Hollywood dancer gets inspired by Cayman’s kids

Betsy Ann Woyach has a number of impressive credentials to her name.

Living and working in Los Angeles for the past few years, the 27-year-old dancer has auditioned and worked on a number of popular shows and films, including the O.C., He’s Just Not That Into You, and MTV’s Made, but she freely admits that her true passion is realised each time she visits Grand Cayman to teach her master classes at Roots Delight, a local dance studio.

‘How people think about LA is a lot more glossy and happy than it really is,’ said Ms Woyach. ‘Auditions are not in these big amazing awesome places – I’ve auditioned in coffeehouses in LA where they say, okay, let’s go upstairs – we’re going to audition. They push back the tables and they sit and they say ‘Okay, show us what you can do’.’

Though Ms Woyach was more intent on pursuing her dreams of becoming a professional dancer for many years, she has finally realised she is, first and foremost, a teacher.

‘It’s so much more rewarding to teach when people want to learn. The students here are all so happy and in all my classes all the students have a smile on their face the entire time,’ Ms Woyach explained.

She taught a four-week summer course in July 2008 in jazz, ballet, lyrical, tap, and her specialty – hip hop, and she also taught a free class at the studio when she was on-island in early February this year.

‘I enjoy it beyond belief because I feel like I’m really making a difference, I’m really teaching somebody something … these kids, they come in and their entire lives are changed.’

Dancers tend to fall into one of three categories, she explained. They are either meant to be professional dancers, choreographers or teachers.

‘Teaching is cool, but I wanted to be a professional dancer,’ said Ms Woyach. ‘Now, though, I’m looking at my idols and who they are, and they’re Mia [Michaels]. Mia’s a teacher. Mia’s an amazing teacher. She changed my life.’

Mia Michaels, a renowned choreographer and dancer in the modern genre, is now particularly well known for her work on shows such as So You Think You Can Dance.

Elizabeth Charles, daughter of Roots Delight co-owner Janel Charles, went to Hollywood in search of dance teachers, and approached Ms Woyach’s teacher at the time, Kennis Marquis.

‘I approached Kennis about doing a one-week stint in the summer workshop and he gladly accepted,’ said Ms Charles.

Ms Charles also wanted someone who could teach more classic styles of dance, including jazz, ballet and lyrical, for the whole four weeks of the programme. ‘Kennis immediately referred me to Betsy Ann, who he calls the ‘Jazzerina’,’ said Ms Charles.

Ms Woyach sees the opportunity to teach in Cayman as destiny.

‘Had I not been in the right place at the right time, had I not gone to class that night, then this wouldn’t have happened. There’s a reason,’ said Ms Woyach.

‘The growth in four weeks was amazing. [These kids] never experienced dance like this – ballet and jazz and hip hop. That’s why I love teaching so much because you can see that, you can see the beginning and end products of what you’ve done.’

Ms Woyach has also embraced teaching in a Caribbean country because the potential is so evident, she said.

‘Dance is such a big part of the culture. Caribbean people already have a beat. Reggae and music is so much a part of culture already that you rarely find a Caribbean person who has no beat,’ said Ms Woyach.

‘The majority of all the kids I have taught, even the ones who would come in and say ‘I’ve never danced before’ or ‘I used to dance when I was a little girl but haven’t danced in a while’ – it’s already there, and it amazes me.’

She encouraged all children, including those she taught, to continue with dance. Meanwhile, although she has returned to LA and will continue to audition, Ms Woyach has come to terms with her destiny as a dance teacher, realising it is what she was born to do.

‘I’m finally okay with ‘I’m a teacher’. I’ve learned to adapt and to grow and to understand that if you’re going to teach a class and a variety of students, you can’t teach every class the same way.’

It is her experiences in Cayman that have led her to this conclusion, and one story in particular stands out for her.

‘There’s a six-year-old girl – Leanna – who didn’t want to take part in classes. Her mom had a store next door so she would just come over whenever I got there and sit in the studio and watch me when I was choreographing, and by the end she was taking hip hop adult classes and keeping up! A six-year-old!

‘When you see stuff like that it’s like, yeah it’s cool to other people to be like ‘I’m on Made’ but, Leanna? And to see that? That’s what makes me excited. That’s what completes me.’

Ms Woyach’s life philosophy guides her in all she does in life, and she hopes it will bring her back to Cayman one day.

‘I’m so much about leading a purpose-filled life and you don’t feel fulfilled after doing a cool gig. It’s exciting and it’s cool but you haven’t changed anything. I want to leave my world different from how I came into it,’ she said.

‘When I left after the four-week course I said: ‘This is not the end of my relationship with the Cayman Islands’.’

Roots Delight is located in Cayman Centre on Owen Roberts Drive. To register for classes or for more information contact them at [email protected].

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