Dancing Queen

Determination leads senior Jami Robben to success in advanced dance company, future as choreographer


Julia Shyver

Showing off her moves, senior Jami Robben poses for a dance shoot.

For senior Jami Robben, dance is more than a hobby — it’s a passion she has pursued since before she even took her first dance class five years ago.  

“I really wanted to [take] dance, but my parents couldn’t afford classes, so I taught myself through YouTube tutorials and by attending conferences,” Robben said. “I eventually wanted to compete at dance competitions, so I decided to choreograph my own solo and even create my own costume.”

Through her own work and dedication, Robben placed third overall in her first-ever dance competition for her self-choreographed solo.   

Seeing her potential, Vida Dance studio owner Lindsey Dinneen reached out to Robben before the studio opened in 2015 and invited Robben to dance in their advanced company.

“The first thing that impressed me about Jami was that she was a go-getter,” Dinneen said. “When I met her, she was teaching herself and entering in competitions on her own — that takes guts.”

Dinneen said she recognized the kind of drive it took for Robben to pursue dance all on her own, and knew that with classical training and professional mentoring, she could grow even stronger.

Robben said she believes that Dinneen saw the passion she had for the sport and how serious she was about learning dance. “I think I reminded her of herself when she was my age because I know that she wishes someone had given her the opportunities that she has given me.” Robben said.

At the studio, Robben practices a variety of genres, from ballet to hip-hop, and choreographs not only for herself, but for her company as well. She choreographs and performs with her company 10 to 20 times a year at competitions, recitals and conventions.

“In the beginning, I was worried what I was envisioning wasn’t good enough, but [the other dancers] were so good about [critiquing] me in a kind way,” Robben said. “You have to get over feeling like you’re not good enough and realize that you’re improving yourself every day.”

Robben said she is treated as if she is a trained professional like the rest of her company rather than a 17-year-old dance apprentice.

“It’s nice, but it’s also a lot of pressure when I mess up or forget a dance because I’m carrying the company name on my back,” Robben said.

Throughout the years, dance has been an outlet for emotions and self-expression for Robben.

“I feel the most like myself when I’m dancing,” she said.

In the future, she said she plans to continue performing professionally and hopes to choreograph for other dancers and studios. “Dance has changed my life completely,” Robben said. “I’ve had to grow in maturity, discipline and creativity. It’s helped me overcome so many challenges life has thrown at me and I’ve learned so much about myself through dance. It has opened so many doors for me.”