love, it won't work. You can't bring someone in who does not think the way you do when it comes to bettering what you've built. When I wake up in the morning I thrive off of dance. I feel it all over, the love I have for my students does not leave me. I expect the same from my team, we are each others keeper!"

Hey Girl Daily: It is this very mentality that helped propel her to where she is now. As the CEO of her organization she also stresses the importance of having her own priorities in check.

Sheena:"When I wake up in the morning I have one option & that is to get up & work! There are no days off, everyday brings the potential for something to grow. Entrepreneurs should be constantly building. There are some days where I have to adjust & shake the bad ones off. It only takes one second to give up & I refuse to do so. Yes I am the boss however as a boss I don't have someone setting my schedule or telling me I did a poor job. I have to hold myself accountable along with my team.  If I wake up & decide to stay in bed not only does that affect me it impacts them. There are people whose livelihood depend on my work ethic. If I don't work they don't get a paycheck & that is unacceptable.  Fear is unacceptable & hard work never is! At the end of every lesson my hard work will always be acceptable!"


HGD: It's in this moment that Sheena also reflects on what led her to launch Dynamic Force. Her career began to evolve once she realized that the opportunities she was waiting for could be created. Having spent most of her life practicing & auditioning the epiphany of starting her program took place during a rehearsal. As our conversation became more candid she shared a glimpse into the life of a dancer behind the scenes.

SB: "I think inadequacy is the worst thing a dancer can feel. I remember waiting for  call backs & having a pit in my stomach. I hated auditions! Having to compete against so many people & hoping to get to get booked was so much pressure! I remember auditioning for a Janet Jackson tour, there were so many dancers from everywhere fighting for just one spot. When  we step in front of those judges we are at their mercy. I remember what it was like & I just hated it. I eventually grew out of waiting for them to accept me & decided to just go for it. I became apart of a dance crew & discovered I had a passion for choreography. During rehearsals I'd find myself stepping out & leading. It became 2nd nature for me to deliver steps to my team & work with them on their movement. It was then that I knew this is what I was supposed to be doing."


HGD: Wow & from there Dynamic Force was born?

SB: "Yes, It started with me wanting to expose youth to the arts. Jazz, Ballet & Hip Hop was the beginning of that exposure.  No matter the race, age or economic background I wanted to present them with an opportunity to dance. We opened our doors in 2014 & the journey has been phenomenal. I have to say that it also challenged me to become a better person. One day in rehearsals it hit me, this isn't just a class. I am responsible for their souls! It became so much more than dance from there. The studio began to transform into a safe haven. When my girls & I are in rehearsal there is a sudden silence that hits the room. The music plays but there is a silence that captures each of us. Whatever happened during the day, good or bad it is released & our sanctuary is in the midst. Our stories begin to unfold & the rhythm is felt within. As we glide across that floor our being is made whole. When I began to see it from this perspective I found myself  being the 2nd mother, aunt, sister, friend, even comforter. They are the reason I smile, I am happy because of them. I have become a better person because of them. It is my responsibility to protect them when they are near."
















HGD: That is so amazing, as a mentor myself I know exactly what you mean. These lives that enter ours are so precious. I also find it to be absolutely rewarding. What would you say is your greatest accomplishment with Dynamic?

SB: "The ability to retain my students. When my kids come back to me it makes me feel like I am the most special person in the world. The changes I have seen within them have also played a major part in why I am so committed to them. This generation is up against so many things. There are challenges they have to face at home & in school. If I can be a light to just the few that allow me to it makes all the difference in the world. The same kids who once walked  in with their heads down walk out with their chins up! That means something, that means everything!"

HGD: Beautiful, I want to backtrack for a second. Something that you said stood out to me regarding the dancers & their stories intertwining when they move.


SB: "Yes, that is exactly what dance is to me. It is an act of storytelling. There is a story within all of us that comes to life when we step onto the floor. The creativity begins to flow along with all of the emotions that reside in us. Every time we move we transform. Our bodies become forms of expression, how we feel & what we think flows from us. We are storytelling with our dance & our dance is telling our story."

HGD: I find that so interesting & quite intrinsic. The ability to become a physical embodiment of what your mind, body & soul is capable of just blows my mind. How much of a role does music play in this. I'd like to think that dance & music is an unsolicited marriage of some sort.


SB: "Very much so. Especially with the group I have. There are so many trends taking off in hip hop culture. Dance & music go hand in hand. The nature of hip hop alone creates so many opportunities for us. My students expect me to come with the best &  that means meeting them halfway. I am a faithful YouTuber. Much of what I learn is on there as it pertains to the current atmosphere of dance trends. I also have to stay in tune with what my girls are  listening to which means the Top 40 & I am fine with that. I want them to have a great time learning & if that means challenging myself to explore outside of my comfort zone that's fine as well. Our choreography is built upon the traditional forms of dance however hip hop is at the fore front & we have a ball with it."

HGD: Sounds like so much fun, with that being said how do you stay on top of your craft?


SB: "I remain a student! I just signed up for a new dance class. As a choreographer I have to put in work just like my students. There is always room to grow & lessons to learn. Even when it comes to stretching &  breathing techniques there is room to advance. Some people hear dance & think its just movement & routine. It is so much that goes into it, from the moment we set our feet to the floor. There is a method to the madness of every art form before we can even begin."

HGD: What is a misconception you feel people have about dance?


SB: "That it's all the same.  I am a trained dancer & became a professional one at 7 years old. I learned the traditional forms  of Jazz, Ballet, Modern as well as Tap. In college I studied the elements of African & Hip Hop. Because I started at a very early age I consider myself to be well rounded. As a student I am also aware of the difference between talent & training. Don't get me wrong, I have the upmost respect for all dancers however talent  alone can be both a blessing & a curse. The growth & development within it can either advance or set us back.  If I had talent in only one form of dance my opportunities would be limited.  In order to have options I have to be flexible & well versed in more than one form. It isn't easy but its necessary & I believe anyone that's invested in their craft should do it justice & study it. Education is key!"


HGD: As our conversation came to an end I felt compelled to ask how much better could Dynamic Force Dance get. Without hesitation Sheena met me with some pretty amazing deets.


SB: "Well besides our awesome showcase we will be introducing Caribbean techniques in our 2017 program. I am beyond excited, my team is as well. The teachers we have now are phenomenal & each bring their professional expertise to the classroom.  Right now we have Jazz, Hip Hop & Lyrical Ballet, the Caribbean aspect is going to help push us further in another goal which is mixing all 4 together. We are also working on a permanent location.  I am currently partnered with two studios which allots me space 6 days out of the week.  I want to have a space all my own so that 6 can become 7 but more importantly so that my girls can have a place to call home."

To learn more about Sheena Baskerville & Dynamic Force Dance click the link below for more information.

Dynamic Force Dance
Pratice makes perfect
"cause we slay"
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