Dancing and teaching, SHSU graduate Dana Sullivan 'living the dream'

Submitted photoSam Houston State graduate Dana Sullivan enjoys the frantic pace that comes with teaching dance teams like the Houston Astros' Shooting Stars. A former Houston Rockets Power Dancer, Sullivan said dances are learned the night before games. “In the beginning," she said, "that was pretty stressful for me because before I’d had months to prepare for a routine, but I got used to it. It was like a sisterhood. We were all really close. And, of course, I was finally living the dream." 

Sam Houston State has a lot to offer, and when it comes to the university's dance department, there's a ton of talent. Dana Sullivan graduated from SHSU with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance in 2004. She went on to make a name for herself in the world of dance.

A year after her graduation, Sullivan became a Houston Rockets Power Dancer for the 2005-2006 season. She also became a Texans cheerleader in 2006 and opened her own studio, Hot On Your Heels Dance Productions, here in Huntsville.

“We’d learn the dances the night before every game,” Sullivan said of being a Texans cheerleader. “In the beginning, that was pretty stressful for me because before I’d had months to prepare for a routine, but I got used to it. It was like a sisterhood. We were all really close. And, of course, I was finally living the dream. 

"Every time I would pull up into the parking lot and get my suitcase out to wheel it into the building, it was so unbelievable, and I thought, ‘I can’t believe I’m living my dream.’”

Sullivan also spent time training the Houston Astros' Shooting Stars. Similar to her time with the Texans and the Rockets, she was required to learn quickly, but also to teach the rest of the dancers what she had just learned.

“I can see why celebrities enjoy being celebrities because the crowd really takes away your nerves,” Sullivan said. “I learned the dance to teach them (the Shooting Stars) the day before, so it was like that Rockets feeling again. When I taught it to them, I was pretty nervous because I’d just learned it. But once I got up there, they were cheering me on and they were really excited and it was pretty fun in the end.”

The desire for independence and wanting to pursue her passions prompted Sullivan to first open her own studio.

“I was a broke college student, and I got tired of my parents giving me a certain amount of money to spend a week,” Sullivan said. “I got tired of waiting on that weekly fund, and I wanted to do my own thing. I’d choreographed for the Rockets and the Texans before, and I really enjoy choreographing and picking out costumes and all that. It was pretty much a combination of wanting to do my own thing and wanting to be financially stable and not depend on anyone.”

Years of dancing among professionals, as well as training them, did not leave Sullivan without rewards. She uses the experience she’s gained throughout the years in teaching students at her own studio, Hot On Your Heels.

“I think it’s given me a sense of professionalism,” Sullivan said. “I just kind of take the strength of all the different experiences and roll it into my dancers. I focus on the things I learned at Sam Houston a lot, like pointing the toes, body alignment, proper technique and things like that. I try to teach them the things that I learned in college now so that they don’t have to wait until they go to college to learn it. That’s what I really try to drill into the kids, those core aspects of it. 

"With the Rockets, we had such a sisterhood, so we have Christmas parties and slumber parties with the girls (her students) and try to bond them the way they we were bonded.” 

Sullivan explained why she enjoye teaching and the fulfillment she’s gained from all of her experience.

“I have helped so many dancers audition for college teams, for the Houston Texans and for the Shooting Stars,” Sullivan said. “So many of my students have gone on to make those teams. It’s just such a great feeling to train them and help them to grow.”

To learn more about Sullivan and Hot On Your Heels, visit https://www.hoyhdance.com.

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