Dancing a Legacy: NWFSC Dance Facets to honor late mentor

Savannah Chastain
Lyndsi Stevens, Marisha Brown and Heather Connelly unite around dancing at NWFSC.

Marisha Brown, Lyndsi Stevens, and Heather Connelly come from three different worlds. Brown, is a Missouri transplant, Stevens a marketing guru, and Connelly, a licensed RN for Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast. So what brings these three Destin ladies together almost ten hours a day? The love of dance; the three are part of a 37-person crew gearing up for the upcoming Northwest Florida State College production, Dance Facets.

“All three of us have choreographed the show in past years,” said Brown, explaining that each year, dance students and faculty choreograph the showcase to honor late dance mentor, Frances Smith Herron.

After the beloved dance instructor passed away in 2006, from health complications, students and colleagues founded the Frances Smith Herron Dance Studio Endowment, which awards scholarships to performing arts students attending NWFSC. The annual Dance Facets production acts as a fundraiser for this scholarship program.

“I’m particularly grateful for the scholarship program,” said Brown. “I thought I was going to have to go home after the first year because I couldn’t get in-state tuition, but I was able to get the scholarship and continue dancing.”

For Stevens and Connelly, Herron was more than a mentor; she was the inspiration behind their dancing.

“I feel like she’s the reason everybody’s there,” said Connelly. “When I get discouraged, I look at her picture on the wall. I really feel like, for those of us who knew her, her presence is felt in that studio because we know that she wanted that for us.”

“I was in high school when I started taking dance at the college,” Stevens told The Log. “Frances was very nurturing. She helped me develop my dancing and broke me out of my ballet world into other styles.”

In 2011, Connelly choreographed a contemporary dance piece as a tribute to Herron.

“I was really pouring my heart out on the floor because she told me to keep pursuing my dancing,” Connelly said.

Dance Facets, now in its 13th year, was founded by Herron as an outlet for showcasing students.

“Dance Facets was Frances’ show,” said Connelly. “I remember when it was not a formal show; it was more of a recital on stage.”

Today the show continues to encourage student creativity and talent, as this year Brown was chosen as one of only four student choreographers, and Stevens will be a supportive dancer in her piece.

“It’s really the most important thing because we all get to support each other,” said Stevens. “We get to dance together, and help each other by being in each other’s choreography.”

For the girls, this is an opportunity to not only explore their talent, but also express gratitude to the people who have helped them develop as dancers.

“I actually did my piece about the friendships I’ve made at the school. It really is just a family there,” Brown said. “I knew nobody when I moved here, and they welcomed me with open arms.”

“I had taken two years off from dancing,” said Stevens, “and my teachers invited me back. It’s something I never really thought about, but something I always wanted to do.”

 “I see this as my way of giving back to that program, by volunteering to dance each year,” said Connelly.

This year’s Dance Facets production will feature 11 pieces, and showcase a wide spectrum of dance styles.

 “It has literally everything,” said Brown, listing off several contrasting dance styles. “You’re definitely going to be on an emotional roller coaster when you come see Facets. It is happy then sad; there are emotional pieces and aerial silks; it will be a good kind of roller coaster.”