Sheena Mason is ‘an advocate for youth and dance’ at Northwest Akron studio April 29th, 2019 by Amber Cullen Akron is full of spaces for creatives to gather, learn, and grow. Some spaces are prominent; others are hidden gems. One such hidden gem is Sheena’s Platinum Movements, a dance studio in Northwest Akron. There is no good way to describe the studio’s location — it’s right across the tracks, diagonal from One of a Kind Pets, across from a storage unit, and next to a beauty school. Once you weave your way to the spot, a giant “BALLET, TAP, JAZZ, MODERN, HIP-HOP” on the front door lets you know you’re in the right place. Inside, a tutu clock, a bold color mosaic, laughter from dancers, photo collages, lots of tulle and a full-size dance studio greet you. It is clear that this place is valued, cherished, and a place of community for all who enter. Sheena’s Platinum Movements offers each dancer “a positive non-competitive learning environment that enhances confidence, coordination, technique, and an appreciation for music and dance.” They do this through dance classes for kids — ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and hip-hop — as well as classes for adults, including tap and Zumba. The studio was founded in September 2013 and moved to its current location in 2017. A Miller South and Firestone graduate, Sheena Mason is an example of a creative who left Akron only to come back and invest in her own community. Before opening Sheena’s Platinum Movements, Sheena spent ten years teaching tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop and modern dance for the City of Akron’s Recreation Department at Northwest Community Center. When she opened her own studio, many students followed Miss Sheena to continue to study with her. Watching Sheena’s down-to-earth and encouraging teaching style, it is easy to see why. “I see myself now as a mentor. An advocate for youth and dance. An advocate in teaching correct techniques, age-appropriate movements, and costuming,” Sheena says. Sheena’s Platinum Movements is a non-competitive environment. Sheena speaks frequently of this and stresses its importance in the way she views dance education. “What I’ve seen over the last 15 or so years [in dance education] are people doing a lot of the ‘wow factor;’ like they’re trying to get the tricks and the costumes and the facial expressions and the whole thing instead of worrying about proper dance technique,” Sheena says. She believes that competitive dance makes dance about a trophy, and not about the enjoyment and love of the art. “When I was younger, people competed, but that wasn’t my life. I did dance because I enjoyed it. I did ballet because it was required for me to do anything else. Ballet, modern, tap, are the ones that I enjoy,” Sheena says. Sheena has retired from performing, and now focuses all her energy on teaching. Although she never thought she would be here with her own studio, she has found that not only was she good at it, but she enjoys it. This summer, Sheena is teaching three dance camps for kids, in addition to the yearly recital. Sheena’s hope for the Akron arts community is more connectivity and outreach. “It’s hard to find information, and hard to get out there,” Sheena says. She wants the visual arts community and performing arts community to work together more. “More coming together, programming, helping the little guys,” Sheena adds. In Sheena’s reflections, I heard a narrative that I hear from many Akron art-repreneurs: the need for more infrastructure and administrative capacity to keep our creative spaces flourishing. I had the joy of taking a six-week Adult Beginner Tap Class at Sheena’s, and found myself laughing alongside 15 other adult students in this small Northwest Akron studio. None of us were professional tap dancers, but we found joy in movement, rhythm, and song. We were building community. And in that moment, I understood what Sheena’s Platinum Movements was about. Sheena’s Platinum Movements is at 1915 W Market Street. Dancers will have their annual recital at the Downtown Akron Public Library on Sunday, June 9 at 6:30pm. Tickets are $10 in advance, or $12 at the door. The recital is open to the public. For more information, visit www.platinummovements.com. This story is part of The Devil Strip’s Akropreneurs series, which is made possible by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the Fund for Our Economic Future. Amber is the Lead Facilitator of VIBE Collective, a network of Northeast Ohio artists at the intersection of art, culture, and education, who seek to create spaces for community transformation and healing. 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