Teaching dance and other lessons for 25 years
While she may have started the dance program at Valley Points YMCA some 25 years ago, Lisa Shields Schrader cares about sharing the spotlight.
Those she credits range from students, fellow instructors and even family members. They have all, she said, played a part in the program that has taught a variety of dance to students ranging from 3-year-olds to people in their 70s.
“I have had so much support over the years for the program, not only from the directors of the ‘Y' and the students and parents, but from my personal family as well,” she said. “They have always helped me with everything.”
Their help has included passing out programs, making video recordings of recitals and creating what she estimates to be “hundreds and hundreds” of costume accessories.
“It has been a complete family affair,” she said. “We're such a close family, and we've always supported each other our wholes lives, so whenever we had a program, we were all involved.”
For the Vandergrift resident, an occupational therapist and lifelong dancer, ushering in a program at Valley Points YMCA 25 years ago offered a chance to share with students lessons that go beyond the dance studio.
“I think it's a great opportunity, whether (students) begin the program and continue or whether they move on to different things,” she said. “I think this is a program that can always benefit anybody for many reasons: the exercise and learning to dance, but also the self-esteem and the confidence that can be gained from it.”
The classes, which all take place at the Y's West Vandergrift location, have included as many as 200 students, combined, in a single year. Currently, they include about 50.
Some students have returned to help with the classes.
And in previous years, Shields Schrader said, classes have been offered for those facing physical and mental challenges.
“Dance is just something that absolutely anybody can do,” she said. “Just being able to provide that opportunity to everyone just means so much to me.
“I love exposing the students to an art that I have always enjoyed, allowing them to express themselves.
“And I love the fact that I can see progress so much. When you start with them, many of them start with no experience of dance at all. And when you see them progress, it's such a feeling of pride.”
Each year the dance program, which wraps up for the summer months and begins again in September, puts on a spring recital.
This year's takes place 11 a.m. Saturday at Leechburg Area High School. Open to the public with $1 admission, the performance offers the chance for students to show what they have learned throughout the year.
In addition, this year, as the program celebrates its 25th anniversary, former students are invited back to see its progress.
For Shields Schrader, who has taken a step back from her director duties but still instructs classes, having the chance to share dance with others is an enriching experience.
“I'm just blessed that I was able to touch so many lives and, in turn, they've touched mine in so many ways.”
Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer.