Austin-East High School here in Knoxville is a magnet school offering performing arts opportunities.
This week dancers are learning from a Knoxville native who has hit it big.
The Austin-East Dance Company is an elite group of student artists who are passionate about dance. Payton Dendy is a Junior.
Payton Dendy "It's a way to express yourself when words can't. It's like you can be free and you can do whatever you want. People can really see who you are when you dance because it's like you express your soul."
Guest choreographer Shamicka Benn has turned her passion for dance into a career. She graduated from Bearden High School and the University of Tennessee.
"I moved to New York to train at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater," Shamicka Benn said. "While I was there I realized wait I'm in New York City. I can finally audition and live my dream. So I started auditioning for musicals a lot. I heard a lot of nos before I heard a yes and then I landed my dream show, Chicago the musical, which I am doing the Broadway tour of right now."
Well, right now she is leading an intense week long dance workshop for Austin-East dancers.
The artistic director at Austin-East is Peggy Burks-Denny. She taught Shamicka ballet at UT. So when Peggy invited her the professional dancer rearranged her schedule to come to the school and give back to her hometown.
"I can say the same thing that their mothers have said, that their teachers have said, that their big brother or big sister had said but for whatever reason because they saw me on stage doing what they aspire to do, it lands," Shamicka said.
Peggy Burks-Denny said, "We say the same things she is saying but she says them in a special way and she is special so they kind of listen a little bit more to her than they do to us. I hate to admit that but it's inspiring us so hopefully when she's gone we can take her energy and make us better."
She's already making the dancers better with individual feedback and tips on technique and projecting personality.
Payton said, "She's danced with Alvin Ailey's company. That's huge. It's like you've made it so yes I am enjoying or very much."
Shamicka is enjoying her career as a professional dancer. Touring with the musical Chicago, she has already traveled to Thailand, Japan, and Dubai. Next stop Canada.
"Not going to lie,"she said. "Most of the time I wake up in these places and I jump on my bed because I really do feel like what is going on? Is this my life?"
This week she is sharing that life with the Austin-East Dance Company.