When we are younger we dream about what we want to be when we grow up - Aja Dale, 2004 North Thurston High School alumni is lucky enough to be living her dream! “Ever since I was little whenever I would hear music I would just start dancing,” said Dale and her passion followed her through her studies at North Thurston Public Schools, on to college and now in her career.
Dale grew up around Lacey, Washington attending Olympic View Elementary, Chinook Middle School and graduated from North Thurston High School in 2004. In high school, Dale was very involved in various sports and activities, “I was on the dance team my junior year, participated in yearbook all four years and became editor my senior year. I was also Treasurer of FBLA and my senior class Vice-President. I played basketball through the AAU rec league and danced at studio through my junior year.”
After high school Dale was accepted into Western Washington University with – you guessed it – a focus in Dance. “I was also on the WWU Hip Hop Team in college where I met some of my best friends. That group of dancers really pushed me to be better and got me out of my comfort zone,” said Dale.
After college, Dale has been fortunate enough to immerse herself in her passion – she teaches and helps run Center Stage Dance Academy in Lacey, she is the Co-Coach for Timberline High School’s Dance Team, and she dances with a local hip hop group. “I am one of the co-founders of a local hip hop group, Audacity Cru. Many of the dancers in this group are previous students of mine and it has been my pleasure to watch them grow! They are now teaching me and I learn so much every time I am with them. Their consistent effort to develop their own dance style and eagerness to learn has been a huge motivation for me to continue in my dance career,” described Dale. “I think my greatest accomplishment of my dance career, so far, was competing at the World of Dance Finals in Los Angeles during the summer of 2015; we were lucky enough to share the stage with hip hop groups from around the world,” Dale explains. “Audacity Cru has worked very hard to make a name for ourselves and to be able to travel and do what we love is the ultimate pay off! Anytime I am able to perform I think ‘how lucky I am?’”
When Dale is not on stage herself, she is in the audience cheering on her students. Dale explained that the most enjoyable and rewarding part of her job is watching her students grow, not only in skill but as individuals. “Not only do I teach dance, but I like to think that I teach other life skills too: accountability, responsibility, respect, integrity, good sportsmanship and honesty.” Dale has had countless students over the years, “for many of my students, I start teaching them when they are very young and continue through high school; it is so rewarding to be part of their life. I love to share my passion for dance and to see that same passion in them,” Dale explains, “I am a big softy and usually get a little teary eyed watching them dance.”
It’s fair to say that Aja Dale lives and breathes all things dance – and behind every person who follows their dreams is a team of motivators and supporters; Dale credits Brenda Ellis, Co-Coach of Timberline High School’s Dance Team, as one of her biggest enthusiasts. “Brenda has been a huge inspiration for me to pursue dancing, and even more so teaching dance,” Dale explains, “she has always believed in me and supports me in my many dance endeavors.” They are quite the coaching duo too; they took Timberline’s Dance Team to State Competition this year where they competed in the most competitive 4A category!
“My advice for anything you do, is ‘JUST DO YOU!’” Dale explains, “you do what you think is right and stand by it. There are good and bad consequences with every decision we make, and every decision is usually a learning opportunity. My amazing boyfriend always tells me “Never get tired of doing the right thing” and I think I will stick to that.”
Kevin Brandenburg is a perfect example of the deep roots that this community and school district have. Kevin grew up in this area, attending Pleasant Glade Elementary School, Chinook Middle School, and then graduated from North Thurston High School in 2002. Everything came full circle when Kevin started working for the North Thurston School District a couple years ago at (you guessed it) Pleasant Glade Elementary School.