Chenoweth teaches students to appreciate pirouettes

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By Trevor S. Lilburn

Rita Chenoweth (Trevor Lilburn)

By Trevor S. Lilburn

Instructor Rita Chenoweth sheds light on the subject of dance.

Chenoweth teaches dance appreciation and Jazz Dance Technique here at RCC.

She’s been teaching at RCC since 1989. For someone who has been dancing since she was three years old, she certainly knows what she’s doing.

As a young girl she had problems with her feet and the doctor suggested to her mother to enroll her in a dancing class. It was a children’s ballet class.

Chenoweth attended Orange high school, which happened to have an excellent dance program. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in dance.

After finishing her formal education she went into the world of teaching others to dance.

She found a studio in Redlands and bought it from the previous owner.

She met Joe Dierdorff, a dance instructor at the University of Redlands. The two became friends and Dierdorff was a mentor to Chenoweth.

But funding dance classes is expensive and in time the University of Redlands had to cut her classes.

Dierdorff lost her job and started instructing at RCC. She encouraged Chenoweth to go back to school and she eventually took the advice.

She attended UC Irvine where she earned her master in Fine Arts while owning and operating a dance studio, working at RCC as a part-time instructor and raising a daughter.

“I love it here. I feel really blessed that I get to do something I love,” Chenoweth said.

She says it is hard to be a dancer today.

“I try and uncover the complexities of dance for those who maybe only see it in one light,” Chenoweth said. “Where media makes it out to be very flashy and entertaining, I try to show the other side where people can express themselves in religious ways through movement and dance. It can be a cultural expression and it can be an artistic expression.”

There are four full-time instructors who teach various dance classes at our school. They take turns directing or co-directing concerts. This year Chenoweth has been very active with RCC’s touring ensemble. “My job entails turning on that proverbial light bulb in the student and I can see it in their eyes when it clicks on,” Chenoweth said.

For transfer students, there is an effort to help them with the artistic process.

The students who will go on to become dance majors must be ready for rigorous four-year classes. Dancers are expected to be able to compete, and RCC prepares them.

The dancers at RCC have earned one of the largest acknowledgements for college dance ensembles.

They competed at the Gala Concert against graduate students for the past six years.

Chenoweth’s original dance studio, Dance Horizons, still stands under new management. It teaches Ballet, tap, jazz, creative movement, and aerobic classes.

Chenoweth is married with three step-children. “It’s very different,” she said. “Having a larger family. . . having more people around.”

Besides her work at RCC she also teaches several yoga classes that helps with physical therapy.

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