In the Art Moves dance studio in an old Masonic hall in Norway, Debi Irons is seated on the floor with her students discussing the upcoming presentation, “Back to Brazil.”
Since Irons opened her studio in 1988, has been teaching a basic variation of jazz dance that incorporates “self-expression and creativity,” suitable for all ages and all levels, she says.
“Technique serves the dancer; style creates a confident, self-expressive dancer,” she says.
One of her classes is Dance Games, for 4- to 6-year-olds. She holds a straight techniques class for ages 10 and up, and accommodates the teens’ interest in Street Jazz, which does not involve the pointed feet and European origins of dance.
“The techniques class teaches the (same) elements you need for basic ballet: support of your spine, standing on your leg and articulating your legs,” Irons says. “To be a strong dancer, you need the fundamentals of everything: modern jazz, ballet, African. (It gives you) a good foundation.”
Poise is important, she says. “When kids are encouraged to express themselves, it becomes character development, deeper than physical poise because of posture. It develops confidence.”
Her favorite dancing is to live jazz. “There is nothing like the feeling of dancing to live music, to interpret and feel completely free,” she says.
This love of dance began 43 years ago, and Irons has not stopped since. Her most memorable performance was not in a large, sold-out auditorium, but one several summers ago on a 90-degree evening.
“There were not a lot of reservations, perhaps only 15 people, and most of them were relatives,” she says. “Yet, it was most amazing. I felt in the moment and felt the best ever as I surrendered to the music, to the joy of the moment.”
Another memorable moment came in Nantucket when she was feeling quite ill and it was struggle to perform.
“After the show, I was walking down the street and a woman who had seen the performance said, ‘I could feel every move you made.’ It was then I realized it wasn’t really about me. You give it away. That’s what makes it special.”