Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Soulful Arts Dance Academy's new director is hopeful about its future

ST. PETERSBURG — The doors are open for little feet to return to the floor at Soulful Arts Dance Academy.

But now, they'll be dancing for a new leader. Kandace Nunn, a former Soulful Arts teacher, is the St. Petersburg nonprofit studio's new artistic director, overseeing the dance training of about 150 students.

Nunn, 25, is a familiar face around the studio at 290 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. She taught African, modern, jazz and hip-hop dance there in 2006 and 2007. Nunn, a Blake High graduate with a bachelor's degree in dance education, has trained in Tampa, New York and Africa and has a long resume of performing and choreographing. She danced in national touring productions of the Backyardigans and OZ, the Musical.

"I want the students to get even more involved in the community," said Nunn, who got her start dancing in church. "I think that's so important for Pinellas County and St. Petersburg. I just want to have a positive brand of SADA. Whenever someone thinks of SADA, they think, 'That's a great school. I want to send my children there because of the contributions to the community.' "

She is drafting plans for the studio, which may add liturgical and authentic African dance to its offerings. She hopes to make the studio feel more like a conservatory — fun, but focused on training. She'll emphasize showing up on time, keeping a neat appearance and perfecting technique.

"I feel I definitely have big shoes to fill, but I'm just so excited to be a part of SADA once again," she said.

She replaces outgoing artistic director and Soulful Arts co-founder Paulette Walker Johnson.

"I bless them," said Johnson, 51. "I say continue on. Soulful Arts Dance Academy was a happy place. I pray that Soulful Arts continues to be a happy place."

Johnson was fired during a point of financial turmoil at the studio this month. Soulful Arts, which had a deficit of $20,000, went into a state of dormancy, stopping all classes. Parents and students rallied, urging the board of directors to reopen before students found new places to dance.

They listened. The school opened again Monday, albeit with a slow start. One child showed up for class in the afternoon, but 10 more arrived later in the evening, Nunn said.

"We sent out a lot of e-mails, but we did expect for Monday to be slow," said Nunn. "We expect for it to really pick up."

Soulful Arts is operating thanks to $20,000 in community donations that will keep the studio running until at least Nov. 19.

"Our hope and dream is to go much further than that," said board president Antonio Chase.

State Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, pitched in some of his own money and recruited other donors in the community. Recent mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons gave $1,000. Lakewood High graduate and Advantica EyeCare president Richard Sanchez and his wife, Sharon, donated $15,000 through their foundation. The Soulful Arts board is working on a longer-term solution — to develop a potential partnership with St. Petersburg College.

Since 2003, Soulful Arts students of all races and financial situations have trained in ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, modern dance, instrument and voice training — some paying $50 per class in tuition, some receiving scholarships. They danced in big competitions, benefits and recitals. Dancers at the academy made up the majority of the cast of Black Nativity at the Palladium Theater, one of St. Petersburg's most popular holiday shows.

Nunn hasn't ruled out the possibility of pulling off the Black Nativity again this year.

"I think it would be a good thing to just stay posted," she said. "Stay tuned. Nothing is impossible."

"Kids are coming back excited. I'm excited. I think that's the most important thing. There is hope."

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.

Soulful Arts Dance Academy's new director is hopeful about its future 10/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 3:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    Minnesota Twins pitching coach Neil Allen jogs back to the dugout after paying starting pitcher Tyler Duffey a visit on the mound in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  2. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond


    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
  3. Mayor Rick Kriseman says election is about moving forward


    Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office  Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward..

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally
  4. Mulberry teens, 15 and 18, killed when cars collide at Plant City intersection


    MULBERRY — The local high school has an enrollment of 1,000 but to some it feels like a tight-knit family. Many of Mulberry High School's students have spent all of their school days within the city limits, said principal Michael Young.

    Pepe Salgado, 18, was killed Friday along with his sister Frinzi Salgado-Diaz, 15, in a car crash in Plant City. They were passengers in a car driven by their cousin Edilberto Nava-Marcos, 18, who was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and was listed in critical condition. All three lived in Mulberry and attended Mulberry High School. [Polk County School District]
  5. Assisted living facility owner accused of sexually assaulting employee in Pinellas


    ST. PETERSBURG — An assisted living facility owner was arrested Thursday on charges that he sexually assaulted an employee, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.