Dancing for life with Darcy Deal
Story By Jo Ann Mathews | Photography By Kristin Goode
Darcy Deal remembers the first time she went skiing with her family near Londonderry, New Hampshire. She was 10 years old that February in 1993 and was going down the bunny hill. The brilliant sun and gleaming snow made the morning ideal for skiing. Deal’s life hasn’t been the same since.
“I fell,” she says. “My knee went one way, and I went the other.”
The first aid attendant at the lodge checked the knee, declared it sprained and recommended an ice pack. Deal rested a few hours then skied the entire afternoon.
“That was the start of everything,” the Oak Island resident says.
Deal had dreamed of being a professional dancer, a pursuit she began when she was three years old.
“It’s something that becomes a part of your life when you’re growing up doing it,” she says. “It’s something you have a passion for.”
When Deal was 15 and competing with Team USA in the World Championship for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, she realized professional dancing wasn’t in her future. The team earned two world championship medals, but the stress on her knee convinced her than her dancing career was over.
“I knew I’d never be the same or have the opportunity to dance for life,” she says.
Deal has had eight knee surgeries over the years, the most recent in September 2010, and a partial knee replacement. But she’s found a way to fulfill her love of dancing. Four years ago she opened Dance 4 Life Studio for the Performing Arts in Oak Island.
“I’m making dreams come true in little girls’ hearts, and I’m loving it,” she says. “I have amazingly talented, wonderful kids.”
Deal’s affection for her three dozen students ages three through 21 is evident at her studio. She greets students as they arrive, compliments them on hairstyles or clothing, anything she notices, and asks questions about their days. During class, she explains the lesson, praises their achievements and assists where necessary.
April and Steven Anderson of Oak Island enrolled their three daughters in dance classes at Dance 4 Life.
“They really enjoy it,” April says. “Darcy is really good with them. She has a lot of patience, and she’s very loving with them.”
Mackenzie Bolt, 12, of Bolivia takes six dance classes and plans to make dancing her career. “It’s a place where you can let all your stresses out, and you just have fun and don’t worry about anything,” Bolt says.
Deal enters her students in competitions as often as possible, and her students have received almost 200 awards, including regional and national grand champions, top teacher awards and best choreography for modern dance. Deal choreographs all of the dances.
“No one is forced to compete,” Deal says. “It’s all voluntary.”
Deal offers beginning to advanced classes in ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, hip hop and Irish dancing to children, teens and adults. Music lessons — flute, piano, guitar, drums and voice — in addition to pageantry for beauty contests are also part of the Dance 4 Life repertoire.
Deal’s two professional teachers, Maria Steenberg, with 18 years of experience, teaches ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and modern, while Jamie Watson teaches clogging and hip hop.
“He was born dancing,” Deal says. “I’m not a hip hop dancer.”
She says this, yet she performed hip hop to “(I’ve had) The Time of my Life” from the movie Dirty Dancing with her amateur partner, Joshua Truesdale of Ocean Isle Beach, in the 2010 Dancing with the Brunswick Stars. “It was the most fun I ever had,” she says.
Deal watches ABCs “Dancing with the Stars” and has learned that nobody’s perfect. “That’s what I instill in my kids,” she says.
She teaches them to have heart and dedication. “You’ve got to love what you’re doing,” she says. “Every song has a story. Tell the story of the dance.”
This June Deal fulfilled a dream when she traveled with 19 of her students to study at Disney Performing Arts Onstage, formerly titled Magic Music Days, at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The invitation-only educational program offers workshops taught by professional dancers, choreographers and musicians. Students practice with Disney performers, and when the students complete the workshops, they give a live performance onstage to an audience.
“I wanted to take kids places and let them know what’s out there,” Deal says. “I love spending time with kids. It’s a fun way for me to express my dream, and it’s a good stress reliever.”
Deal opens her studio all day Saturday and from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. She also works full time as office manager at Brunswick Physical Therapy Associates in Shallotte, and on weekends she tends bar at Rumors Night Club in Oak Island, the business her husband, Eric Deal, owns with his father, Larry Deal.
These are not the only careers she has pursued.
When Deal was nearing high-school graduation ten years ago, she wasn’t sure what career to pursue, but she told her mom that fire-fighting was a possibility.
“I can’t imagine you in a tutu driving a fire truck,” her mother said.
“That was actually a challenge,” Deal says.
Deal was accepted in the Concord, New Hampshire, Fire Academy, completed the course and not only became a certified fire fighter, but also received certification as a first responder in HAZMAT awareness and operations and in forestry. She served as a volunteer fire fighter with the Londonderry Fire Department. Shortly afterward, she moved with her parents to Oak Island and without hesitating volunteered at its fire station.
“I met my husband 36 hours after I moved here,” Deal says.
Eric Deal also volunteered at the station.
Because of their busy schedules, both Deals have put those volunteer days on hold for the time being. Eric is a real estate agent with Oak Island Realty and is a disc jockey at Rumors. He doesn’t dance, but that’s not an issue. The two enjoy fishing together when they have time.
So what’s in store for Darcy Deal’s future?
“Grow the studio and open branches in other areas,” she says.
Despite the odds, Darcy Deal is Dancing for Life.