As the world moves toward recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, we asked people in our community about a time they started over or started again. How did they recover and re-energize themselves in those situations? Over the next several weeks, we will share the stories of their #restart.
Kirsten Ledford, Dancer and Early Childhood Special Educator, Baltimore City Public Schools
I was a teacher in Alexandria, Virginia. I loved my school and my principal. The community was loving and diverse. I was appreciated as a teacher and regularly spoiled by my student’s parents with homemade goodies. There was one problem: My teaching license certified me from birth to grade three. Virginia required that I be certified through grade 12. I would have had to take a million classes to do that, so I didn’t bother.
A new focus
As I was completing my third year in Alexandria, I started to panic because I knew I would get fired without those classes. My provisional certificate was almost expired and I NEEDED a job. I had a mortgage. This was the 2000 to 2001 school year.
One day, there was a performance and one dancer couldn’t make it. I learned the steps really quickly and filled in.
It just so happens that I always side-hustled as a dance fitness instructor. I have an extensive background in dance and have always put it to use. A few years earlier, I had met C. Brian Williams in my step aerobics class. He had an all-male group called Step Afrika! Stepping is a percussive dance genre created by African-American fraternities and sororities. I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Inc. and am very familiar with step. Step Afrika! would perform for different pan-African events and was made up of members of Alpha Phi Alpha, Fraternity, Inc., mostly at Howard University. One day, there was a performance and one dancer couldn’t make it. I learned the steps really quickly and filled in. It worked. The all-male ensemble became co-ed from that day on.
Step into inspiration
The demand for what Step Afrika! presented kept growing. As I was losing my job as a teacher, Brian offered to bring me on full time to do a world tour. I went from being a teacher to being the first artistic director for Step Afrika! I retired from touring at 36 when I got pregnant, and I got a teaching job in Maryland where I was certified.
Step Afrika! will host a virtual Juneteenth celebration on Friday, June 19 at 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, the company has evolved into a major force in the dance world. Check out them out at stepafrika.org. I remain a teacher, but still side hustle with dance fitness.