“Chicago still remains a Mecca of the Midwest—people from both coasts are kind of amazed how good life is in Chicago, and what a good culture we’ve got. You can have a pretty wonderful artistic life and never leave Chicago.” – Harold Ramis
Kayla White and Andrew Coleman both thrive personally as artists and contribute professionally as teachers in Chicago.
Involved in the performing arts since a young age, Kayla now delights in sharing her artistic passions with young people. She studied theater in high school, did her undergraduate degree in Musical Theatre and continues to both dance and sing. In addition to teaching dance programs for UGOT, she is also a yoga instructor. “I got into yoga before I realized I did. My university movement classes had yoga woven into it.” After graduating, when she decided to try out some yoga classes, she discovered “Something like home that I didn’t realize was home.” She chose to continue her yoga studies by traveling to Bali to participate in a yoga teacher training program. “It was 6 days a week, 7am to 7pm studies. We had Saturdays off and after the course, I stayed longer. We’d go into the city and do all sorts of fun stuff there. I took the month of August off to be there and be fully present.” Now settled in Chicago, Kayla teaches at a yoga studio, participates in theater and dance, as well as teaching for UGOT.
Andrew was inspired by dance from a young age. His interest in dance stems from watching his sisters and family. “At family events, we’d get together and dance. ‘Show me your moves!’ they’d say. ‘Make routines with your sisters.’ It intrigued me to do more.” His studies were initially focused on music and baseball, but he found dance to be a calling. Jazz was the first formal dance class he took. “It opened my eyes to music and movement,” he said.
Recently Andrew was involved in a touring production called “The Good Body”. He created the show with a disabled artist, exploring how one moves in a disabled body. “I spent a month creating the show, learning how to move like his body, learning his everyday struggles and how to put it on the stage.” The show traveled to New York and included a lecture along with the performance. When asked about other passions, Andrew replied, “Dance is all I know. It’s all I do.”
While Andrew and Kayla come from different training and experiences, together they share a passion for the work they do as teachers.
“What’s great about teaching,” Kayla explains, “if I’m not having a good day or week, I leave classes feeling better connected to my creativity. Kids give a fresh perspective. They have no expectations of better or worse, they just want to be there. It’s rejuvenating.”
Andrew agrees. “The kids I work with [inspire me]. Moves I’ve created independently come from watching them move.” While he personally gains inspiration from his students, he strives to spark their creativity too. “Every time I come in, they think they know what’s coming next, so I switch it up. I ask, ‘What can you do as an individual?’” He sees first hand how the students benefit from his approach. “Dance builds their self-esteem. I see breakthroughs. When they’re encouraged, they’re not being afraid.”
Kayla believes in the importance and value of the programming she delivers through UGOT Active Kids. “Preschools in Chicago have good programming. What we do compliments it well. Children learn how to pay attention to their bodies, listening. Kids come out of their shell, discover they have a voice. They realize who they are.” She also believes UGOT’s clientele benefit from the variety of teachers available. “We all bring different things to share and give a new perspective, even if it’s something they’ve done before.”
The passion that Andrew and Kayla bring to their work is infectious. Students in their classes reap the benefits, but the feeling is mutual.
“I love working with kids,” Andrew gushes. “It’s the best start to my day. I can’t stress it enough. Their smiles . . . It’s a great experience.”