NEW Executive Director Laura Sawyer Is Practically Speechless

Laura Sawyer JOMDC EDDear Joy of Motion Dance Center family,

I cannot describe what an honor it is to have been chosen to serve as the new Executive Director of Joy of Motion Dance Center. This is a vibrant, creative, thriving organization filled with incredible people (staff, students, faculty, parents, the Board…) who are passionate about the idea that Dance is for Everyone. I, too, am passionate about that vision.

When I was a small girl in Athens, Georgia, my parents raised me while putting themselves through college. While they could tell I was brimming with creative energy, they had no money to send me to dance classes. We lived in a cinder block apartment and ate boiled potatoes and Tang orange drink. The winter I turned five years old, my grandmother took me to see a professional performance of The Nutcracker. From that day on, I would raid my mother’s closet for makeshift costumes and put on one-woman ballets. I played all the roles, from Clara to Uncle Drosselmeyer to the Mouse King (armed with a kitchen whisk)…I was hooked. At age five, I believed vehemently that Dance was for Everyone.

I would have been so grateful for a scholarship program like JOMDC’s.

It would have made all the difference.

tiny dancer

As I got older, I went on to take classes in modern, jazz, hip-hop, and tap, and I incorporated that training into my professional career on the Chicago stage. Though I was a singer/dancer/actor for over a decade in Chicago, I was never a skilled enough dancer to pursue dancing professionally on its own merits.

I am, therefore, still an embodiment of the idea that Dance is for Everyone:

I’m not the best at it.

I don’t get paid for it.

I do it because I love it.

TitleRole-MadameDeSade-EuropeanRepertoryCompanyChicagoI am a fan of dance as an art form, an advocate for dance education as a means of helping people of all ages discover the power of expressing their true selves and a firm believer in dance as a means of connecting a community. Joy of Motion Dance Center embodies all of these ideals.

It has become clear, through the process of getting to know JOMDC for the last several months, that so many people here work incredibly hard. From adult students who leave work early to make it to class on time, to youth dancers who spend countless hours rehearsing while maintaining their academic responsibilities. I’m amazed by the  faculty who crisscross the city on the metro to be here to provide top-notch dance training not only at the studio but also at local schools and senior centers throughout the DMV.  Among these hard workers, behind the scenes, are the Joy staff who make magic happen with limited resources every day. I am so impressed at what this staff of only 17 have accomplished year after year.  They are able to accomplish a lot with a little because they have passion. I share that passion, and I can’t wait to get to work.

Laura Sawyer Trade Magazine
Recent CEO Update. Laura is officially ours!

While JOMDC has seen a lot of success, there is still more that can be done. I don’t have all the answers; this isn’t pre-choreographed (see what I did there?). I have ideas, but a lot of what happens in the next six months, the next year, the next five years will be an improvisation based on what each member of the community brings to the table in terms of ideas and energy and passion. My role is to listen to each and every one of you, from the staff, to the faculty, parents, Board members, volunteers, to the youngest student. I’m listening to your ideas and challenges. My goal is to carve a way forward out of any bramble that blocks the path, to make JOMDC an even better place to learn and work and create.

When I relocated to the DC area from Chicago, my primary goal was to find a professional home where I could take my knowledge and skills from 18 years of nonprofit management and governance and apply that to a mission I truly care about. My “pie in the sky” dream was that I would somehow be lucky enough to end up working back in the performing arts, my first love. Healthcare is rewarding in its own way, but there is something about the power of creativity and artistic expression that can heal the soul just as medicine heals the body.

Joy of Motion Dance Center is a home away from home for so many students, parents, faculty and staff members. It is my responsibility to make sure our home continues to thrive and that we TitleRoleinMadamedeSade-EuropeanRep Chicagoremove any barriers to success so that all programs flourish, that each member of the Joy family feels that there really is joy in everything we do here, and that we do it well. I take that responsibility seriously. I promise all of you—all of the members of this extended family—to do my best work to build on JOMDC’s strengths, to ensure JOMDC’s future, and to safeguard a culture that makes each of us joyful to participate in this community each day.

I will be attending not only events but dance classes as well – if you see me, please say hello! My mind is open (along with my door), and I’m eager to meet all of you.

As one of my colleagues at the medical society said when my departure was announced, “We’ll miss you here, but you can’t really go wrong working for a place that has joy in its name.” I couldn’t agree more. Let’s do our best work to make a difference—and to create joy—together.



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