Quisan Parker has traveled across the country, dancing and receiving instruction from some of the best in the industry. Her prestigious training and dance abilities could easily have her working in a dance studio in one of the larger cities, but the Sampson County native would rather bring what she loves home.
As the owner and artistic director at Quisan’s Dance Academy, Parker shares her passion of the art with more than 100 students. In 2004, Parker opened Gotta Dance with just 19 students and a one-room studio. In 2009, she entered into a joint business venture, but decided to split for artistic and business differences just two years later. For the last six years, Parker has worked to grow a dance empire under the QDA name.
“Now, I have so many different levels of kids that we work with,” Parker said.
Approximately 40 of Parker’s students are a member of one of the 14 company teams. The young girls travel around North Carolina and neighboring states to compete in top-level competitions. At each event, there are about 50 entries, including groups, solos, duos and trios. Company girls range in age from the mini category to the senior category.
Parker grew up in Sampson County and took dance under several local dance instructors like Nancy Heath and Marsha Husky. As she grew in her dancing ability, she received private instruction from a studio in Fayetteville and eventually traveled across North Carolina and New York for pre-professional training.
For the last 25 years, Parker has been sharing her passion for dance and has worked to train many of her students to share their own passion with others. All the teacher assistants at the studio have been trained under Parker, and now work with younger students on the craft and technique.
While Parker did not receive formal education in the dance field, she doesn’t believe that hinders her ability to share her love of dancing with others.
“Some of my best teachers didn’t have formal dance training,” Parker said. “In the end, it’s about what you produce, and they all produced good quality dancers.”
In her years teaching, Parker has trained many students who have gone on to become professional dancers who work on dance teams or instructing others how to dance.
“I want my dancers to be able to go anywhere and audition and they can make it,” Parker shared.
Instructing dance isn’t Parker’s only job. Yes, she is at the studio nearly seven days a week, more than eight hours a day, but says her job doesn’t stop on the studio floor.
“I want my students to grow into unentitled adults that understand that you get what you work for,” Parker explained.
Parker’s psychology training in college often comes in handy, when any of her students come to class bothered by an experience they have had earlier in the day. Forming great dancers is important, but Parker says it’s more important to make her dancers great people.
As a young dancer, Parker says she remembers thinking she was one of the best, but quickly realized at a competition that she wasn’t and had a long ways to go before she could be the best.
“I was seeing things I had never seen,” Parker said about the skill level of the other dancers. “I felt embarrassed because I wasn’t up to par. I wanted to make sure that no kid every felt the way I did.”
Even though Parker began with just herself, she now employs six other teachers and has an office staff. Ensuring her students get the best dance education and experience possible, she also brings in advanced teachers from Raleigh and New York to work with her students.
“There isn’t much opportunity around here for a young artist to grow,” Parker said. “My parents sacrificed to allow me to get the exposure I needed to be a better dancer, so it’s definitely worth me bringing in guests teachers for my students.”
The students and parents at QDA are very much like a family. Parker said she teachers her students that their behavior has an impact on other students and that if one student fails, everyone fails.
“When you aren’t working hard, it not only impacts you, but those around you,” Parker shared. “I want my students to learn that life isn’t all about them.”
For that reason, when Parker takes her students to competitions, she teaches them to leave their egos at home.
Company members are part of the “Big Sister, Little Sister” program. Carefully placed together, the older students mentor the younger students. Not only are they there to offer words of encouragement on the dance floor, but to encourage the girls through life situations.
“This just reinforces the studio’s philosophy that life isn’t all about you,” Parker said.
Parker says she is also a strong believer in instilling good self-esteem in her students.
“I find the good in everyone and I teach my students to do the same,” Parker said. “I don’t want them putting limitations on themselves or others. It’s important that they learn that beauty is as beauty does. It’s the inside that matters.”
When problems arise, Parker has also instilled in her students how to handle situations that may be negative, in a positive manner.
Parker says she doesn’t like to hear her students say “I can’t,” because she believes everyone can.
“I see my students at a certain level and I will continue to believe in them until they start believing in themselves,” she said. “I try to emphasize the ‘aha moments’ and encourage them to keep pushing until they achieve their goals.”
QDA, Parker shared, isn’t just a dance studio, but a ministry disguised as a dance studio. Her goal for each of her students is to grow as a person, and if that means a life on the dance floor, that’s what she wishes and dreams for each student.
Additionally, students are given many opportunities when they are part of the Quisan’s Dance Academy. Each year, students are part of community events, like the Downtown Street Fair, Roseboro Christmas parade and Clinton Christmas parade. Parker also takes her students to local nursing homes as a way of giving back to the community.
Company students are given the opportunity to travel across the state and even other states. In October, students traveled to Orlando, Fla. to a three-day dance convention. Students were given the opportunity to take classes from and dance with advanced teachers from So You Think You Can Dance, as well as other dance organizations.
In February, students traveled to a dance convention and competition in Myrtle Beach, S.C., competing at the pre-professional level and placing in the top 10 of overall scores. Company students will continue to travel and compete over the next few months, participating in different competitions and conventions.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.