How dance teacher Kitty Carter is making a difference in her students’ lives

Kitty Carter knows his reputation. After 41 years of owning a dance studio in Lake Highlands and more than a decade coaching Dallas Cowboys cheerleading prospects on CMT make the teamthe tough instructor has been called a bully more times than she counted: five, six, seven, eight.

Carter isn’t interested in defending herself for telling the dancers bluntly everything their efforts and performances miss, but take her away from the pounding music and shining mirrors of Kitty Carter’s Dance Factory, and you’ll find a leader different from the one you are familiar with. to viewers. She pulls out her phone repeatedly to share photos of students, bragging about their intelligence and varied accomplishments.

“I’ve always been ahead of my time,” she says. “I don’t care what people think of me as long as my moral compass is OK in my heart. My mother always said that there are two things that follow you in life: your reputation and your shadow, and you can’t change either.

Carter grew up in Lakewood, where she discovered her love of dancing at the age of 3. She majored in dancing at SMU and cheered on the Dallas Cowboys from 1974 to 1976. The Cowboys lost Super Bowl X to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but cheering on that game in Miami was a big win for her and her friends. friends.

When the team was asked to appear on television The ship of love later that year, the women were warned that they all had to lose 10 pounds. Carter balked, preferring instead to open her own studio and marry Keith, her boyfriend at the time. It’s ironic that the woman known for teaching thousands of women how to light up a crowd now has three sons – Keith Edward, Cassidy and Colby. To his delight, they gave him five grandchildren, all girls.

Carter has had her doubts over the years – including the first time she dressed her dancers in midriff-baring costumes. In high school, she crashed a brand new baby blue Thunderbird into a school building going 70 miles per hour. It turns out that the vehicle, purchased by his car dealer father, had not been checked for brake fluid. It took plastic surgeons 199 stitches to close his face and months for the wounds to heal. Olivia Crutchfield, then owner of Gingham Girl Dance Studio, reached out as she suffered and invited her to help as an instructor.

“That’s when I fell in love with teaching,” she says. “I don’t have the body of a dancer. I have short legs and my turnout wasn’t great. But I am an interpreter. I understand the whole situation.

Carter says dance technique can be learned and perfected with practice, but sometimes those who grab the public’s attention are simply born with something extra. The life skills she shares in the classroom, however, are universal.

“My students are learning to organize their time to fit everything in,” she says. “They learn to take initiative and not to be followers. And I believe they should earn what is rightfully theirs and not expect things to be given away.

Carter doesn’t like the “participation trophy” mentality prevalent in today’s youth activities. Children need to develop discipline instead of expecting adults to lead the way, she says.

“Life is not a big party,” she says. “A lot of people think I’m tough, and I agree I’m tough, but I’m not saying anything I wouldn’t tell my own kids. I wouldn’t ask you to run through fire if I didn’t. I’m not going through it first. I hope I’ll change someone’s life along the way.

Carter has a tough talk for girls who join his elite teams and then complain about missing social events during evening and weekend rehearsals. Achieving ambitious goals requires sacrifices for the good of the team.

“I think it’s a good lesson to learn that you’re not always going to be number one,” she says. “You have to be prepared for life, and life is hard. There are kids who take anxiety medication because they can’t keep up with the hype of society and the internet subjugates them.

Carter grew up riding momotorcycles and barrel racing horses with his brothers and is as much at home on a ranch as he is in the studio. Her Dance Factory hasn’t been renovated in years, but many of her students enjoy training in the same halls as their mothers a generation before them. Photos of college and NFL cheerleaders and Broadway dancers dot the walls of his office.

“I grew up dancing in Los Angeles and New York, and those studios were in the worst buildings in the world,” she says, remembering going up eight flights of stairs when the elevators weren’t working and having stepped over broken bottles on the sidewalk. “New and shiny, just not my style.”

Carter’s goal is to teach young women that they have power – the power to create their own dreams and the power to achieve them.

“I like strong women,” she says. “I like people who have an opinion and aren’t afraid to say it. I teach girls that hard work will pay off. You’re not out of the game if you’re in the game. I tell my girls they’re talented enough to get in there and mingle with the best; they just have to keep punch at her. Above all, I teach them that they are worthy.

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