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City Spotlight: Nashville, Tennessee by Abra Myles

 When people think of Nashville, TN, music immediately comes to mind. “Music City”, coined by Queen Victoria after viewing a performance of Fisk University’s Jubilee Singers, has been overflowing with tourists vying to get a chance to experience metropolitan city life that has a hometown feel, good food, and to bear witness to aspiring and professional musicians of all genres. Right under our nose, however, beholds a vibrant and diverse dance community that has been a hidden backbone of  the arts and culture of this city. Nashville isn’t  just a cookie cutter template of what dance should look or feel like. It is an indescribable experience that only those who bear witness to it can fathom. Nashville’s dance scene is defined by its family atmosphere, unique approach to creating work, inclusivity, variety of options for professional and recreational dancers, and pioneering ideas that are shaping the culture of our city. Aside from the colorful makeup of the people that are in the community, Nashville also has a wide pool of options for dancers of all sorts. Whether you are a working professional or someone who is being introduced to dance for the first time, Nashville has something for everyone, and it’s not hard to find if you know where to look.

 Local studios have served as a starting point for exposure and training in various styles for children and teens. Recently, dance studios such as DancEast and The Dancer Project have started to embrace  an affordable open class structure by welcoming adults and professionals to continue their training. Nashville School of the Arts (NSA), a public arts magnet high school, offers students a conservatory education, where one can hone their craft in preparation for college and/or entering the professional realm. Commercial dancers are able to enhance their training and forge a valuable network with teachers and choreographers working in the industry through Millennium Dance Complex-Nashville and Milele Academy. Construct Nashville offers free and reduced cost classes and events to the community, centering on providing a space for emerging teachers to create their own curriculum. The Radicle, expected to open sometime later this year, defies the traditional studio experience, serving as a place where movement is rooted in everyday life for all artists and enthusiasts. It will also be the home of The Toolbox, a two year choreography program, providing education and tangible experiences within composition, creative process, and creative directing.

Malik Leanoard and Deavon Walden of Found Movement Group

Photo by DeAndre Johnson

Malik Leanoard and Deavon Walden of Found Movement Group

Professional dancers have a variety of options when it comes to  companies in Nashville. No company is the same in terms of aesthetic, approach to creating, or structure of organization. Each has something unique and valuable to offer everyone, making it accessible for dancers to find their niche. Nashville Ballet has a long history of exposing the community to notable classical and contemporary works, while modern companies like Blue Moves and Epiphany Dance Partners inform audiences with meaningful and complex works with an emphasis on collaboration. Contemporary companies are heavily influencing Nashville with groundbreaking and innovative work, with Numinous Flux connecting the human experience with expressive movement, and New Dialect presenting progressive and imaginative works along with providing weekly classes and choreographic residencies. Found Movement Group welcomes dancers of all creeds and levels of experience, while embracing a fusion of various styles, athletic movement, and somatic practice. Their recent emphasis on immersive performances emboldens the audience to take a journey along with the dancers, bridging the divide between spectator and participant. Ethnic dance forms also have a strong presence through Sankofa Drum and Dance Company’s annual Kwanzaa celebration and Chinese Arts Alliance exposing Nashville to Chinese stories through folk and traditional dance presentations, particularly at Celebrate Nashville. Nashville’s tenacity to keep producing an outstanding and diverse body of work has fostered more support in recent years through expansion of resources. Fresh Talent Group, the only talent agency in the city that represents dancers and choreographers, enables artists to have a sustainable career, providing more collaboration with the music industry, while P3 (Precision Physical Therapy and Pilates) offers a unique healthcare and fitness experience, specializing in dance specific physical therapy. 

Nashville Movers at Activist Theology Project Book Launch

Photo by Ashley Manson

Nashville Movers at Activist Theology Project Book Launch

The Latin dance scene brings dance to enthusiasts and professionals seeking to connect with others, giving people of all ages the confidence to explore various forms of expression while also dismantling the gender binary with their emphasis on using inclusive language to describe movement expressions. They embody the familial support of the community and are a central piece in making dance more accessible. 


Our city is a hidden gem, made up of a diverse group of people, willing to keep progressing and finding new ways to continue innovating. I am convinced pioneers reside here, where new ideas can come to life and shape the culture of middle Tennessee and shift the paradigm of southern culture. The Nashville dance community has made great contributions to ensuring that progression continues through disrupting traditions that have historically harmed marginalized communities, offering a safe space for people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and orientations to thrive, and pushing against elitism that often resides in the dance world to make dance more accessible to all who are eagerly passionate. Nashville is a place where all can find a home to awaken their craft and appreciation for movement

Nashville has also continued to embrace the roots of taking dance to the streets through the Hip Hop community. Illville Crew hones the craft of breakdancing, providing a safe place for dancers to not only learn the steps, but honor the foundation and history of hip hop culture. They defy stereotypes of gang culture that is often associated with hip hop, cultivating a positive and vibrant community through performances, battles, and open classes. Bashville Stampede is Tennessee's largest street dance and b-boy competition, bringing together various crews all across the eastern region. Hip Hop also has a strong presence in most studios in Nashville, introducing and exposing people of all cultures to the art form, thanks to influential teachers like Keith Fitzpatrick and husband and wife team, Zach and Dorinda Walker. 

Students of "The Toolbox" cohort

Photo by Abra Myles

Students of "The Toolbox" cohort

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