NICEVILLE — The Frances Smith Herron Dance Studio at Northwest Florida State College's Mattie Kelly Arts Center annually trains scores of student dancers in jazz, ballet, modern and classical dance.
When Crestview and DeFuniak Springs students Kalyn Sawyer and Haylee Green and their troupe mates danced Friday during Dance Facets' opening night, behind their performances was the motto of their studio's namesake: The words "Do it with love" hang on the wall as a reminder of what students should put into their art.
Dance Facets, cast after a vigorous, competitive audition process, showcases the year's accomplishments by the program's best students in these disciplines, professor of dance Joseph Taylor said.
“The work and background preparation that goes into this dance extravaganza is tremendous," Taylor said. "Those selected work for months on their choreography and dance numbers."
Taylor, who now heads the college dance program, was one of program founder and former dance department head Herron's students.
“It’s not appropriate to say I’m now ‘filling Frances’ shoes’ as head of the dance department — no one can take that place — but I do try to honor her legacy each day as I work with our students," Taylor said.
"In the end, it’s just as Frances said; it’s about more than teaching skills and technique. It’s about doing what you do with grace and love for both the art and the student who creates the art — to help make our students become better persons and live life to the fullest, just as Frances did.”
Frances Herron endowment
Frances Smith Herron, the wife of retired Fine and Performing Arts Division head Cliff Herron, died at age 54 in 2006 after complications from liver failure.
Students, alumni, colleagues and supporters raised $90,000 in 2008 for an endowment to celebrate her life by naming the college's dance studio in her memory.
The endowment has surpassed $105,000 and provided more than $5,000 in dance department scholarships and program support.