In this edition of “Behind the Scenes” we meet Joy Voelker, an American expat and owner of Joy of Dance.
Tell us about yourself. (Background, education, experience…)
My name is Joy Voelker and I am an American Midwestern at heart, a New Yorker in attitude and ambition, and a Spaniard by choice of lifestyle. Having only lived in Spain for about two years I am still fresh and discovering new depths of what life here is for me.
I spent most of my childhood in Iowa and my adolescence in Michigan. Leaving home at the age of 15 for boarding school my concept of “home” is very fluid. Living and going to school with young artists from all over the world who came together to pursue their craft shaped my outlook to the extent that when I moved to New York City at 18 years old, its multicultural way of life was second nature to me. New York was and always will be an aspect of “home” to me, but after ten years, three of which were with my Madrileño husband, Madrid seemed the appropriate next step. Three years prior we had no intention of moving to Spain, but as we evaluated our lives we decided it was the right time to see how it fit.
Having visited Spain many times and having a large family of in-laws here I knew it was the right decision, but there were many challenges. The biggest of course was moving to a new place when I had never studied the language. An inability to communicate makes any small problem or culture shock much larger. The second was finding the professional and social aspects that I needed in my life. Having left behind my professional dance performing and teaching career in New York I searched to find my way. After starting my businesses Joy of Dance, Joy and English, and Joy and Wellness I have started to grow the kind of professional atmosphere that I desire and missed from New York. My great passions are early childhood education and physical wellness, both of which have stemmed from my dance training and career. I firmly believe that art should be ingrained in society through education, social gatherings, and leisure activities. It should reflect life, inspire creativity and bring happiness through integration in our daily lives. This is what I strive to be a part of with my work.
What is your business?
Joy of Dance: Dance Classes in English
What services do you offer and how did you decide what your focus would be?
Joy of Dance offers dance classes in English. My classes are primarily for early childhood, but I offer all levels and ages (including pre-professional and professional).
During the ten years that I lived in New York City I performed as a professional dancer as well as taught dance to all ages. When I moved to Madrid it made sense to continue my teaching and develop a business to suit Madrid’s needs. As there is a big push for children to do activities in English for practice outside of school and do more experiential learning my skills were a great fit. Though I have experience with all ages and levels, my expertise is with early childhood and pre-professional dancers. Due to the structure of arts education/extracurriculars in Madrid, coupled with the limited amount of activities for young children it felt right to focus the business on early childhood classes.
Who are your typical customers?
My clients are a mix of expats and Spaniards who have a strong desire to give their children a fully bilingual education and upbringing.
Why should people choose Joy of Dance?
Joy of Dance was created to bring the same quality of dance instruction and professionalism that I was accustomed to in New York’s top dance schools where I was a senior faculty member and developed a Parent/Toddler program from the ground up. With Joy of Dance each student is mentored and cared for as an individual and each parent is given the utmost professionalism in communication and organization that makes a busy parent’s life easier.
Why is fitness in general important for children and what benefits does dance in particular have? What skills do your students learn?
Fitness is extremely important for children. In addition to them needing to get exercise, movement is key in brain development. Dance classes give them an opportunity to learn about spatial awareness (their own bodies, their body in space, and their bodies in relationship to others), work on new physical coordinations during learned movements (specific dance steps), use creative thinking when doing structured improvisation (playing with speeds, qualities, concepts etc) all the while getting proprioceptive input. In addition, they learn how to listen and respond quickly, how to transition quickly from playful to serious and how to stop and go physically in quick response to their environment.
How do you adapt the learning process to different ages?
While the material is a progression and gets more difficult the older the student, different ages can also do the same movements or improvisational activities with great benefit working on different aspects, depths, or goals. The change in process as they grow is based on their focus and behavior. With any age (2-adult) there is an important ebb and flow of energy throughout the duration of the class. This rollercoaster of energy coupled with the amount of call and response or child lead activities is what changes the most depending on the age.
What pleasure do you get from teaching?
Teaching was a career that chose me. Though it can be a tiring job, the excitement and energy that the kids bring to class cannot be matched in any other profession. It is so special to be part of their development and watch them grow and progress. The admiration and the wonderful hugs I get aren’t bad either!
What makes you smile at work?
The kids’ smiles.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Seeing the kids fall in love with movement and develop a relationship with their body and the space around them.
What has been key to your success?
The quality of my classes and the joyful energy in which I bring to my teaching.
Away from work, what do you enjoy doing?
Cooking, Eating, Traveling, Yoga, Hiking, Spending time with friends and family.
What sacrifices have you had to make for work?
I made many sacrifices during my professional performing career. Being a professional dancer often has the physical demands of a professional athlete on an artist’s salary. Due to this you have to work other jobs to support yourself financially which takes time away from social, personal, and family life. I was lucky enough to fall into teaching as my work to help financially and could transition to teaching full time after I left performing behind to prioritize quality of life.
How much are your classes?
Between 130-170 per trimester depending on the number of classes.
How can people get in touch with you?
And now for the plug……
Give your child the joy of dance and the gift of language, come do a trial class with Joy of Dance today!
For more information on Joy of Dance see our page here
Many thanks Joy.
(ps – Judith, the British half of KIM wholeheartedly recommends Joy’s classes. Her 8 year old daughter attended one of Joy’s classes and loved it. If Judith’s family lived in the centre her daughter would be a regular!!)
You can find the previos instalments of “Behind the Scenes” in our blog.