By Elizabeth Weiss, Oyo Dance Company Board President
Rachel Nace Maynard has been dancing since she was three and has been teaching dance since she was 10. She has danced professionally in both ballet and ballroom dancing, and is in her fourth season as the Artistic Director for Oyo Dance Company. As they prepare for their upcoming show, Parallel, she sat down with Elizabeth Weiss, Oyo’s Board President, for a Q&A about her journey to this point.
Elizabeth: How did you get your start as a teacher/choreographer?
Rachel: By the time I was a teenager, I was teaching at the Greater York Youth Ballet. From then through my early 20s, I choreographed and taught at a number of regional ballet schools. I have always loved teaching, and I am grateful to be able to do that now that I am no longer dancing professionally myself.
Elizabeth: What brought you to Columbus?
Rachel: I came to Columbus to be a professional ballroom dancer, which I did for seven years. When I had my daughters, I stopped dancing professionally and re-opened my own studio in 2010. I had a studio in Pennsylvania, and was eager to get back to teaching and mentoring.
Elizabeth: What made you decide to start a dance company in Columbus?
Rachel: When I was dancing professionally, there were such rigid requirements about how dancers had to look and act, and it really limited the expression of a lot of gifted artists. I wanted to create a company with a focus on artistic excellence that also supported physical and mental health.
Elizabeth: What makes Oyo different from other dance organizations?
Rachel: Oyo is a really special place. Our dancers train in ballet, but also in modern dance, West African dance, ballroom dancing and pilates. They are versatile and strong in so many ways. Our shows are visually interesting and eclectic, with different styles of music, dance and choreography. We have a wonderful, supportive atmosphere in our company and our studio; it’s a joy for me to see the amazing community that has grown around Oyo.
Elizabeth: What is your favorite part about being the artistic director for Oyo?
Rachel: I love being able to see our dancers grow and expand their horizons, and I really enjoy choreographing pieces that bring out each of their strengths. It makes me feel so good when audience members have that “wow” moment, where they have been moved by one of our pieces.
Elizabeth: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Rachel: There is so much going on in Columbus that it’s hard to pick a single favorite thing! I have to say that across all the different genres and types of artistic expression here, I love that every organization I have come across has some sort of involvement in their community or outreach program to make sure that there are opportunities for interested people to experience and create art. The arts are so important for a healthy community, and I love that Columbus arts organizations are so willing to invest in the people who live here.
See Oyo Dance Company in their show Parallel: Performance and discussion about (in)equality at the Columbus Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 1:30 and 7:00 p.m. The show features pieces from a number of choreographers and musicians, all of which focus on (in)equality in terms of gender, race and/or class. The performance will be followed by a round table discussion. Tickets are free for high school and college students with ID, and $20 for general admission. For tickets and information, visit here.