Tunisia-Antoinette El is a Dance Instructor at Full of Grace – a hometown studio.
Nestled deep in the trees of Verona, Pa. is Full of Grace Dance Studio located on Sandy Creek Rd. This is the place where alumnus Tunisia El creates and choreographs contemporary jazz dances for her students. She has been an instructor here since her graduation from Point Park in 2008.
Just four short years ago El left the university after obtaining her Bachelor’s in Arts for Fine Arts and Dance Pedogy. With a focus on contemporary jazz she has studied each style of dance since the age of 5. In 2013 she will be celebrating her 25-year-anniversary of dancing.
She accredits her father with giving her the extra push into dancing as a child. Her father had an eye for posture and realized that dancers always stood out in a room just by the way they walked. El’s participation in dance involves not only a love and passion for the art, but also watching it evolve over time in style, technique and choreography.
An eclectic taste in music allows her to use many genres when deciding what songs to use for her dances. Swaying to the sounds of jazz greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Curtis Mayfield , El says that it’s music like this that spark a sultry and seductive feeling within her; A feeling that causes her to move. While jazz inspires more of an emotional response, she feels tap dance allows her to really have fun and let go. El says she loves tap because, “Better to make noise. I loved it as a kid ‘cause you got to make noise.” She sees tap as a way for dancers to be less poised and elegant yet more creative and spontaneous.
El’s students range in age from 3-18 years old and have grown to love and respect ‘Miss T’- as they all call her. At times the students struggle with distraction, but as they get older their discipline grows stronger. Every year their hard work pays off and the studio puts on a large end-of-the-year recital in June. The recital locations are randomly selected based on that year’s budget, but spares no pennies on wonderful costumes, lighting and music.
In Jan. 2013, Tunisia will celebrate her silver anniversary with a group of her friends , family and long-time boyfriend. The June recital will be her last performance with Full of Grace, as she hopes to start planning to open her own studio by 2015.
Twenty-five-years later and she’s still as enthusiastic about the art of dance as she was as a child. Upon reflection of the last quarter of a century she adds, “I wouldn’t change my experiences at Point Park”, quickly adding, “But I would’ve pursued auditioning more.”
Maintaining a full-time position at the Carnegie Science Center, as a Visitor Services Rep., El has worked there for a solid decade as of 2012. Trying to balance her schedule with performing, teaching and working full-time really hadn’t offered many opportunities to focus intensely on auditioning. Her experiences with the process, however, weren’t wasted. El learned a lot of important lessons through the auditioning process and she passes the information on to her current students saying, “Do your best. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get picked for everything- keep trying. Don’t let other dancers or hard moves intimidate you. Focus on your strengths and you’ll come out ahead.” El says that these are the most important of all dance lessons.