For many young girls who grew up on Six Nations – dance was their first love. A love fostered by none other than Miss Michelle Farmer who this year is celebrating 40 years of teaching tap, jazz, ballet and modelling to the children of Six Nations and New Credit.
Farmer started out dancing after doctors recommended her mother put her in dance to strengthen her muscles after an injury.
“I started teaching officially when I was 14. September 1975 at St. Peter’s Church Hall,” said Farmer. Eventually, Farmer’s father built her a studio in the basement of their home and it is in that same space that nearly 3000 children, youth and young adults have come through the doors to 5,6,7,8 their way to stardom.
Her training was across the United States and Canada. “I got my Masters in Dance at University and I studied dance in New York under one of the four jazz masters of the world. Not a lot of people know that,” said Farmer.
In fact ‘Miss Michelle’, as she is known by her dancers, was one of the few dancers selected to audition to be a Radio City Rocket – an exclusive invitation for professional dancers. “It got to the place where I was in New York, I was dancing professionally, and I just missed home and I missed teaching,” said Farmer. So, in 1983 – Farmer knew that being on Six Nations and teaching dance was her calling.
From then to now – Farmer’s little studio has blossomed into being one of the leading competitive studios in North America with her students travelling yearly to compete in Hollywood, Myrtle Beach and Ohio each year.
“I always try to make sure that I don’t favour any one dancer,” says Michelle. “We are a small studio. We are like a family.”
Farmer says that she is not always the one teaching but that she has learned from her students over the years. “I learned patience. When I was younger things got to me more. I’ve learned that whatever’s going to happen, happens.”
Farmer says that her main concern is the journey, and not a perfect performance “I care about each and every dance. I don’t care if they come once a week I want them to look good. My baby ballet class has so much choreography. My youngest in that class is two. She’s only been dancing for a couple of months but I got her in the show. I care about her growing as a dancer so she gets used to the stage now so that when she is three next year if she is still dancing – she’ll be that much better. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t do the steps properly. I’d rather her get used to the audience and the stage and get her that much more ready for next year.”
“For me its about teaching the art of dance. I have a little motto in my head and that is to make each dancer feel special. I just want them to know that they are a somebody – and that dance is a talent.”
This year, Michelle Farmer’s 40th Anniversary performance will feature dancers in their first show ever as well as senior students returning from her very first year in teaching. The 40th Anniversary Showcase is this Friday June 5th and Saturday June 6th at 7:30 p.m. at the BCI Auditorium. Tickets are still available and you can purchase them at the door; $15 for adults $10 for children and elders.