Dance South broadens traditional education

Kristin Bundren knows toes begin getting antsy in their tennis shoes near 2:30 in the afternoon. She herself used to squirm in her seat waiting for the bell to release her on her way to dance class.

“Being able to take a piece of music and express yourself through it is amazing,” she said. “Its even more amazing to see people all together who love it as much as you do.”

Bundren became one of Nina Maniscalco’s first students 19 years ago. Maniscalco runs multiple after school and community education programs for Shelby County Schools.

“I used to think I hated dance when I was young. The teacher would fuss at us for being late or for not standing in our place,” Maniscalco said. “Now, as a teacher I realize I’ve loved it all my life.”

Maniscalco has taught kids at Chelsea Park, Inverness, Oak Mountain and Mt. Laurel Elementary Schools, as well as Oak Mountain Intermediate School, CASA at Asbury UMC and Primrose School of Meadowbrook.

When she began 20 years ago, she started at Inverness Elementary with 50 students. The next year she had 120. Five years ago, she expanded her reach further by opening Dance South in Chelsea.

Maniscalco said dance provides a natural compliment to traditional education.

“Children that aren’t talented probably need it more than those who are,” Maniscalco said. “It helps them come out of their shyness.”

She said dance helps kids become more comfortable in social situations and teaches them how to interact with other kids and adults. She said they also gain self-confidence and discipline.

Alice Caldwell began classes eight years ago. She said her mom says she’s more poised because of dance.

“My mom says I always hold myself up more,” Caldwell said. “It gives you the courage to be able to stand up in front of a crowd.”

Dance South teaches ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop and clogging. They hope to also add a ballroom dance class that would pair students with their parents.

Bundren now teaches for Maniscalco.

“I think it teaches (kids) a lot of discipline and responsibility,” Bundren said. “In order to be a dancer, you not only have to be creative, but you have to work hard.”