ANDERSON — When Illinois native Myrisha Smith moved to Anderson nine years ago, she saw a need in this community, and in 2015, she started the nonprofit William Harvey Dance Academy.
“I went to college with a guy named William Harvey here at Ivy Tech, and we kind of did everything together, like our business proposals,” Smith said.
Harvey has since died, and Smith felt the academy would be an appropriate way to honor him.
Smith was a member of the dance team and cheerleading squad during her childhood and also started the dance team at her college.
“We started the team in college, just a couple of us,” Smith said. “We all grouped together and we’ve been in it ever since.”
The William Harvey Dance Academy does a wide range of genres, including hip hop, jazz, basic ballet, contemporary and stepping.
“We do just about everything. I try to get them out of the basic hip hop that you see all the time,” Smith said. “I try to teach them the technique and what dance really means.”
For the academy, parade season is the most important time of year.
“The Fourth of July parade in Chesterfield, we’ve won that every year since 2015,” Smith said. “They really love us over there.”
The academy has placed first, second and third at the Circle City Classic, one of the biggest parades in Indiana.
“We do the Alexandria Christmas parade,” Smith said. “We’ve won best walking group in that. We had the Soul Fest parade. We won first place in that this year.”
In addition to in-state competitions, the group also traveled out of state to the Centralia Halloween Parade and Fall Festival in Centralia, Illinois, Smith’s hometown.
“We’ve won second place twice and this year, we won first place,” Smith said. “This year we’ve walked away with four first place trophies.”
Aside from numerous awards at competitions, the group also gets a lot of positive feedback from the community.
“They are in love with our group,” Smith said. “A lot of dance teams these days are kind of getting into the inappropriate styles sometimes, and so they love to see the synchronized and different styles and see that they’re doing something different.”
Aside from dancing, Smith also teaches the team about the importance of good grades and community service.
“Here in July, I took nine of them to South Philadelphia. We worked with a community organization there and we cleaned up their streets,” Smith said. “We helped out with their summer program and it was really huge.”
William Harvey Dance Academy teaches ages 4 and up, enrollment cost is free and the team is always accepting new members.
More information can be found at the academy’s Facebook page, “William Harvey Dance Academy Inc — Infantry.”