An Interview With a DREAM Girl

We are so very lucky and proud to present Ms. Erica Arnold to all of our Fordney Foundation friends. Erica is heading up a new dance program for elementary school students called DREAM. It is another Fordney Foundation funded project. Erica is not only a talented ballroom dancer; she is also very gifted in the art of teaching dance to children, teenagers, adults, and seniors.

I am sure you will find her as delightful and inspirational as we have and we can’t wait to find out all about her and the DREAM project right now.

Freddie Brock:   Welcome Erica to the Fordney Foundation. I am very happy to work along side of you on your new dance project. Please tell us all about it.

Erica Arnold: The DREAM program consists of 30 weeks of dance group lessons and each class is about 45 minutes each. Elementary school students learn the dance steps for many ballroom dances. This activity fulfills physical education requirements.

Erica Arnold

FB: What are some of the program benefits for students?

EA: It teaches respect and courtesy to classmates and helps better their social skills. Usually, dance advances self-confidence and raises a

Erica Arnold

student’s self-esteem which can be lacking or diminished. Students will learn respect and courtesy to classmates. Because they must remember specific routines, it tends to boost memory. Dance reduces stress so in today’s schedule this is a plus. It has proven to increase scholastic scores and motivation. Additional benefits are that students tend to explore creativity and they develop an appreciation of music as well as learning to work as a team.

FB:   Tell our readers where you are originally from?

Erica Arnold

EA:   I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah.

FB:   How did you become interested in dance? How old were you when you first started to dance?

EA:   I was three years old when I started dancing.  I began dancing in a basement studio in our neighbor’s house. She had a small studio made up of neighborhood kids. When we were having our year-end recital, I was the three-year old who knew the routine inside and out. After our first performance, my teacher had to get my mom out of the audience to come back and talk to me because I refused to go back out on stage. My mom came back and asked me why I wouldn’t go out and I said, “I’m not going back out there because everyone is laughing at us because no one knows the dance.” Right then and there my mom knew I took dance very seriously and that she needed to get me into competitive dancing.

FB:   Now, I’ve seen you dance and I think you are sensational. Give us the highlights of your dance career?

Erica Arnold

EA:   One highlight of my career was becoming Junior National Champion in ballroom dancing. Also representing the United States at the Junior World Championship and placing 46th in the world.

FB:   How did you become interested in doing a dance project for young school students?

EA:   I’ve always enjoyed teaching children.

FB:   Is it possible for a student reading this now, to go to their school and ask if their school would be interested in this program? Would you be able to accommodate that request?

EA:   Yes, the program needs to grow and reach out to as many students as possible. However, we need additional funding to make this become a reality. Fund raising will be a major objective in the coming year.

FB:   Describe what the agenda is and how you actually teach school children to dance? What will the students gain by being involved in DREAM?

EA:   As mentioned, each class gets 30 weeks of group dance lessons that are 45 minutes each. They learn  dance steps including Merengue, Hustle, Swing, Salsa, Waltz, and Cha Cha. At the end of 15 weeks, the students dance on campus for their parents and staff at the school. Then at the conclusion of 30 weeks, a showcase is held with all the schools in the program participating. Parents, relatives, friends, and school staff are invited. Those that perform are awarded medals as a participant in the Fordney Foundation DREAM program.

Erica Arnold

FB:   Who are your professional partners, how did you obtain them as partners, do you dance Latin or Standard with them?

EA:   I have two professionals I dance with, Artemi Okunev and Willem de Vris. My main competitive partner is Artemi. I met Artemi a year ago doing a show together. We enjoyed dancing with each other and have similar goals. We decided to have a tryout with each other. After that we decide to partner up. We dance Latin together but I do dance both Latin and Standard.

FB:   Do you have a coach that helps choreograph your showcase dances and if not who does the choreography?

Erica Arnold

EA:   We both come up with our choreography. We both have our specialties in choreographing. Artemi comes up with the outline and I am the one that adds the detail.

FB:    What are the names of the brother and sister that you teach that have entered competitions?

EA:    Mike and Maya Urshansky. I also train their cousin Anna who dances Pro Am with

Erica Arnold


FB:    Did they start out as newcomers and go to bronze or at what level are they dancing and for how long to get to this level?

EA:   Mike and Maya started as newcomer bronze. They danced a year together before Mike turned 12 and had to move up to junior category. Their last competition was Emerald Ball. They placed first in gold Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, and Jive. Their cousin Anna just attended Embassy.  She placed first in all 5 latin dances at silver level.

DWOLS, Mike & Maya, Photo, Alex Havasi

FB:   What is your “dream” for achieving success in this program?

EA:   Reaching out to as many schools as our budget and time will allow.

DWOLS, Mike & Maya, Photo, Alex Havasi

FB:   What do you like to do when you are not instructing dance?

EA:   When I have free time, I enjoy being outdoors. I love hiking, swimming, the beach, traveling, and reading.

Again, thank you, Erica, for taking the time to speak to us!  We know you are very busy teaching children to dance.  Ah, a very good cause!

Thought For The Week:

You are always at the starting gate of your future.  A new beginning in every moment. – Free

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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website