Community Hero: Helping Southern Nevada Dance Like No One is Watching

Whether she’s crafting choreography with preschool tots, showing new dance forms to students or teaching steps to youths with autism, Shaquida Vergo devotes most of her energy to teaching the performing arts.

“It’s just naturally a part of me,” says Vergo, who holds two performing arts degrees and has trained in dance since age 11. “It’s like my right arm, being a part of the arts and sharing my passion with others.”

Beyond working as a professional teaching artist with The Smith Center, the Las Vegas resident teaches dance to Southern Nevada’s younger generations through every opportunity she can find.

“When I’m giving and giving to my students, semester after semester, rehearsal after rehearsal, and you get to the show and they do it, you sit back and go, ‘Wow,’” Vergo says. “That’s a really good feeling.”

New Dance Opportunities

Some of Vergo’s favorite teaching efforts have come as surprises, she says. This includes rescuing the hip-hop class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Shortly before graduating from the college, she noticed the school was dropping the class.

Knowing many students could benefit from it, she volunteered to transition from student to teacher.

“I asked the department chair, ‘If you open that back up after graduation, I would love to teach it,’” she says, adding she has now taught the class for three years. “I’m hoping I can continue to expand it.”

Through her successful endeavors at UNLV, Vergo has also branched out to teach multi-cultural dance styles at high schools across Southern Nevada, including master classes and assemblies on Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Jazz.

“I feel it’s very important for (these students) as performers to be well rounded,” she says. “It allows you to do anything. It doesn’t box you into one particular art form.”

Supporting Arts Education

Vergo’s work with children and youth comes in all forms.

She has choreographed multiple musicals at Chaparral High School, teaches numerous dance styles at Dance Center of Las Vegas, and has performed for more than a year in Broadway in the H.O.O.D productions.

She has also taken on numerous roles with The Smith Center, including serving artistic and co-director positions with Camp Broadway, teaching children to perform musical theater productions.

“(Camp Broadway) builds confidence and self-awareness,” she says. “At the end of the week, kids are front and center, arms out, singing loud. You see them show themselves to everybody.”

As a teaching artist with The Smith Center’s Southern Nevada Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts program, Vergo also trains preschool educators on integrating the arts into teaching all curricula.

Her work in classrooms combines dance with sign language, she says.

“We start with reading a book and learning the signs of colors, animals and sounds, and then we allow the students to create movements for those,” Vergo says. “It’s another way to communicate and express themselves.”

She has even helped The Smith Center provide dance workshops for local children with autism.

This, with all of her many efforts, supports her guiding philosophy that anyone can benefit from dance.

“I just love being able to share my passion for dance with another group of kids who want to learn and be accepted for who they are,” she says. “I love being able to show them that they’re absolutely wonderful.”

For more information about The Smith Center’s teaching artists, visit www.thesmithcenter.com/education/teaching-artists/.

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