Robin Williams started dancing when she was 4 years old. At 57 she has no intention to ever stop dancing.
She was born in Detroit, Michigan. Which is also where she went to college and ended up in the same class as Madonna, as she too was a dance major. But when you’re 19 years old and want to be a professional dancer, Michigan feels far from where the action is, as she puts it. So she decided to move to New York City.
After working as a professional dancer with multiple companies for over a decade she started teaching. She would go back and forth across town to all five boroughs to teach at different schools, until she decided to start her own school instead. So in 1996, Uptown Dance Academy in East Harlem was born. And this is were she spends most of her time these days, teaching classes 6 days a week.
This Monday night she is teaching the pre-professional kids. Those who have been training for a couple of years and are hoping to get accepted to one of the city’s prestigious dance academies.
Williams walks around the small studio correcting feet, heads and hips. Talking incessantly, commenting on every move the students make.
Some of the children in the room have already been selected to take part in a once-a-week program at American Ballet Theatre. The home of renowned principal dancer Misty Copeland. And it’s not the first time Williams’ students move on to ABT. ”Maybe it’s because of my teaching talent. I’m good at teaching” she says.
When class is over, she walks a few blocks to get to the bus stop to take her to Amsterdam Ave.
Williams is constantly on her phone, replying to emails about classes, collaborations and potential sponsorships. When she's not teaching classes, she's managing the business side of things - and it's been challenging to keep Uptown Dance Academy open.