Angela DeMure has devoted days and years to put the message out that dance can have long-lasting positive effects.
Any creative art is challenging; there’s no guarantee of professional income or even amateur success, so the decision to devote your life to dance is difficult, given the complex factors that affect the choice to pursue it as a pastime passion. But by the time she finished high school, after research, analysis, and careful consideration, DeMure knew dance was for her. In fact, she developed her own terminology, defining dance as “passion…smooth body isolations and subtle yet sexy styling with a unique quirkiness that leaves people smiling.”
Don’t let DeMure’s unassuming manner trick you into thinking she is shy or that she will hesitate to let the dance community know what she brings. Her name is well-known by specific teachers, students, and social dancers in the salsa world. She founded an organization called MNSamba, Minnesota’s premiere Brazilian samba team. She also maintains a private practice covering many dance styles, teaching students in group classes and private lessons.
DeMure’s success is the result of strenuous efforts. she felt the need to explore different avenues, in addition to social dancing. Eventually, she turned her attention to performing on stage, which required a higher level of concentration, specialized training, and mental preparation to overcome extreme doubts. “Back when I was a student, I remember being pretty nervous for my first ‘big’ performance opportunity at the Chicago International Salsa Congress,” she said. “But luckily, it was a group piece. The combination of having a supportive group by my side, and all the many hours of practice that we did leading up to that point, really helped me to feel more confident.”
The reality is, like-minded team members could only offer so much support. Most performers say they face unbelievable fears on stage, and many top performers say rituals can help calm their minds. DeMure is no exception. “Before any performance, I like to practice and run the routine the night before and also on the day of, if possible,” she said. “However, I recommend not overdoing; you should already be in a place where you’re comfortable with the whole routine,” She went on, “Only run it a maximum of one to two times at full speed and with your full energy. The goal is to keep it fresh, but if you run through it too often, your body will get tired. Your mind will start to drift away from the choreography, and you will not perform as well for the actual performance.”
As the director of her performance team, she is responsible for ensuring everyone is ready for a performance. This can mean rehearsal time, helping dancers with challenging moves, or even modifying the performance if warranted for the performers and the show. The work is arduous, physically and creatively, so naturally, she has to screen a potential student’s ability to learn and understand complicated moves and grasp the vision she conveys to her audience. If a potential student is considering joining the performance team, she makes sure there’s every opportunity for them to succeed
“Performing a new choreography always takes a lot of practice–typically over several months… Depending on the complexity of the choreography, our student performance teams most often can complete a choreography in about four to five months,” she said. “That would typically be anywhere from 40-100 hours of training and practice time.”
And if that does not scare a potential student off, in the end, they will find solace. “The more performing you do, the easier it gets,” she said. “For example, in my professional samba or belly dance teams, sometimes we can create and perform new choreographies with as little as four to five sessions of practice… or roughly 5-10 hours. That’s because we perform so much together and have developed a style and a shared set of moves and patterns that we can easily pull from to create new pieces more quickly.”
DeMure believes that if a student hopes to advance to the level of being competent, they must remain open to every opportunity they can get. “If possible, being a demo partner in another instructor’s class is a great way to get an introduction to teaching,” said DeMure, who spent in year in Spain teaching. “After years of lessons, hundreds of practice hours, when I could explain the ‘why’ behind most of what I had learned, eventually, I felt that I was ready to teach.”
She added, “Then I sought out the right people who helped train me into a method of teaching that I felt was aligned with my style. I would recommend working with someone you admire for their style of teaching. You keep working with them. When you’re ready, if you want to branch out on your own, you can.”
DeMure enjoys working alongside her students. “Sometimes you encounter challenging students, particularly those with attitude problems (i.e., someone who thinks they know it all is an example),” she said. “However, I find that those types of students tend to weed themselves out and move on, or typically they don’t last long.”
Regardless, a teacher’s style, both good or bad, can influence a student’s progress.
” I have never told a student that [dance is not for them] because it’s not that simple. Everyone has the potential for dance, but that doesn’t mean everyone has the same potential,” she said. “If a student is not able to perform a move that requires advanced dancing, then we might have to keep them at a lower level… [I] often work with students in private lessons to improve…or sometimes… even try another style of dance–for example, something with a slower tempo or more gentle movements,” she said.
All in all, DeMure’s overall agenda is: “To help people understand and achieve [their goals] that they develop a passion for [dance]. There are definite moments of joy… It’s also gratifying to see the ‘lightbulb moment’ when someone finally understands what you’re explaining and the ‘why’ or the reasoning behind the technique.” She knows that there are as many reasons to dance as there are ways to do it, and she wants everyone to find their own way of experiencing the joy of dance.