DEC alumni have gone on to prove dance is an education you can use for a lifetime. Here are some of our wonderful former students talking about how their time at DEC contributed to their work beyond the studio.

Sarah Schwab


It all started when…

In 2011 (which feels like yesterday...), I graduated from high school and Dance Education Center. The following fall, I began attending UW-Madison, spending 5 years as an undergrad soaking up everything college, the dance department and the UW-Madison Campus had to offer me. In 2016, I graduated with a dual degree in Dance and Community and Nonprofit Management as well as a Violence Prevention certification from Hancock Center for Dance/Movement Therapy.

As a dancer, I have been extremely fortunate and have received many performance opportunities both locally and abroad. I have performed in Chicago, Honolulu, Madison, Milwaukee, Nashville, New York City, Seattle, Washington DC, and internationally in Malaysia, Mexico, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. I have also gained many enriching opportunities performing with numerous Madison and Chicago based dance companies and professional choreographers including Jin Wen Yu Dance, Karen Mcshane-Hellenbrand, Kate Corby and Dancers, Li Chiao-Ping Dance, Marlene Skog Dance, NuMoRune Collaberative, and Winifred Haun and Dancers.

I am currently living in Madison, Wisconsin with my partner Matt. Matt is a writer, musician, and actor, so art is in every corner of my life! I am currently working full time as the Assistant Youth Program Manager and Arts Coordinator at East Madison Community Center as well as serving as Performing Ourselves' Marketing Manager. I also recently began exploring another side of my art, poetry! I have released my debut poetry book "summer honey, winter rain", available now:

Without DEC, all of these incredible opportunities and adventures would not have be possible. DEC really prepared me for a career in dance and started me off with a perfect base to grow from. Unlike many of my fellow dance majors, I had nothing to "unlearn", rather felt right at home in the University setting. This is because DEC was truly a home to nourish and flourish. I learned valuable skills such as time management, dedication, and perseverance that took me beyond the dance studio and into all areas of my life. I feel great knowing that DEC will always be a place to come home to no matter where the journey leads me next.


Lark Lewis

lark capitol.jpg


  • Congressional Intern and Fellow, 2017
    • Worked for Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois
  • Division 1 Collegiate dancer at Northern Illinois University, 2013-2017
    • Had the opportunity to perform at 4 professional sports arenas, two Big 10 arenas, traveled to Boca Raton, San Diego, Cleveland, Chicago, and Detroit.
  • Illinois Broadcaster of the Year Student Journalist, 2017
    • I was an anchor at my university's television station, Northern Television Center
  • B.A. in Journalism & Political Science with a minor in Media Studies from Northern Illinois University, 2017


  • Digital Strategist at New Blue Interactive in Washington, DC. I do online small-donor fundraising and social media strategies for various political campaigns across the country. 

How my time at DEC has contributed to my journey

  • So much of what I learned at DEC has gotten me to where I am today. The knowledge we learned, of the human body, of the French language, about the history and world of dance, I use almost every day. Those things have helped me with former jobs at gyms and at shoe stores in college. The self-awareness of my body has been instrumental in my own post-college fitness journey. 
  • On the soft skills side, I owe so much of my success to my time with Ms. Tori and at DEC. The principles of working towards a long-term goal, having proper time management skills, and being adaptable to different situations and people are priceless traits that I use every single day. As much as I would like to have instant success at everything, through dance, I learned that delayed gratification after working extremely hard for a goal, feels way better. Time management was a must at DEC to balance our heavy but fundamental schedule and with school. In college, I was able to juggle school, dance team, and often times multiple jobs throughout my entire four years. In the "real world" I have to juggle anywhere between 8-10 different client schedules at a time which I don't think I could do without having that fundamental time management skill. The same goes for being adaptable. I went to a college that I knew no-one at and four years later, moved to a city 1000 miles away from home. Both were amazing decisions that I would do over again a million times and that is in large part due to being raised to be adaptable. It's safe to say that's come in handy in my career in politics as well!
  • DEC was an integral part of my life growing up and I believe (and my parents do too) that I am a better person because of it. The values that DEC instilled in me could not have come from another sport and I think it prepped me well for a life after dance. 

Molly Kiefer


My name is Molly Kiefer and I danced with DEC from age 5 throughout high school. I continued to follow my love and passion for dance ignited at DEC at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. DEC provided me with a solid technical foundation and knowledge about the dance community necessary for me to succeed in college. The professional environment prepared me for proper class etiquette and the encouragement to seize every opportunity at UWM. These skills helped me excel in my dance and academic classes.  

Attending UWM on a full-ride scholarship, I majored in dance and psychology, following my love for both movement and academics. Throughout college, I performed with faculty Simone Ferro and Dani Kuepper. During my senior year, I completed an internship with community arts organization, Danceworks and their Generations program. This program partners elementary students with older adults in the community by bringing them together for movement and art classes. I love working with community groups and plan to continue teaching community classes. Additionally, through my dance training at UWM, I have become interested in Somatic practices. I completed research with dance faculty member Daniel Burkholder on applying the principles of the Feldenkrais Method to contemporary dance training. This included completing a variety of Feldenkrais lessons and developing lesson plans for contemporary dance classes. I also completed a senior Honors Thesis entitled "The Body as Knowledge: Examining Embodiment and Somatic Practices" investigating how the principles of embodiment are present within somatic practices. These research experiences have spurred my interest in research and I hope to pursue a graduate education and somatic training. 

After graduating from UWM in May 2018, I am currently living in Milwaukee, WI and plan to stay for a few more years! Starting this fall I will be teaching dance at Bella Via dance studio and am excited to provide a quality studio training to students reminiscent of my training at DEC. In the future, I plan to attend graduate school and continue my dance education.