Sherrie Peterson – Dancing Her Way Through Life
Owner of Sierra Nevada Dance, Sherrie Peterson is a driving force behind the dance scene in Truckee.
A teacher by trade ” of dance that is ” and a wonder woman when you consider all it takes to put together ballet productions once a year and sometimes two including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or the holiday favorite The Nutcracker, which Peterson has produced seven out of the last nine years. These productions feature over 200 dancers, mostly all from Truckee.
Peterson’s philosophy toward dance is to expose as many people to the art of dance at the lowest cost possible, and to let dancers and their parents experience the arts both professionally and at the fun, recreational level.
Peterson also believes that the more people you can get involved in the arts, the better they do academically, spiritually, and physically. As a teenager, dance helped Sherrie Peterson find herself. She’s seen this experience take place with her students too.
The eldest of five girls, Peterson discovered dance for herself at the age of 6. She credits Margaret Wingrove as her mentor in Cupertino. When one of Wingrove’s dance instructors quit abruptly, Peterson, at the age of 14, was asked to take over the class. That fateful occurrence affected Truckee in a huge way as Peterson eventually brought her love of dance and her ability to teach to our community.
Peterson started teaching dance locally at the Community Center, offering three classes a week to 24 eager students. Her business has grown exponentially since. In 1996 she opened her own studio by the airport, and in 2003 she moved her studio to a larger space at the Pioneer Commerce Center. Today she has 450 local dance students enrolled in 35 classes ranging from ballet to jazz/ funk to tap. While dancers sometimes outgrow Peterson’s program, her hope is that she has given her students a good base to continue elsewhere.
Interest in her adult dance classes has exploded in the past few years as local grown-ups have discovered that dance offers a great form of exercise along with self-expression. Where she used to have three or four adults enrolled, her current adult level class has between 15 and 25 students.
Peterson holds costume sales every so often which are a great discovery for parents or teachers looking for fun dress-ups. If you’ve ever been to her house, you’ll notice the dance costumes that line hallways and climb a staircase, a testament to her commitment to what she does.
Peterson likes to produce some kind of show every year. In fact she feels it’s an important aspect for dancers to learn how to perform in front of an audience.
Peterson’s next production is Snow White and the Seven Fairies, an adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which will be held the weekend before Thanksgiving, Nov. 17 through Nov. 20, in the Grand Ballroom at the Resort at Squaw Creek. Try outs have already been held, parts have been determined, and rehearsals are underway.
Putting on a production of this scale takes a lot of coordinating. Once parts are assigned, the work has only begun: there’s costume fittings, ordering, and hopefully receiving in time for the production; there’s also pictures, choreography, many rehearsals, hair and make up, and watching small children who wait off stage for their moment to shine in the spotlight. Peterson gets help with all these jobs yet she does a lot of it herself.
Peterson has been married to her husband Greg for 17 years. They have a daughter Kayla, who is a sophomore at Truckee High School. While her husband supports her endeavors and participates by helping out with lights or sound, she notes that he draws the line at getting up on stage. While the time required to put on a production requires sacrifices from her family, she appreciates Greg and Kayla who manage to stay positive, recognizing the value of the final outcome when a production comes together at the end.
Peterson also is known for her Mother-Daughter class which she started when Kayla was young. She says it’s a great class for working moms who want to spend some quality time with their children. Held in the evening at the community center, a few fathers have asked whether they could also join. Peterson changed the name of the class to Family Jazz to accommodate these requests. However, she says, the men who inquired have not yet signed up, but she’s hopeful she might yet see them enroll.
When asked what she finds most fulfilling, Peterson gets choked up and replies, “It’s the kids.” She finds it very rewarding to be a part of so many children’s lives.
Keeping the arts alive is important to Peterson and her work reflects that, making our community a better place to live.