Today we’d like to introduce you to August Tye.
Thanks for sharing your story with us August. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I began my formal dance training in Kalamazoo Michigan with former Royal Winnipeg Ballet Dancer and Certified Royal Academy of Dance instructor, Therese Bullard. During my years of training at the Bullard School of Ballet and while performing in the Kalamazoo Ballet we were encouraged to take part in Teacher’s Training and develop our own choreography. We also learned a lot about the administrative and business end of running a dance school. For that, I am most grateful. I know I would not be where I am today without such well-rounded training.
I moved to Chicago in 1992 to work at Maria Tallchief’s school, The School of Chicago Ballet. I began teaching children’s classes there during the summer. Little did I know that Ms. Tallchief would be retiring the School of Chicago Ballet by years end. One of her Board of Directors, Marylyn Ratliff was a huge supporter of my teaching style and choreography. She and I founded the Hyde Park School of Ballet (currently the Hyde Park School of Dance) in 1993. We had four instructors, one accompanist and 30 students when we started the school. We opened the school at the First Unitarian Church in Hyde Park, the same church the Chicago Children’s’ Choir was founded in. Marilyn and I wanted our school to embrace and fostered diversity in dance as well break down some of the stereotypical archetypes of ballet including race, religion, body type, sexual orientation, and ability to pay. Her own African American daughters were among my first students. We began by making the school a Not for Profit 501(c3) school to create opportunities to raise money so that financial barriers would not be an issue for families who wanted to study dance. With a highly committed staff, Board of Directors, hard work and baby steps we have grown into four studio spaces, with a rigorous outreach program, employing twelve dance instructors and twelve accompanists.
As we celebrate our 25th Anniversary this year, I am grateful to the support the Hyde Park Community has given me and the Hyde Park School of Dance allowing us to flourish over the years. We have grown to close to 500 hundred students and developed classes for ages 18 months to Adults with a hearty pre-professional program that emphasizes performance opportunities, teacher training and the development of young choreographers. We offer a variety of classes that is just about as diverse as our student body with Modern Dance, Jazz, Dance, West African Dance, Break Dance and a very strong Ballet base.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Surprisingly it has been a very smooth road over the past 25 years, I am the kind of person who is happy to delegate work that is not in my realm of expertise. I don’t like to micromanage people who work for the school. I try to find the right person for the job and let them run with their ideas and develop their skills. Our Board of Directors has been a big part of this success. They are very budget conscious and savvy about the neighborhood. We also have a huge corps of volunteers who without them we would not be able to do the many performances, with hundreds of costumes, annually. My teaching staff is also very dedicated to HPSD. Most of the teachers have been with the school for 10-15 years. They understand the schools mission and are supreme nurturers of childhood development as well as professional dance instructors. Most importantly we are all eager to look at the past season and see how we can improve upon it. Like a dancer who seeks to improve themselves which each plie and tendu, we will always seek to improve HPSD from year to year. As we have grown, we have experienced growing pains over the years. We always need to find more ways to fundraise in order to support more and more students with financial barriers. Additionally, we are often crunched for actual space to hold dance classes and rehearse. These are among our biggest challenges currently.
Please tell us about Hyde Park School of Dance.
I think our mission statement sums up what sets HPSD apart from other dance businesses.
“Serving Chicago’s South Side Since 1993
Hyde Park School of Dance is a 501(c)3 non-profit providing opportunities for students of all ages to study, perform, and create classical and contemporary dance at the highest levels of discipline and artistry. We welcome dancers of any race, religion, body type, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and family income. We cultivate a love of dance and strength of body, mind, and character that will benefit our students throughout their lives.”
The study of dance is much more than going on stage and performing tricks you have trained your body to do. It is about teamwork, community, developing discipline and developing self-esteem. These qualities will stick with our dancers whether they decide to continue in a dance profession or go on to other endeavors.
We strive to be a dance school without labels. We are not the “black” dance school neither are we the “white’ dance school or the “competition” dance school. We are the dance school for the community, a home where true diversity can live to be fostered and respected while offering all the benefits of professional dance training.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory is creating performances for my parents. Well before we started our formal dance training, my sister and I would create dance performances in our bedroom with our little record player. We would really plan it out and put on outfits/costumes to enhance the show. We would then go up to the living room and perform them for our parents. I was five or six and she was two or three. It was the beginning of a life long relationship. My sister Aimee Tye is a huge part of HPSD as an instructor and my co-collaborator on many of our ballets.
- Registration for dance classses Session 1 is still open.
- Visit www.hydeparkdance.org for class schedule and pricing
- Come see us perform the Nutcracker Dec. 14,15 and 16th at Madel Hall in Hyde Park
- Our annual scholarship auditions are held in May – Don’t miss out on your opportunity to dance!
- Address: Hyde Park School of Dance
5650 S. Woodlawn Ave
Chicago IL 60637
- Website: www.hydeparkdance.org
- Phone: 773-493-8498
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: hydeparkschoolofdance
- Facebook: Hyde Park School of Dance
All Photos by Marc Monaghan