Jacie White was 13 when she started teaching dance in 1969. Now, 50 years later, she is still tapping away with today’s young dancers.
“I have been dancing forever because I had older brothers and older sisters that also danced,” she said. “When they danced, I danced.”
“Miss Jacie,” (pronounced like Jackie), as she is more commonly known, was trained by a family of dancers from the Fletcher School of Dance in Asheville. The Fletchers opened up a school in McDowell and Miss Jacie worked there. Miss Jacie is a member of the Dance Masters of America and Carolina Dance Masters since 1975, and is certified by test to teach.
“I managed it for Mr. Fletcher, and after his son died, I bought the business,” she said. “And then it became Miss Jacie’s School of Dance, but we were always doing things together.”
Miss Jacie’s School of Dance opened in 1988 and was the first school to offer recreational dance in McDowell County. And after 50 years, it is still going strong with a little over 100 students from age 3 to adults.
“The greatest thing is when I have kids who took dance with me, and now their kids are taking dance,” she said. “That’s a big thing for me and what I like to hear.”
Miss Jacie’s School of Dance offers boys and girls of all ages classes in tap, jazz, ballet, baton, acrobatics, lyrical and hip-hop. Miss Jacie herself teaches many of the classes, but also has two other instructors.
“We teach a little bit of everything so they can appreciate all of it,” said Miss Jacie.
At the dance school’s final recital of the year, the one who was getting appreciated was Miss Jacie. Parents, community members, current and former students honored her with a presentation of a trophy, flowers, cake and a proclamation from the Mayor of Marion Steve Little naming Sunday, May 26, 2019 “Jacie White Day”.
“Jacie White has lived a life dedicated to dance, starting at the age of 5, dancing in the disciplines of ballet, tap, and jazz; performing, dancing and choreographing professionally, and in community theater, and in theme parks; and teaching all forms of the performing arts in Western North Carolina,” the proclamation said. “In 1988, Jacie White opened Miss Jacie’s School of Dance, dedicated to promote self-esteem, individuality, discipline, strength, coordination and a lifelong appreciation for the arts while instilling high character through the performing arts. Jacie White has specialized in teaching children’s dance continuously for 50 years, touching the lives of countless girls and boys of our community as a loving and nurturing educator who has given our children the gifts of self-esteem and the appreciation of the arts and of dance.”
“I had no idea any of that was going on,” said Miss Jacie of the honor. “I don’t know how they got by with all of that, but they did and they surprised me. I was so surprised, just so surprised.”
Miss Jacie, and her husband Frank, opened White Lightning Talent Competition in 1975 to continue on the Fletchers’ legacy of competition dance. Dancers from all over the southeast come to North Carolina to compete in White Lightning.
“Dance is just part of me and I just keep going,” she said. “I start the recital for the next year in January, so the recital for next year is already started. I don’t know who is going to be in it, or all the things that are going to be in it, but it’s started. A lot of planning goes into it. There are a lot of hours that I’m up late or up early, but then there are some days I don’t do anything at all. It is just a different kind of work that everyone else does.”
Many of her students can be seen dancing at local parades and events, but one trip that some of the older dancers are looking forward to is performing in the Thanksgiving Macy’s Day Parade in 2020.
“It is so fabulous, it’s a once-in-a-life trip for these kids,” said Miss Jacie. “Everyone is so nervous, and then they get there, and they are OK.”
This is the sixth time the dance school has been invited to dance in the popular holiday parade. Cost for the trip is $2,500 per student for a week in New York, and it takes about three years for the kids to raise the money to go. Fundraising is already underway, and if folks want to make a donation, they can call the school and leave a message.
“The money includes their hotel, costumes and a lot of their food,” said Miss Jacie. “They get to go to a Broadway play, see the Rockettes, go sightseeing and then dance in the parade.”
Miss Jacie hopes the trip to New York gives her students a taste of a world outside of their small-town environment. She has had many students continue dance as a career.
“Kelsey Rhinehart Bunzey danced for the NBA,” said White. “She now teaches a dance team at Winthrop College. I have a lot of kids that have danced at theme parks in the area. We had a lot of Dorothy’s in the Land of Oz. They used to have a really good show with all the characters. I have had a lot of students dance in college on the dance teams.”
Miss Jacie has two sons—Trey and Willie, and three grandchildren.
To learn more about Miss Jacie’s School of Dance, call 652-3197 or visit missjaciesdance.com.