Lark Detweiler Interview – November 2013

Lark Detweiler performs ‘Miss Invisible’ at KARS-Long Beach, CA 2013 Lyrical Dance Age 13

On behalf of Fordney Foundation, it is a pleasure and an honor to present Lark Detweiler to our readers. This ambitious, very talented young dancer has a lot to say about dance. And I think you’ll come away with a new perspective while learning a lot about dance.

Lark’s unique abilities put her in a category that’s all hers and hers alone! We feel very fortunate to be able to do this interview with Lark and hope you will truly enjoy this interview as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you.

FB: First, I’d like to say that I love your name. I think your full name automatically sounds like a famous dancer’s name. If I may ask, what is the story behind your being given the name “Lark?”

LD: Thank you! I like your name too! As for my name story, my mother wanted to name me after a famous New York City ballerina, Allegra Kent, but it doesn’t sit well with Detweiler. After a couple of suggestions, they finally thought to name me after what my mom considered the happiest bird in the world, the lark. My dad agreed that it would be good.

FB: Another thing I’d like you to know is Marilyn Fordney, our Founder and myself had occasion to read your article in hibu magazine separately. One of my friends sent your article to me in the mail and I knew I wanted our readers to know about you instantly. And when Marilyn showed me your article and said, “let’s interview Lark,” I said, “I was going to tell you about her myself!” We were both very inspired by you.

LD: Oh, really? That’s great? I’m really inspired by your blogs and Marilyn. She looks like such an elegant person. I’m glad I inspired you two!

FB: Please tell our readers how long you’ve been reading lips and why you read lips so well?

LD: I have been reading lips since I was two, so eleven years. I have had the opportunity to practice the skill while I did not have hearing. I was diagnosed with hearing loss at 4, so there were 2 whole years when I had to make do and figure out what people were saying. I use it in everyday events, because I have lost my ability to understand what a person is saying by ear. I rely on my vision quite a bit. My hearing aids have Bluetooth, which my school teachers use. They speak into a microphone and it goes into my aids. But, there is a full range of sounds that are completely gone for me. Without lip reading, I cannot understand what is being said.

FB: Please tell us how old you are and how long you’ve been dancing?

LD: I am thirteen years old, and I have been dancing for ten years.

FB: I read that your mother was a dancer. Do you feel that you were born with natural abilities as a dancer because of this?

LD: No, I do not feel naturally equipped with dancing abilities because I have a body type that is not considered a dancers’ body. I worked really hard on my ballet technique, and that has helped to slim it into the “dancer body.” I work my feet and turn-out every day to improve. My Mom thinks that I do have her rhythm. She was a professional tap and jazz dancer when she was young and that takes a lot of rhythm. Tap just feels so natural to me.

FB: How many hours a day do you practice, rehearse and/or go to dance class?

LD: I dance for three to four hours every week day (including most weekends). So 14 to 20 hours per week.

FB: I’m sure our readers would like you to describe how you go through a routine? Share with our readers about your “internal metronome” and what that means?

LD: My routine for picking up choreography is normally to work one-on-one with a choreographer. They give me the music or in special cases, the song name, and that gives me an idea of the beat. There is usually a count that is significant to start the piece that is loud enough for me to hear. From that point to the end of the piece, I turn on my internal metronome, which is basically a skill I have picked up that helps me keep to the beat. I feel the music and just let my metronome keep the time for me.

FB: It seems like your challenges are above and beyond what most dancers go through and yet you are nationally recognized. Congratulations on placing 3rd in the Los Angeles Dance Magic National Competition for your solo in the Lyrical dance category. Wow! That’s quite a feat. Can you explain to our readers how you overcome your barriers and manage to win competitions? What does Lyrical dance mean?

LD: Thank you! I just try my hardest. I also tell myself that it does not matter whether I win or lose, and I just go out there and “werk” it! I never get nervous, so that helps a lot. Lyrical dance is a cross between ballet and jazz, and it has flowing movements. It is very technical and uses classical ballet as its base.

FB: From the article about you, I could see that the Agoura Hills Dance and Performing Arts Center has been a big influence in your life. Would you like to talk about your experiences there, especially about your instructor Betsy Melber? It is obvious that she believes in you a lot.

LD: I have had an extremely amazing time at Agoura Hills Dance and Performing Arts. It is my home. Miss Betsy has been such a big supporter of me and I love having her as my tap teacher. She is a really good teacher and mentor. Also, another big supporter is my jazz and lyrical teacher, Miss Megan Wabby. She is the genius behind my solos and many of the group dances we compete in. Another supporter is my first ballet teacher, Miss Sharon Luchs. She started teaching me before I was diagnosed with hearing loss. All three teachers have helped me to grow as a dancer.

FB: What is your favorite kind of dancing to do?

LD: I love ballet. It is really technical, of course, and it challenges my limits the most. I feel I get the most challenge from ballet, and I know that you can never be “perfect.”

FB: Is dancing professionally what you want to do in life?

LD: Yes, it is something I would love to do. And I hope I will get to be a kinesiologist when I am older too, help out people with their joints and anatomy using science!

FB: Please tell us about your school Discover, a Science and Engineering Academy on the campus of Sequoia Middle School? What an interesting title, sounds like an interesting school? Tell us about it? What is a normal school day like for you? What kind of classes do you take?

LD: The Discover Academy is an interesting school. On a normal day, we have block schedule, so A days are Math, Science, History, and the next day, a B day, I have Band, English, and Independent Physical Education, which allows me to go home and do all of my homework. At Discover, all of the subjects revolve around the science subject, so we are never confused when learning new subjects. For example, in 6th grade we study Egyptology in Social Studies, read The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan for English, calculate the depth and width of the Nile in Math class and in Science, we mummified a Cornish Game hen!

FB: What or who inspires you?

LD: I am inspired by a variety of other dancers, musicians and writers. It depends on the hobby, and I will have an inspiration for that hobby. For dance, I am inspired by people with determination, and drive to make everything technically correct. I am inspired by dancers; Alison Holker, Tiler Peck, Sara Mearns, Beckanne Sisk, Sophia Lucia and Christina Riccuci. I have plenty more inspirations, but these are just a few of them.

FB: Do you have hobbies?

LW: I do have hobbies. I love playing my clarinet, creative writing, reading and art. I am going to audition for the state Honor Band soon, and I hope to get accepted! We would all meet in Fresno, from around the state, and play a concert together. Also, I love writing stories, whether it is fan-fiction or an original idea.

FB: What would you like to say to our readers and dancers who strive to be successful as professional dancers?

LW: I would tell them to stay focused with your goals, and never give up. Also, there will be more “no’s” than “yes’s” in life. Just stay confident in your abilities and keep striving to be better than you were yesterday. Everyone has a challenge in life. Do not dwell on it. I have severe hearing loss but, other people are dealing with their own issues and challenges. Do your best, don’t whine, and start living your life!

FB: Do you have a message you would like to share with the world? Or anything else you would like to share with us?

LW: I would like to say that just because you don’t have one ability, doesn’t mean you can’t do anything you set your mind to. Also, what you give to the world, you get back. Be generous and kind and most of all, work hard. It will all pay off eventually.

We would like to thank the lovely, charming, and brilliant Lark for sharing with us her insights on dance and life. She is profoundly gifted in so many areas and we are deeply moved and happy we know her!

You are a true inspiration to each and every one of us!


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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