Meet the Artist: Ika Roberts

Ika leads a dance for the opening of the Rio Olympics.

I started dancing when I was little, and started to teach dance when I came to the United States. I’m in a group for Brazilian dance, which has been ongoing for 35 years. Our group is 8 dancers for normal shows; for Carnival in San Francisco, where I dance every year, we have 80 people. Dance is my happiness and my passion; I also like to pass on what I know, which includes my Brazilian culture as well as the dance. It’s meaningful to look back and see what you taught someone. I see my daughter dancing and see that she has confidence, has gotten to know her body.

In the classroom, there are so many good things about dance. The kids like it, and there’s a lot for the teacher to learn, too. When they dance, you see how their motor skills and coordination works, their learning style. Can they follow directions? I keep my eye on each child to help each one at their level.

It’s also good for their confidence. I tell them “Everyone has talent; show me what you like, what you know how to do.” Sometimes shy kids have the best moves!  In discovering their talent, they discover their confidence. I like to see them express what they have inside: get to know different rhythms and discover their own. They learn so fast at this age. Sometimes my grown-up students come to me not being able to move their hands and feet at the same time, but starting as a child you learn the coordination much more quickly.

We do gymnastics at the beginning of the year; they learn how to jump and move. Each group is different: sometimes they all like to dance. Sometimes at the beginning of the year it’s just two or three but by the end of the year I find they all join in without any pressure. The kids get more free.  

I advise every parent to put their kid in a dance class. Movement is for everyone! Some kids enjoy it and then move on; others will find that dance is their favorite way to express their emotions. There are times where I’ve noticed that a kid enjoys dance at a deep level and been the first one to share that with their family. It’s special to recognize a gift in someone and know they’ll enjoy it their whole life. Dancing and teaching dance make me happy in my soul.