COOS BAY — Two students from Pacific School of Dance have returned.
For one week each, Nicholas Peregrino, 31, and Celena Dawson, 24, have taught upper level ballet classes at the dance school. During Dawson’s week, she also taught contemporary and an improvisation workshop.
“They are smaller classes, around five to ten students, because it is summer and most kids go away for summer intensives,” Peregrino said.
Peregrino began teaching here and there for his alma mater as a way to give back. He started his journey into dance at 17 while attending Marshfield High School, meaning he had a lot of catching up to do since most dancers begin years earlier.
“For years and years I was playing catch up,” he said. “I had to train my body to be a dancer. As a normal pedestrian, we walk turned in or with our toes forward, but dancers have toes turned to our sides. I had to make what’s abnormal, normal.”
After high school and PSD, he went on to study in Eugene at the Oregon Ballet Academy, where he stayed for three years on and off with a mentor who provided private lessons. He danced six days a week before eventually heading to the east coast.
Now he is a member of a fusion company in New York City called FJK Dance, where he has performed for the past two years.
“We do ballet, modern, folk-style, salsa, ballroom, a whole collaboration,” he said. “We have 12 dancers from all over the world, places like Turkey, Israel, Mexico and Spain.”
Recently they travelled to China on tour for 10 weeks. During one performance, while on stage before thousands, he described feeling surreal.
“Coming from small town Cos Bay, we often get enclosed thinking this is all there is, but dance gave me a vision to see beyond our hills,” he said. “I’ve had many chances to travel the world with dancing. When someone first told me I could do this professionally, I didn’t know the opportunities ahead of me.”
He said he always “dreamt, hoped and believed it would happen and if you believe in it then it will come true.”
Though he is only spending this last week in July and part of August teaching where he first began, he hopes to pass on his vast array of dance experience onto his students.
“Of course I teach technique, but also the artistry,” he said. “Dance isn’t just being an athlete, but expressing yourself and finding self-identity to fall in love with what you’re doing, which is what I try to pass on to students that we still have to love it and not forget to smile. Those little things take you further.”
As for Dawson, she has returned to her hometown to teach at PSD before, but this was the first time since earning her Bachelor in Fine Arts, focused in dance.
“I wanted to come back and teach for a bit to work with the kids,” she said. “I find that teaching changes the relationship you have with something, that it deepens your understanding of the craft and benefits your own performance.”
When she teaches, she hopes to pass on the message for them to speak up, to be confident, but to also have fun.
Dawson began dancing when she was six years old and found the passion to continue with it after receiving support from her mom.
“She was supportive of me with all the activities I was involved with, but dance was the one I went with out of everything else because I started it first and it is what I was best at,” she explained.
Now she is applying for jobs teaching dance, as well as auditioning for dance companies in Portland.
For future students at Pacific School of Dance, Dawson wants them to know that it is a wonderful school to learn from.
“Such a small town is fortunate to have it,” she said. “The new studio space is gorgeous and a dream studio once it is finished. It is one of the best schools for a specific idiom in the area.”