‘A Safe Haven’: Dance Studio Teaches Life Lessons In D.C.

As she effortlessly walked up the stairs to her dance studio, her joy and passion for the arts could be felt in every step.

Beatrice Davis Williams is the founder of the Davis Center, a dance studio that is committed to teaching youth arts education. She founded the Davis Center around 50 years ago, and her passion for dance hasn’t disappeared. This year, she will be celebrating 50 years of business.

The dance center focuses on arts education in the form of dance, teaching young child self-esteem, discipline and teamwork skills. Davis Williams offers dance classes for ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, pointe, and more. She also has a 501(c) (3) organization called Arts for Our Children, Inc., the non-profit arm of the Davis Center.

Arts for Our Children, Inc. has already been able to impact the school systems in Ward 4, thanks to Mrs. Davis-Williams. The organization received funding through a sizeable grant from United Way. A school near the Davis Center, Whittier Education Campus, was happy when Mrs. Davis-Williams offered them the award and the use of her dance studio for some of their students. They did not have any dance programs at their school.

“It is the salvation of our children. It is the salvation of our humanity. It is how our history is told. It is told through the arts,” Davis-Williams emphasized. 

Her mother put her in ballet classes at the age of five. She always felt an urge to dance and be in motion, as if she danced before she could walk. “My mother had a glass cocktail table. And I decided it was a stage. So I got up on my stage, or my mother wore out my butt when I broke the glass.”

In general, there is a lack of prioritization on the arts in education within the District of Columbia Public School System.“It is necessary to have equitable access to learning opportunities in the arts and humanities for students in DC public schools and public charter schools. The integration of creativity and tactical learning allows children to express themselves and open up new avenues of imagination,” said Margaret Phillips, Arts, and Education Expert at DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative.

Her passion for dance also grew from her extensive training in the field. She studied at Federal City College, a part of University of District of Columbia, and went on to study and teach at Howard University. While at Howard, she was studying the Cecchetti method, which was based on the teaching of 19th-century Italian ballet master, Emilio Cecchetti. She is now a certified Fellow of the Cecchetti Council of America. “I went on to take the Advanced Teacher’s Exam at 59,” said Davis-Williams.

Davis-Williams said, “I use dance as a tool to prepare children for the real world.” She took her students to West Africa for two weeks. They explored Senegal and The Gambia and studied with the Ballet de Senegal. Aside from performing their dances in West Africa, they saw the reality of life for a community that was foreign to them. “They get to go into people’s homes and see how basic their homes were. People were going to wash their clothes. The laundromat was the river, and the rocks were the dryers…these kids, they never seen that.”

When asked about her favorite part of the Davis Center, Kayla Bell, 14, a student at the Davis Center said, “The friends and the creativity when it comes to recitals.”

“I like that we step outside of the box with our dances and Mrs. Davis always makes sure everything is put together,” Bell continued.

“It’s about making them feel special,” “Anything that I can expose them to, I try,” said Davis-Williams. Her love for dance is shown in a multitude of ways to her students. She takes them on trips to local ballets and performances. She is acting as a medium to expose these talented, young minds to all of the possibilities of art and where it can take them.

“The Davis Center has always been a safe haven. And as long as I am here, it always will be,” said Davis-Williams.