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Billy Keeney

Brianna Mullins, senior dance major, has been dancing since she was a toddler.

Journey to starlight: dancer stays busy despite pandemic

When senior dance major Bri Mullins was around 3 years old, she was small for her age and very shy around other children and adults. Her mother wanted to help coax her out of her shell, so she enrolled her at Kiddie Kapers Dance Company in Lexington, Kentucky.

“She put me in the dancewear that you have to wear when you’re young—the little pink [leotard], sparkly tutu and ballet shoes—and she just saw my face light up when I walked into the room,” Mullins said.

As she continued to grow in her dance career, Mullins said her mother realized how dedicated she was to learning new dance styles.

“I just love what dance brings to a human. I love how I can dance and create this story, create this emotion and be able to share it with the cast and the dancers around me, as well as to be able to connect with the audience,” Mullins said.

Outside of her dance studio, Mullins was also involved in her middle school and high school dance team where she gained more experience in pop and hip-hop dancing.

Even when she wasn’t in class or at competitive dance practice, Mullins understood the importance of practicing on her own time.

“I always went to the dance studio and just practiced and practiced and rehearsed just to continue to grow on my own. Yes, you have the classes to be able to learn and grow, but I saw how much I put into dance, how much I really loved it,” Mullins said. 

Mullins began assistant teaching for Kiddie Kapers around the age of 15 and quickly developed a passion for it, one that would inspire her to decide that she wanted to one day open her own dance studio.

Mullins said she chose the name Starlight Dance Academy and Fitness to support her mission of having a starlight behind every dancer and participant as they pursue their dance/fitness journeys. 

“I fell in love with teaching and helping young dancers grow, watch their placement and technique, allow them to learn terminology,” Mullins said.

When Mullins began looking for colleges, she knew that she wanted to pursue dance, and she was specifically looking for a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) instead of a Bachelor of Arts (BA) because “a BFA is a little bit more knowledge in the craft.”

In addition to her dance major, Mullins said she decided to minor in entrepreneurial studies to learn more about the business side of the dance industry, which will also help her gain the knowledge to one day open her own studio.

After Mullins chose to study at NKU and moved to campus, she didn’t waste any time looking for ways to continue teaching dance. She started working at Rapture Dance Company in Cold Spring and has been teaching there for about three years. She currently works with dancers from the ages of 2 to 12 and teaches beginner, pre-level, intermediate and acrobatic classes.

“It’s just that relationship and the bond you get to make with these dancers because this is all brand new to them,” Mullins said.

Also during her first semester of college, Mullins participated in a few fitness classes at the campus recreation center and became interested in teaching her own classes.

“I was like ‘wow, this is amazing. I want to do this,’” Mullins said.

According to Mullins, NKU’s Campus Recreation Center offers group fitness instructor training for beginning instructors that focuses on teaching students how to listen and cue music, identify what type of exercise works which muscle(s) and how to plan/format a class.

During the spring semester of her freshman year, Mullins began teaching her self-made class, “Jazz Funk Fitness,” at the Rec Center.

Mullins said she enjoys being a fitness instructor because she sees it as an opportunity to encourage people to perceive fitness as an escape.

“This is your way to work it and just … being able to express yourself and be fierce,” Mullins said.

When Mullins first came to college, she said it was with the sole intention to dance. She didn’t plan to become a fitness instructor, but because she fell in love with it, she decided to add fitness instruction to her dance studio plans.

To gain further experience in the fitness industry, Mullins also became a certified group fitness instructor through the National Exercise Training Association (NETA), which will allow her to continue to teach fitness classes after graduating college.

In December of this year, Mullins plans to take a certification test through the National Academy of Science Sports Medicine (NASSM) to become a personal trainer. 

When Mullins isn’t teaching dance or fitness classes, she spends her time choreographing routines. She is currently working on filming self-choreographed pieces for the upcoming Emerging Choreographers’ Showcase, hosted by NKU’s School of the Arts.

“Being able to make sure I plan everything, instead of doing it on the spot, has helped me throughout my college years to stay on top of everything. This year I teach about eight classes and I’m adding another private, so I teach a lot of classes, and plus school on top of that,” Mullins said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mullins said her post-graduation plans have changed, but despite the adversity the performing arts industry has faced, she reminds herself to never give up on her dreams, and if one door closes another one will open.

“More long-term goals, I definitely want to continue getting more certifications through fitness—personal training, of course,” Mullins said.

Mullins has also considered moving to Chicago to work for a company that specializes in jazz, contemporary or modern dance, or moving to Orlando, Florida to work at Walt Disney World as a character such as Tinker Bell, Wendy or Alice. 

“As long as I keep on dancing and performing and teaching, then I’m happy.”

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