Afternoon light blazes through the small rectangular windows of a dance studio inside Maricopa High School.
See photos from the winter dance recital
The illuminated beams are interrupted by the graceful, outstretched hand of a slender dancer. All at once, the elegance is met with a drop of a hip-hop beat, then a physical twist and a stomp as a group of elite dancers join the floor and together pivot styles from contemporary to jazz.
The MHS Performance Group rehearses under the refined eye of the school’s new dance teacher, 26-year-old Alexandra Biggs.
“Dance instills so many life lessons outside of just how to point your feet,” said Biggs, a technically trained ballerina. “You learn self-discipline and self-motivation.”
Biggs grew up in Farmington, New Mexico, and fell in love with ballet at age 3.
As time for college came, she decided to pursue a career where she could teach the art she treasured.
“I thought, ‘If I love this so much, then instilling it in the next generation is where my heart and my passion are,’” Biggs said. “So, it was an easy decision.”
Biggs graduated from Grand Canyon University a year and a half ago with a degree in Dance Education. She taught dance to preschool-aged children before accepting her first professional, full-time position at MHS.
In addition to instructing advanced and intermediate dance students, Biggs also teaches novices in her Dance 1 class, where 90 percent of the class is freshmen.
“They are new to it so it’s so much fun to see them expand their world to include dance,” Biggs said.
Biggs inherited the dance program from Toshia Jackson, “a sassy, jazz teacher” known affectionately by students as “Mrs. T,” according to sophomore Rylin Balgaard.
Balgaard, 15, began the dance program as a freshman with Jackson and quickly moved her way up to Performance Group.
Biggs exposes students to a polished focus on dance, including special instruction on ballet etiquette.
“I know the previous teacher – I’ve heard wonderful things about her – did a lot more hip-hop and less of the technical side of it. So being a technically trained dancer, my emphasis is more on doing things correctly, especially in ballet, and building that base for anything else that they want to do,” Biggs said.
Grooming her dancers to become educators is also on her list.
Performance Group President Jalen Reyes, 17, aspires to become a dance instructor after college. He was recently accepted to Northern Arizona University and is eligible for the Lumberjack Scholarship.
He had no previous dance training before enrolling in the program as a freshman, but his natural talent on the dance floor and behind-the-scenes choreography has lent well to the program. As a senior, Reyes attends a mixed-level class during the day and is Biggs’ aide in a lower-level course.
“I’ve got to see her teach and I think she’s really effective in knowing who she’s working with, so she knows how fast to go. I think she’s great at teaching,” Reyes said.
Biggs, a Maricopa resident, plans to grow the MHS program into one with a “reputation of excellence,” and an incubator for future dance instructors.
“I have had several (students) come to me to talk about letters of recommendation for dance education programs, and I’m all for it,” Biggs said. “It’s not an easy job – that’s the misconception. It’s really long hours and it’s physically really demanding sometimes, but it’s worth it to see other kids watch me teach and want to teach. I think that’s the biggest compliment a student can give me.”
This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.