A new danceBy AMANDA SEXTON FERGUSON,
Renee Holman’s career in dance will take an intermission, as she focuses on her twin high school-age daughters in the coming years. Holman announced she would retire as dance teacher at Carroll Academy, Central Holmes Christian School, and Winona Christian School recently, after spending 17 years teaching full time.
“Teaching has totally consumed me; it’s all I’ve done,” Holman said. “It’s been so big.”
With daughters, Halle and Edda, going into their ninth grade year at Winona Christian, Holman said much of her time will be devoted to supporting them in cheerleading, basketball, and dance. Holman said the commitment required to bring her 180 to 200 dance students fresh and exciting choreography for three separate dance recitals, in addition to planning and orchestrating homecoming halftime performances for Winona Christian School and Central Holmes and Christmas parade performances in Carrollton, Winona, and Kilmichael, was nearly overwhelming and required long days and weekend work to accomplish.
“This is a seven-day-a-week job,” Holman said. “Nothing got left at the office. Everything came home – music searching, music editing, and choreography.”
As this past spring’s recitals neared, Holman began looking at her future and began praying for guidance in making the bittersweet decision to retire.
“I kind of knew going into the recitals,” Holman said. “I asked them for the first time ever to dance for me that night and to dance for themselves and leave everything on the stage. I told them if they’ve never left their name on the stage, they needed to sign it.”
Holman made her decision to retire while on a family vacation at Disney World.
“I asked God when was the right time, and I prayed,” Holman said.
When she returned home to Vaiden, Holman said she called Carroll County Superintendent of Education Billy Joe Ferguson and asked about a teaching position. He told her he had a kindergarten teaching position open, and she accepted.
“I can remain teaching,” Holman said. “Being a mentor, being a teacher – that is what I do well. I love children, period, and loving 24 kids would be a lighter load for me.”
Born Renee Noland, Holman grew up in Vaiden and graduated from Winona Academy in 1990. She began taking dance from the late Susan Allen of Winona at the age of two, and she continued dancing through high school.
After graduation, she continued her education at Mississippi Delta Community College where she studied music education. For the two years she was in Moorhead, Holman was a member of the Ambassadors Show Choir and captain of the dance team. She went on to Mississippi College where she earned a degree in elementary education and music education.
“I started my teaching career at Carroll Academy,” Holman said. “Durward Stanton was my high school basketball coach, and he called me to about teaching sixth grade science and social studies.”
Holman taught at Carroll Academy for five years, and during her time there, she formed the Rebelettes Dance Team and the Classics Show Choir.
While teaching at Carroll Academy, Holman said she assisted Theresa Graves, who taught music at Winona Christian School at the time, with choreography for her show choir, and eventually, she was contacted by Debbie Reed, the director of Benton Academy’s show choir, to help with choreography.
“I met Debbie at a show choir camp in Ohio,” Holman said. “I had been collaborating with her ever since.”
Holman went from Carroll Academy to Hathorn Elementary School in Vaiden, where she taught music and launched a show choir at the school.
After her twins were born, Holman opened the Hot Shotz Dance Company in a studio at Winona Christian School, where she taught dance two days per week, and traveled to Carroll Academy and Central Holmes Christian School, two days a week.
The school year concluded with recitals at all three schools.
When her niece, Jacey Eldridge, was in four-year-old kindergarten 14 years ago, Holman began heading up Winona Christian’s homecoming halftime show where a large part of the student body, high school and elementary school, danced in accordance with the annual homecoming theme.
Two years ago, Holman agreed to choreograph the homecoming halftime show at Central Holmes Academy.
Holman said she never repeated a dance or music in her years of teaching.
“I like to keep everything current and fresh for myself so it doesn’t get boring in the classroom,” Holman said. “That is what drains you as an artist. Burnout is a reality, and I had to maintain self-motivation.”
In the last four years, Holman said she hired three assistants to help her. Sara Grace Flatt, Sarah Taylor Lott, and niece Jacey Eldridge accompanied Holman to the various schools for classes. They helped her with music selection and choreography.
“When I think about me teaching, my main goal was to bring something to the kids that they had never been exposed to. That was my own goal.”
Holman introduced her dance students to the different styles of dance as well as Broadway musicals and the theatre.
“I wanted to give them that inner feeling they could feel from their souls,” Holman said. “Only a performer under a spotlight has that surreal feeling.”
She said in her nearly two decades as a dance teacher, what stands out most in her mind was that “exhilarating feeling of accomplishment” after a performance.
“When you give that once-in-a-lifetime performance,” Holman said. “You left it all there – your heart, your soul. That point of exhaustion after a performance.”
Holman said if her students did not feel that feeling, she didn’t do her job.
As a mentor to her students, Holman said she wanted her dancers to feel that anything was possible if they were willing to work for it.
“That was my goal for my kids,” Holman said. “If you can see it, you can make it happen. Whatever that might be.”
She said if there was one thing she felt most proud about during her dance teaching career it was giving her students a sense of responsibility, organization, and professionalism they can take with them into the future.
“I always told them, if you are going to do it, do it right,” she said. “Do it big so you can do it forever.”
Outside of dance, Holman’s time belongs to her family – her daughters; mother, Martha Ann Noland; sister, Tara Eldridge; brother-in-law Adam Eldridge; and niece, Jacey Eldridge.
“We are all very close,” said Holman. “We eat as a family every night. We all talk about dance and school. It is a family affair.”
She is also an active member of New Salem Baptist Church in Vaiden.
Holman said she isn’t yet counting dance out of her future, and she could very likely take up her passion of teaching dance once again in the future. However, right now, she is in an intermission, with a new challenge waiting for her in the classroom at Marshall Elementary.