ABN Member Spotlight: Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble

Dance, dance, dance. For over 30 years, this is what Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble (TCDE) has been devoted to. Dancers Studio, home of TCDE, is a well-established school of dance that prides itself on being the longest continuously-operating dance school in Knoxville. Dancers Studio and TCDE were both founded by modern dance pioneer Dr. Dorothy Floyd, a psychologist and dancer who believed and proved that children can achieve artistic excellence on the same level as professional adults.

TCDE’s mission is to provide opportunities and resources for young children between the ages of eight and eighteen to excel in dance and to teach them that through hard work, dedication, and discipline, excellence is possible. TCDE dancers aim to be positive roles models for their peers, working hard to maintain a positive atmosphere that allows the company to flourish.

Dr. Floyd, who passed away in 2002, had a passion for excellence and a dream of teaching young people through modern dance, which led her to start the world’s first professional children-only dance company. Founded in the late 1960s, the studio was determined to steer away from the “toe-tap-and baton” approach to children’s dance and to educate the community about the art of modern dance as the best dance form for teaching the young child. To this day, the children of TCDE still perform modern dance masterpieces on stage. Many are even inspired to create their own masterpieces outside of class.

TCDE’s artistic director, Irena Linn, was 19 years old when she first met Dr. Floyd in Berlin, Germany. Both were dance students at the renowned Wigman School, where they developed a life-long friendship. Both eventually moved to America, and in 1966 Linn accepted Dr. Floyd’s invitation to join her at Dancers Studio. Linn said, “I left the Boston Conservatory where I was teaching modern dance because Dorothy Floyd offered me the chance to assist her at Dancers Studio. From the beginning I knew there was a special idealism in her. I wanted to be a part of her dream of teaching children using the art form of modern dance.” An accomplished choreographer, Linn has since won many awards and set dozens of dances on the Ensemble.

TCDE was named an official Goodwill Ambassador for the state of Tennessee in 1982. They continue to set the standards high in the dance world, and are well-known for being impressive recruiters. The company has performed in 10 world tours, dancing in countries including Japan, Norway, and, most recently, Hungary.

Each year TCDE gives 30 shows in the Knoxville area, including the Spring Break Tennessee Tour. This tour is part of their “Children Helping Children” program, during which dancers travel to low-income communities in Tennessee to perform for the children there at no cost.

TCDE opens its 38th season with “The Voices of Children” at the Civic Auditorium on February 15th and 16th. For more information about TCDE, volunteering, or contributing, you can visit dancersstudioknoxville.comtcdedance.org, or call at 865-584-9636.