Katia Bode Discusses Running Woodbury Dance Center’s Competition Dance Programs
September 30, 2023

Becoming a dance teacher was in Katia Bode destiny. Her mother, Kathy Johnson Mueller, and aunt, Buffy Johnson Breen, established Woodbury Dance Center in Woodbury, Minnesota, in 1995 and put Bode in classes from the time she was little.

There, she trained and competed in tap, ballet, lyrical, contemporary, and jazz. By the time she was in junior high, Bode was already assisting teachers at her studio and developing an interest in educating. After graduating high school, she moved west to Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spent roughly four years dancing professionally with Odyssey Dance Theatre and teaching at studios nearby. But all the while, Bode’s heart was back in Woodbury. “I missed being at the studio, and I missed home,” she says.

So, she made the move back to Minnesota six years ago, and her mother hired her on as the school’s director of competition dance programs. Bode has since expanded the existing program to include three separate training tracks: company (the most elite 75 dancers at the school who train six days per week); team (roughly 100 competitive dancers who want intensive training but a bit more dance­–life balance); and performance (roughly 75 dancers who also compete, but have even more time to be a kid outside of dance). “These are based on level, but more than anything we wanted to offer options,” Bode says. “The amount of hours dancers have to train these days is insane, and we want families to be able to choose what will work for them.” The school also has a large number of noncompetitive recreational dancers.

Photo courtesy Bode.

In her position as competition director, Bode spends most of her time supporting teachers, making sure their classes are going smoothly, and running rehearsals. In terms of technique, she likes to focus on strength-training and stretching. “There should be a 50/50 balance between the two, especially when working with younger children,” she says. “Our minis [6- to 8-year-olds], have a structured warm-up that fires up the muscles before stretching them out. For example, they will start with lunges and push-ups before moving into deeper stretches.” As a director, Bode prioritizes versatility. “I want the dancers to be able to do anything they want,” she says. “I try to give them training in a variety of genres so that when they get to an audition where they are asked to sing, do acro, and tap, they are ready to go.”

Beyond dance training, Bode works hard to give her dancers life skills. “We teach class etiquette from the time they are little,” she says. “No crossing arms, no yawning, no talking. We want them to respect their teachers.” One of the ways she teaches this is by holding a five-minute meeting at the beginning of each class. “I sit them down and tell them what the plan is for the day.” On Thursdays, Bode gives them a moment to talk about what they are grateful for before they begin dancing. “Once they’ve shared, their voices should be off for the rest of the class.” But, of course, even the most disciplined students have chatty days. In which case, Bode has her students do a journaling exercise to help redirect their focus.

Here Bode shares how she prepares to teach and more.

Her pre-class ritual: “I sit in a silent room for 30 minutes to mentally prepare for the craziness that is about to happen.”

Go-to teaching attire: “I’m usually barefoot or in Nikes, and I like to wear comfortable clothes from stores like Lululemon.”

Her favorite teaching tools: “The dancers are required to bring yoga blocks and TheraBands to class. We use them for balance and strengthening exercises.”

Photo courtesy Bode.

Must-have energy boosters: “I drink coffee, but I try my best to get energy from my dancers.”

Beloved nondance activities: “I like doing anything outdoors, including camping, hiking, and working in the yard. As a dance teacher, I’m cooped up all day, so I like to get out. It helps me separate work and normal life.”

Recommended reading: “I’m on that Colleen Hoover kick right now.”

Items she never leaves home without: “My Passion Planner—I’m very much a handwritten-schedule person—and my Stanley water bottle.”

Her guilty pleasure: “Almond Joys! My dancers always give me bags and bags of them.”

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