Annie Simons – chasing a dream and healing through dance

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Annie and her friends Bela and Alyssa met me (Matt) at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on a beautiful summer morning. Annie’s story is one of pushing through hardships with the help of a wonderful family and her dance family. It was a pleasure getting to know her and you might want to follow her dance career. She had big plans and is tenaciously pursuing her dreams.

Annie and her mother have created the Annual Rod Simons Memorial Golf for the Gift, a golf tournament dedicated to raising funds for the Gift of Adoption Fund, helping parents overcome the financial hurdles of the adoption process. You can follow her at @annie_futurerockette…and be sure to watch for her on the stage of an upcoming broadway production.

Tell us about how you got started dancing:
I began dancing at age 3. I am adopted and was slow to develop as a baby. My parents put me into dance to help with my coordination and development. It was a match made in heaven. At first I loved the sport because I could wear cute leotards, tutus and hair bows…I rocked them! But then I learned that not only was my natural sass ok…it was encouraged, even expected…and I had PLENTY of it to give. As I learned to perform and developed flexibility my love for the performance and costumes matured into an appreciation and love for the sport that allowed me to overcome my early development difficulties.

How have you/your style progressed since you started dancing?
I have always been drawn to musical theatre, specifically I enjoy Broadway choreography. But I have over the last several years been drawn to contemporary dance. I love the way that the contemporary dance style allows me to express myself when words come short.  Dance has become a therapy in itself as life threw me a curve ball when my father passed away unexpectedly in 2017.  My dance family stood by me as my dance allowed me to work through struggles I did not know how to express in words.

Annie Simons photos for Dancers of Minnesota. Photo by Matt Blewett/Matte B Photography for My Story Minnesota

What do you love about dance today?
Learning to relate to the music through my movement and the choreography is teaching me to express myself more freely. I love to perform, especially with my performing line and companies. We have danced together so long, and we love dancing together!

Photo by Matt Blewett

What is a challenge you have sustained in your dance career?
My Dad passed away in February 2017 unexpectedly just days before the first competition of the season. I was 11 years old. I cannot begin to describe how devastating that was to my world. I was lost. Through this, my studio, coach and teammates rallied behind me, danced with me and cried with me. We dedicated our season to my father. He is my inspiration and the muse in every solo I dance, I dance in his honor. I know he’s watching!

What lessons did you learn through this challenge?
I learned that I can do anything I set my mind on, and that I am blessed with an amazing mom and dance family. I also learned that for me, dance is more than performing, more than competing, it is a personal experience. It allows me to work out emotions I did not know how to express, anxiety, sadness, anger, joy, through movement and music. There were times where I felt that dance was all I had left to lean on.  My coaches and teammates have taught me work ethic and the importance of giving your best every time.  It is just as important to give your all in every lesson, class and personal practice as it is to leave it all on the stage.  Lastly, dance has taught me respect and gratitude for everyone who has helped me dance, from my mother to coaches, teammates and my entire dance family.  These are the lessons that I have learned and that have been with me in the months and years since my Dad passed away and are shaping me as I strive to become a Broadway dancer one day.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Give your very best and the rest will take care of itself in the time it is supposed to happen.” This is what I hear every week with my coach. Accepting the hard reality that I will not win the title or scholarship every time I compete is difficult, but if I have prepared and performed at my very best, I need to be satisfied and keep dreaming big and believing that my time will come.

Time for shout outs…anyone you want to thank?
I want to say thank you to a few important people who have and continue to give me the gift of Dance:

  • My Dad – Rod Simons
  • My Coach and Mentor – Michelle (Mike) Thiel from Dancin on Broadway Studio.
  • The Dancin on Broadway Studio – all the teachers but especially Mike, Debbie and Laurie
  • And my Mom, of course!
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