Sixteen years ago, Maluhia Vander Griend and her husband, Kurt, founded Dancing for Joy, a dance school, in humble beginnings at Hillcrest Chapel in Fairhaven. Over the years they’ve seen their program transformed. They now offer dozens of classes to all ages in a myriad of dance styles, and they stage two full productions at Mount Baker Theatre. Here is Maluhia’s story.
When I turned 10, our family moved to Bellingham and I entered the Morca Academy for dance training until Isabel Morca passed away (our daughter is named after her).
During my Sehome High School years I trained in Richmond, B.C., attended dance intensives at the Summer Dance Lab in Walla Walla, and attended Oklahoma City University on a musical theater scholarship. I later performed professionally and taught with the Fusion Dance Company in Seattle.
My dreamy, girlhood goal was to perform on Broadway, but reality chimed in and charmed its way into my life. I discovered I loved teaching kids and mentoring teens. My fiancé and my mother encouraged me to go with the multifaceted future I really wanted; getting married, having a family, teaching, and continuing to dance.
Being able to combine my love for dance and my passion for youth continues to thrill me daily.
We are still dreaming. In September of 2015 we plan an expansion to the Dancing for Joy facility that will house ArtPeace (an art school) and Love to Learn (an art and dance preschool).
Dance has been my constant, a touchstone. I am so thankful for the opportunity to share this joy with others through my teaching and performing.
The nativity story comes alive through dance and launches us into the true essence of Christmas. We have had families say to us, “Wow! You didn’t tell us we needed to bring Kleenex to your show. So beautiful and touching.”
(Ian Agerter, who plays Joseph, was 3 when he was a dancing sheep in our first Christmas production. Today he is 17 and an exquisite dancer.)
A few days ago we had a fake snowball fight in the studio, perhaps delightful choreography at its best. I find joy in noticing the quirks and wonders of each child’s developing personhood.
A glitter-and-sequin-littered dance floor means joyful anticipation for a show about to begin.