Dance has the power to tell stories, evoke emotions, and combines physicality with art in a way that inspires people worldwide. Encore Dance Studio has harnessed the ability to share dance with students and allow their personalities, triumphs and challenges shape their technique, but also their character.
Josie Morinville has used dance to overcome her fear. She is an incredibly accomplished 8th grader at Astoria Middle School who thrives in musical theatre, orchestra and is now running for Outstanding Teen in the Miss Clatsop County Scholarship Pageant, but it was dance that allowed Josie to overcome her personal challenges.
Josie started with Encore when she was not even three-years-old. Now, at age 13, she dances with Encore at Portland Trail Blazer basketball games, competes on Encore’s musical theatre dance team, and works hard at tap, hip-hop, lyrical jazz and tumbling. “My favorite thing about dance is to learn new things throughout the day and how to use what I learn to overcome obstacles,” Josie explained. “I have speech and memory disabilities and I face obstacles every day.”
When Josie was in elementary school, math proved to be especially difficult. “She was unable to do math when she was younger until Miss Denele (founder and owner of Encore) suggested ‘Touch Math.’ Denele worked with Josie on tapping out numbers and now, even as an 8th grader, Josie can be seen tapping her toes to help her focus for math,” said Josie’s mother, Lori Morinville.
“Josie has grown up in the dance studio. Every time she walks onto the dance floor for a class, she brings a smile and happy enthusiasm,” said her Denele Sweet. “I love watching Josie perform on stage, she always delights her audience and you can truly see how much she loves to dance!”
Dance allowed Josie to conquer math, but also conquer her fears. “Just being on stage is amazing,” she said. “Before I started dancing I was so afraid. I got over my fear by being on stage.” Dance has given Josie the tools to overcome her obstacles and the confidence to pursue her dreams.
In between her commitments to dance and school, Josie is in the process of working with the Miss Clatsop County Program. She will embrace her love of dance while performing ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ as a musical theater performance and has adopted “Living Your Dreams while Overcoming Disabilities” as her platform for community outreach. Josie will be speaking to students at Knappa Middle School, Astoria Middle School and Astoria High School on how dance has helped her overcome her disabilities.
“My favorite thing about dance is being able to express myself and to move on my own. I feel free in that moment,” explained Nikkole Sasso. Dance has allowed Nikki to share her positivity, work on inner strength and blossom into a confident junior at Astoria High School. As a dancer, tumbler, and now instructor for Encore Dance Studio, Nikki has turned her love of dance into something to share with others.
After sustaining an injury and undergoing surgery earlier this fall, Nikki is working harder than ever to return to dance. “I’m excited to hit the dance floor after this bump in the road,” Nikki said, referring to her surgery and mandatory three months of recovery with physical therapy. At 16, Nikki has been dancing with Encore since preschool. “I have been dancing since I was three, competing with the Encore Dance Team since I was six, and competing with solos since I was eight,” Nikki said.
“Nikki has very literally grown up with us here at Encore. In all of her years dancing though, I can’t remember a single bad day with her,” said Tia VanSlyke, an Encore instructor. “Her constant positive and thankful attitude is mirrored by the next generation of dancers who’ve watched and learned from her example.”
“Since starting high school, Nikki has begun assisting in classes and this year she’s taken on two jazz classes of her very own,” continued VanSlyke. “It’s been fun to watch a student transition into the role of teacher. She knows exactly how we would like the classes to be taught because she’s been in them for so many years.”
“I want dance to be part of my life forever,” said Nikki who has also been involved with Miss Clatsop County Scholarship Program. She is hoping to participate in Astoria Regatta, and has worked closely with Wishing Tree for Clatsop County.
“I’m lucky my mom got me involved with Wishing Tree at such a young age. When I was four I got my start by selling coffee and baked goods in order to raise money for Wishing Tree. I ended up raising $80 and went to the store to pick out all of the toys myself,” Nikki explained. Now Nikki and her mother continue to assist the county-wide Wishing Tree program.