CVDA Alum Charissa York

Charissa York is our third CVDA alumna to feature this fall. Currently living in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, Stephen York, she is grateful for her many years with Chehalem Valley Dance Academy, both as a dancer and instructor. We caught up with Charissa recently to hear her reflections on her time at CVDA.

Chehalem Valley Dance Academy: When did you first start dancing at CVDA?

Charissa York: I was about 7. My parents could tell that soccer wasn’t the right fit, because I would run away from the ball! I still remember the first time I went to the studio. My mom was picking up one of her day care kids from dance class and I was with her. I remember seeing the dancers and saying to my mom, “I want to dance!” She enrolled me soon after. My first jazz class was with Holly (Derville-Teer) and the rest is history!

CVDA: And then what?

CY: I joined Performing Company when I was 8 and stuck with it until I graduated from Newberg High School. Looking back, it’s crazy. I still marvel at the experience. It shaped me into who I am today.

Being on PC taught me so much: dedication, time management, following my passion.  It was sometimes a challenge to juggle school work and dance, both were so important to me. I practically lived at the dance studio. Weekends were taken up with competitions and conventions.

I never liked sports. Dance is what I truly loved. I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out without dance.

CVDA: What stands out in your memory?

CY: Definitely the conventions and competitions. Those were very nerve wracking times! I felt the support of the dance family in those environments. We spent so much time learning and rehearsing the dances and when it was time to compete it was an incredible moment! It was great to have teammates cheering you on and supporting each other. The dance family was like my second family.

CVDA: Did you dance after high school?

CY: I went to Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle planning to earn a degree in dance. Unfortunately, I suffered a serious back injury my first year that derailed my dance goals.

It was the most challenging thing I’d ever faced. When I was told I couldn’t dance again, it was devastating.

When I was weighing my options Kristen (Stoller) offered me a chance to teach and that helped me create a plan B. I could share my passion for dance with the students and still be in the dance environment.

So I transferred to George Fox University and began teaching the 2-6 year old program at CVDA. Soon I took over the ballet program. I also taught tap classes and choreographed some PC groups and solos my last years of college. It worked out perfectly. The best job ever!

CVDA: What else happened during those years?

CY: I connected with my husband, Stephen, who was going to Seattle Pacific University. Although we both went to Newberg High School, we never dated. So we “re-met” at my sister’s wedding. I was the maid of honor and he was the best man!

I graduated in 2016 from GFU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Human Performance. Stephen and I got married that summer.

CVDA: We always say “Dance Skills are Life Skills.” As an alum, what does that mean to you?

CY: I definitely learned a lot from my time at CVDA: determination dedication perseverance, working hard. What it means to be a team member. Having confidence. Loving what you do in your day to day life – I love working with people.

CVDA: Did you recover from your back injury?

CY: Today my back is okay. Physical therapy helped with the healing process. Running aggravates it, so I can’t run with my husband. I take yoga and barre classes. We hike every weekend in Colorado. The Rocky Mountains are gorgeous.

I would love to get involved with teaching dance again. I keep looking for opportunities.

CVDA: What are you two doing in Colorado?

CY: We just moved here in June, previously we lived in Pennsylvania for a year. Stephen is working as an enrollment admissions counselor at Colorado Christian University. I’ve been interviewing for a CNA position. I plan to go to nursing school in fall 2018. My career goal is to work as a pediatric nurse. Colorado is a good place for now, but we may move back to Oregon someday.

 

CDVA: Any advice to would-be dancers and their families?

CY: Give it a try! Dance is a great alternative or complement to sports. It’s such a positive environment. Kristen (Stoller) is a huge reason for that.

It’s never too late to start dance. If you have a passion for it and love it, you’ll learn quickly and do well if you work hard.

 

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