Angela Tipton and dance and baton instructor Debbie Rollins have been working together for decades.
"Stay Calm and Dance on Forever" is Angela Tipton's new motto.
Considering this year marks her 50th year of owning and operating the Academy of Performing Arts in Big Stone Gap, it seems more than an appropriate description for her past, present and future.
As for Tipton, she hasn't slowed down since she started taking dance classes as a child through the parks and recreation department in Georgetown, Ky., where her parents, both school teachers, lived over the summer months. Dance was a natural and desired activity for her early on, along with piano. Her parents always provided her the opportunity for participation in various art forms. She fondly recalls early memories of taking a train to Whitesburg, Ky., just for piano lessons. She credits her parents for providing the resources, while encouraging her to develop her natural talents.
In addition to dancing, Tipton is a talented baton twirler. In high school, she was a majorette. She then attended Eastern Kentucky University where she was a majorette for four years. She has a bachelor's and a master's degree in education and dance, with emphasis on creative movement and rhythmic activities. She taught in the Wise County school system for approximately 15 years as a physical education/health teacher and guidance counselor.
Not too many people can be passionate about an activity/career after 50 years, but Tipton plans to keep on touching as many lives as possible in her future. She has shaped and molded many students over the years. Her passion for dance and baton twirling is well-known in southwest Virginia and east Kentucky. She has worked with many high school majorettes, judged them in band competitions, and assisted her husband, the late David Tipton, with his marching band arrangements.
"We had a good life together for 42 years, and we enjoyed working and traveling together," said Tipton.
Tipton is also devoted to her friendships, as is evident with dance and baton instructor Debbie Rollins.
When Tipton opened up her academy, Rollins was in middle school and initially came to her for baton twirling classes. Rollins continued to dance and twirl with Tipton through high school, and then started instructing dance and baton with BSG Academy Dance Studio until the present time.
"It feels good to know I'm reaching students through doing what I love, and now former students are teaching children baton twirling, dance, and opening dance schools themselves," said Tipton.
She shared a memory of watching a line of students go up on ballet pointe shoes for the first time and the wonderful feeling that gave her. She stresses to her students that it takes practice and dedication. A student can't expect to be the best in the beginning, but encourages them to practice every available opportunity.
"I used to go outside and practice for hours at a time to be the best I could be. In college, some people probably thought I was being anti-social, but I enjoyed being outside twirling or in the dance studio practicing every chance I had," Tipton laughingly recalls.
"I have high expectations from my students, as I always have for myself."
She's passionate, always energetic, graceful and poised; as a successful dancer and baton twirler should be. I first met her around 35 years ago and she hasn't changed at all, and she promises to "Stay Calm and Dance on Forever."