March Artist of the Month - Linalynn Schmelzer of River Valley Dance Project
This month’s Artist of the Month Feature is Linalynn Schmelzer! Linalynn is the owner and founder of River Valley Dance Project, a dance school in Deep River, CT whose mission is “to create a community where individuals feel inspired to explore, create and engage with dance.” She is also a member of SoMA, a creative collective designed to facilitate a connection between art and community. Linalynn holds a B.F.A. in Dance from the University of Massachusetts Five Colleges, and an M.S. in Dance/Movement Therapy from Pratt Institute. She is also a practitioner of Dance/Movement Therapy and is a registered Dance/Movement Therapist with the American Dance Therapy Association. These account for just a few of her many accolades and accomplishments. We had the privilege of interviewing Linalynn, who shared valuable insights with us about dance and gave us some background on her studio, her personal history, and her connection to her art.
When Linalynn first witnessed a performance of professional dancers, she was immediately "struck by [their] presence." What really moved her, she explained, was their commitment to being fully present in the moment. She went on to explain that this single experience played a significant role in shifting her life path, and it was at that point that she began taking steps toward pursuing dance as a profession. From then on, she focused her energy on this endeavor. As she put it, “The arts became my community.”
In her high school years, Linalynn attended The Greater Hartford Academy for the Performing Arts, where she fostered a strong sense of identity and began to see a vision of a future for herself that she could look forward to. After graduating, she attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. During this time, she discovered how much she enjoys collaborating with other dancers; she described to us how powerful the arts are and how it can encourage teamwork helping to build strong relationships. She moved on to study Dance/Movement Therapy at Pratt Institute, where she learned to see the mental and physical benefits of connecting the mind and body, and bringing them both fully into the here and now.
River Valley Dance Project is a school of dance and movement. Linalynn teaches dance classes to both children and adults, starting at just the age of three. Some of the wonderful classes she offers include Creative Movement, Fundamentals of Dance, Ballet, Modern, and Joy of Movement. She also has three additional teachers on staff, who offer programs in yoga, fitness, and capoeira. Linalynn opened her dance school in June 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic. She explained that getting new students is challenging, and she has to work hard to reach her community to show them a new way of “connecting to their bodies in a meaningful way.” Her studio welcomes all movers; whether you have a lifetime of experience or are just starting out, everyone is welcome.
We asked Linalynn what the word “art” means to her. “The human experience being expressed and transformed into something beautiful,” she replied. She also elaborated on the positive benefits dance has on the body and mind. “To dance one has to connect their body.” The mind and body cannot be separated, she says, only brought together. Through Dance Movement Therapy, people have the opportunity to explore and reflect on what is meaningful to them, bringing them one step closer to what is important to them. When Linalynn dances, “[she] is connected to [her] body and there is the freedom to be in the moment.” It is like meditation, she says, where “the mind chatter and inner dialogue is silenced.”
Linalynn hopes that in 2022, artists will take what they have learned about the importance of the arts and begin an explosion of creativity. Her studio welcomes all and gives people a place to create, connect and build community. River Valley Dance Project's motto is "Movement For Life".