Do what you love, love what you do

News | April 18, 2024

St. Paul member Samantha Stahle surrounds herself with the things she loves, and dance is at the forefront.

Do what you love, love what you do is a phrase Samantha lives by. It’s on the shirt she wears to work. Similar positive messages adorn the walls of her job at Studio A Dance Company. She found her love of dancing at an early age, and it carried on into her adult years, providing her with deep, lasting friendships and new refreshing challenges.

“I started dancing at five years old. My mom put my two sisters and me (we’re triplets) in dance to help build our confidence as we got older,” Samantha said. “She didn’t expect us to stick with it, but I fell in love with going to dance. I couldn’t wait for dance day. It was the highlight of my week.”

When she and her family moved to the Quad Cities in 2001, it wasn’t long before she found her way to Studio A. Samantha has been with the company for the nearly 20 years it’s been in business, first as a dancer and later as an employee.

Samantha studied Kinesiology and Health with minors in Dance and Athletic Coaching at Iowa State University, continuing her education to receive her master’s in Clinical Exercise Physiology at the University of Iowa. She likes to stay busy, and busy she stays. She doesn’t just teach dance at Studio A; she also choreographs a staggering 60 dance routines a year, oversees 160 dancers, and runs the general day-to-day of Studio A. Outside of Studio A, Samantha is the head dance coach for the Davenport West High School Diamond Dancers, disciplining herself to wake up for 6 a.m. dance rehearsals during the school year.

“I didn’t imagine myself becoming a dance teacher but, I thought, this is what I should be doing. Teaching comes naturally to me and I’m able to use what I learned in my education in the studio. Dance is a big interaction between the mind and body. It helped me excel in school because there is a big memory component with it. You must be aware of what your body is doing, be on time with music, remember what’s coming next, and know what is happening around you, all at the same time. Dance requires you to be always engaged. It’s a powerful tool for these young dancers.”
As a choreographer, Samantha’s role is much bigger than teaching steps.

“One thing we work on in the studio is negative self-talk. My least favorite phrase is ‘I can’t do that.’ We work on saying ‘I can’t do that…yet.’ We take the time to work through students’ belief in themselves and find the positive in challenges. I try to be intentional in addressing more than just steps. The important part of this experience is not how these kids dance. It’s how they grow as people. I want to build them up as individuals, not just dancers. When we go to a competition, we have a rule that when you come off the stage, you’re positive only. We can talk about how it went and work through the difficulties, but right now, we’re positive about the work we just did.”

It’s evident in the way Samantha speaks that her love of dance, and the care for her students, runs deep.

“I love working together toward a common goal. We go on an uphill trek together every time we’re learning a new piece. Yes, we’re competing but we’re creating art in the process. You can’t top the collaboration and inspiration that comes from that. Finding the emotion that’s required for a piece and working together to achieve that goal. There’s not much else like it.”

When not in the studio, pulling 12+ hour days at dance competitions, or watching dance to get inspiration for her next routine, Samantha spends time with her husband Tom, and their families. She is also a devoted 8 a.m. worship attendee, cheerfully walking through the doors early on Sunday mornings.

“6 a.m. dance practice conditioned me for that,” Samantha laughs.

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