"We all love to tell stories and need to tell stories, and the studio and stage are great arenas for young developing artists. It is essential to create a space that feels safe so that a student can create and experience success."
Ms. Heidi Spoon brings Broadway experience to the Rabun Gap dance program.
Ms. Spoon teaches dance in the Upper School and manages the dance program through The Studio at Rabun Gap. She choreographs productions for the theatre department, including the musical at Cirque. Ms. Spoon also directs the annual dance recital and concert for The Studio at Rabun Gap.
An accomplished performer from Brooklyn, NY, Ms. Spoon enjoyed a 20+-year career in musical theatre. She has performed on Broadway in the Wizard of Oz with Mickey Rooney and Eartha Kitt and Off-Broadway in 1,2,3,4,5 by Larry Gelbart and Maury Yeston. She’s also starred in the Broadway national tours of A Chorus Line, Big River, Jesus Christ Superstar, and international tours of Galaxy 999, Express, and I've Got Merman.
Ms. Spoon earned a Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Theatre from Wagner College. She completed dance, vocal, and acting training among the best in New York City.
Ms. Spoon lives in Otto, NC with husband Bill and children Liam '19 and Gracie '22. When she’s not dancing, performing, or teaching, she enjoys making music with friends and family.
Tell us about your family. What is it like working at the same school that your children attend?
My husband, Bill, and I have two amazing children, Liam and Grace. Grace is a sophomore at Rabun Gap and Liam graduated last year. Working here with them has been such a gift for me. The coolest thing is that they both are part of the theatre department! Their friends have become like family to us, making bonds that will last forever.
What made you choose to work at Rabun Gap? What year did you come?
Working at Rabun Gap was really a happy accident. I overheard someone saying they needed a dance teacher so I called up and got in touch with Gail Loder, then chairperson of the Art department. That was back in 2003 when Greg Ziegler was the Head of School. I have gone and come back multiple times over the years as my family grew. I am so happy to have been here now for seven years running.
How has the dance program changed since you started here?
The dance program was much smaller 17 years ago, as was the school. Since the addition of The Studio in 2011, our department has grown with talent. The dance program has become much more collaborative with the music and drama department. Larger numbers of students participate in all the productions throughout the year than they did in the past.
The musical, theatre and cirque productions have enticed so many more students to venture over to the A&T. We are developing well-rounded performers who sing, play instruments, dance, act, and build the sets. They can also design the sets, costumes, lights, and sound. They can write scripts, choreograph, arrange music, and direct. Clearly, they don’t even really need me anymore! By the way, some of these same students also win Bieber essay awards, excel at Model UN competitions, and are sent to China to discuss global citizenship issues with students from across the globe. You see, studying the arts will contribute to making students whole.
Why is dance important?
Dance is important for me to teach because I want to pass on what I have learned from artists that have taught me. I can provide a safe and nurturing environment where kids can express themselves and feel free from constraints they may feel in other areas of their lives. Maybe freeing yourself in dance class means you can start to feel free in the rest of your life - freedom to be who you are while hooking into the rhythm in life. Don’t we all know that artistic expression is vital to all humans? It is not just extravagant entertainment, it makes us complete. However, it’s usually the first thing to lose funding in the public school system. We are so fortunate at Rabun Gap to have such an incredible arts department. Kids only have to touch art to have a revolution in their souls. To create art is an experience that every student should experience.
Teaching dance gives kids an awareness, respect, and appreciation of the art form. It teaches them an awareness of their bodies and how to keep it strong and healthy. It’s also a great way to build community because anyone can participate. I have watched students who study dance become more poised, confident, and successful in presenting and expressing themselves.
What did you do before coming to Rabun Gap? What were the highlights, funny stories or most exciting projects?
Before Rabun Gap, I lived in New York City and had a career in musical theatre. It was a very different life. I am a bona fide union card-carrying “theatre gypsy” who could pack up and go on the road at a moment's notice - my passport and tap shoes were always ready. I have had the honor of working beside amazing people who trained me to become the artist, teacher, and human I am today - “There’s no people like show people!”
I’ve trotted the boards on Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatres, summer stock, cruise ships, and even barns. I’ve sung for the President of the United States in a blonde beehive wig sitting on the hood of a red corvette, and I’ve read to Ms. Williams kindergarten class at the Lower School, which were both equally gratifying. I’ve flown from a wire in many theatres across the country playing Peter Pan and The Wicked Witch of the West, but I am overwhelmed and blown away watching the strength and prowess of our Cirque performers at Rabun Gap.
What makes Rabun Gap special to you?
The relationships I’ve made with students and faculty are genuine and inspiring. Collaborating with my colleagues and the students in the department has been extremely fulfilling. Really, I am nothing without Sean, Allegra, Terri, Beth, and Amber. I only hope I’ve been able to inspire them on occasion.
What do you like most about working with the Upper School students?
Teenagers energize me. They are superhumans who think they are invincible. They are all still willing to expose their vulnerability and create art because adulthood hasn’t inhibited their creativity yet.
The icing on the cake for teachers in the A&T is when a student wants to continue their studies and pursue a career in the fine and performing arts - but that is not why I teach.
Why did you decide to become a dance teacher?
I think it was a natural progression from being a performer. I have learned a lot in my theatrical career and I want to pass it forward.
What is your educational philosophy?
My goal as a teacher has always been to get students, at any level, and motivate them to move and tell a story through dance. We all love to tell stories and need to tell stories, and the studio and stage are great arenas for young developing artists. It is essential to create a space that feels safe so that a student can create and experience success.
What were you like in high school?
I was shy. I am shy. I’ve learned to portray a character who is comfortable in front of a crowd. That character lets me share my talent with others.
What is your favorite memory from the time you have worked here so far?
Being emcee for “Madfest” holds many heartwarming memories. There, I have watched some of the most courageous and original performances ever. Crying and laughing in the wings with other students while we watch and support our fellow comrades on stage is the best feeling imaginable.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
I think I have an amazing husband. He is patient and extremely generous. He has been incredibly supportive of all our crazy endeavors. He has spent most of his life in the production side of the rock and roll industry - if you think I’ve got stories!