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Curtain Call: Professional dancer finds joy through teaching

Aisha Wand is celebrating her 20th year as founder and owner of Danceworks, an Ashland dance studio, at 280 E. Hersey St., Suite 14.

After a successful career as a professional dancer in Honolulu, New York and Los Angeles, she finds great satisfaction in teaching. She loves seeing the joy on her students’ faces when they reach a goal.

“When you dance and let go of everything, there is a beautiful sense of freedom,” she said. “And it has always been a way of coping.”

Coping is something she has been doing a lot of lately. First it was the pandemic. And then both she and her studio manager lost their homes in the Almeda fire.

There has been an outpouring of help to victims of the fire. She, her husband and their three children have been moved by the generosity of those who have contributed to accounts set up for them at GoFundMe and Facebook.

The business has suffered.

“Danceworks is barely staying afloat,” she said. “Doing what I do is almost impossible with the circumstances we are in. Now we’re offering online classes and private and semi-private instruction.”

Available online classes and schedules are posted at ashlanddanceworks.com.

Wand, 50, was born in London and began dancing at the age of 9 in Santa Barbara. She developed a love for dance in her middle school years in Honolulu when she studied ballet, hula, jazz and hip-hop.

After high school she continued her studies at EDGE Performing Arts Center studios in Los Angeles and the Broadway Dance Center in New York.

In the early ’90s, she began a professional career, performing in television commercials, off-Broadway productions, and in Legends in Concert, a Las Vegas-based production that went international.

Later she performed in music videos for MTV and VH1 with artists such as Prince, Morris Day and Babyface.

“I have always loved performing,” she said. “I was in a singing group when I was a child. The love of music is what inspired me to want to dance and do choreography.”

She grew up in a creative family. Her sister was a ballet dancer and her father was a painter and writer.

One of the early influences inspiring her to dance was Michael Jackson.

“I wanted to be in one of his videos,” she said. “Michael was an inspiration to all aspiring performers because of his charisma and pure talent. He pushed aspects of dance and performance where they had never gone before.”

Life experiences inspire her choreography. Dance is a way she can react and cope with those experiences.

“The storytelling starts with digging deep within yourself,” she said. “Everyone’s process is different, but with me it starts with a song that triggers an emotion and transcends through the body.”

She teaches her students to never hold back.

“I tell them to love who they are and express themselves, that every dancer is unique.”

Her daily routine keeps her fit and dance ready.

“I work out regularly and love healthy foods,” she said. “I am a barre fitness instructor and dance five days a week.”

She moved to Ashland to be close to family. Before she opened the dance studio, she worked as a bartender and waitress at the now-defunct Kat Wok restaurant and at Martino’s.

Today she teaches children and adults how to celebrate life through dance.

“I can’t think of a better career.”

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Aisha Wand