Meet the new instructor at Penn Valley Dance and Fitnes
Penn Valley Dance and Fitness (formerly Penn Valley Academy of Dance and Alternative Fitness Center) has a long history of training dancers of all ages. Now, credentialed teacher and dancer Cassie McAlister brings an experience, versatility and inspiration to the Penn Valley studio by becoming the new director of dance.
Originally from Southern California, this Nevada City resident had her dance beginnings in junior high when she took a jazz dance class at a studio in San Clemente. Prior to that she had been doing musical theater in school.
McAlister said she remembers her jazz teacher, who was from New York, talking about her friend who was a Rockette.
“I thought, ‘Wow!, the Rockettes!’” she said.
In high school, McAlister continued dancing in musical theater and, by college, was serious about studying dance.
“It appealed to the artistic side of me,” she explains. “I felt like it was my medium.
“A friend who saw me dancing said, ‘Wow, I really saw you in your element.’”
At Saddleback Junior College, she took ballet, modern, hip-hop and continued jazz. McAlister went on to California State University, Northridge, and majored in deaf studies with an education emphasis, but she continued dancing there, as well as teaching in after-school dance programs with the YMCA and recreation centers.
While at Northridge, she had a friend, Sam Donlavy, who started a dance company under the same name and hired McAlister as principal female dancer. She also did choreography for the company.
After the birth of their first son, McAlister and her husband decided to move to Nevada County in 2003. After a second son was born in 2005, she started dancing again. A friend told her about Penn Valley Dance and Fitness, where she began taking ballet classes. She was soon offered a job teaching the Creative Dance class for 3- to 5-year-olds, which quickly led to teaching adult ballet and children’s Ballet I classes.
Additionally, McAlister heads up a dance ministry at Twin Cities Church, where she choreographs, directs, dances and teaches workshops for the troupe. She also directs children’s musicals at the church.
Now that she is taking over as director of dance at Penn Valley Dance and Fitness, she hopes her experience will help dancers of all ages.
“I couple education with the arts,” she said. “Because of my educational background, I can help dancers with a strategy for development, and I can expose it as an art form. That is equally as important.”
Joining her at the studio are hip-hop teacher Nicole Chan and Hawaiian Hula teacher Kaia. Penn Valley Dance and Fitness owner Caroll Christy will continue teaching Pilates classes as well as monthly ballet masterclasses.
“I see Penn Valley Dance and Fitness as a place where people of all ages in our community can come and study an art form that will transform not only the body into a strong, healthy vessel but sharpen the mind and feed the soul,” McAlister said.
For class information, see the studio’s website at pvdanceandfitness.com or call (530) 432-8985
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