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Lawton dance teacher retiring after almost 40 years

Published: May. 13, 2021 at 6:37 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) -Saturday, May 15th marks the end of an era for a dance teacher known to many in the arts community.

After 39 years of teaching, Sherri Conwell of Sherri’s Dance Center in Lawton is retiring.

She’s taught over 10 thousand students in her career.

And one of them, is our very own 7 News Anchor Makenzie Burk.

39 years ago Sherri Conwell followed a dream, and opened her own dance studio.

“It’s been so much fun. I kinda grew up here, learning as I went along,” said Conwell.

Whether it was at the studio, in the pageant world, or with the Arts in Residency program in area schools, her reach has been extraordinary.

“The good thing about teaching dance is I get to see people like you and your sister come back year after year after year and just blossom into these beautiful young dancers, and young people,” said Conwell. “And dance just doesn’t just teach you about you know becoming a dancer, it also teaches you about how to carry yourself and be courageous and responsible.”

Some of her dancers have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, and even news anchors.

A few have gone on to dance professionally, including Erin Clemons who plays Eliza in the Broadway musical Hamilton.

“Her joy in seeing her dance was inspiring because I felt like that radiated onto all of us,” said Clemons. “And I always thought it was amazing the way that she kept up with her own skills and would like dance with us.”

Katie Cooper danced at Sherri’s for 10 years, and remembers it being such a big part of her childhood, and now, it’s a part of her daughters too.

“It was just special that she gets to have some of the same experiences that I did,” said Cooper.

Sherri’s own daughter, Carrie, grew up in the studio and now teaches dance in Oklahoma City Public Schools

“She has always told me well get up and move with them, you know if you want your students to see what they need to do, you have to do it with them” said Carrie Conwell.

It was that try hard mentality that got Sherri through some tough times. Over the years, she fought and beat cancer twice.

“That was really scary and couldn’t come and see the dancers and so but thank God has healed me and now I’m able to be here,” said Sherri Conwell.

“My mom would wear her chemo bags while she was teaching dance and she never let it affect are you know she tried not to let the students see that she was sick,” said Carrie Conwell. “She is the strongest person”

This year, Sherri made the hard decision to sell the studio.

“Allee Blake Passmore has taken over the dance studio and she’s going to do an excellent job,” said Sherri Conwell.

“At first I was like yeah like Oh my gosh what a amazing thing that would be and then I got scared and I was like how could I ever do what Sherri has done and so the past year or so we’ve really worked very closely on things and she’s given me guidance,” said Allee Passmore.

It’s been a roller coaster of emotions for Sherri. She says it’ll be hard to say goodbye, but knows the studio is in good hands.

“You know the hugs of course and all of the love that I get from all the dancers you know I’m just gonna miss that quite a bit,” said Sherri Conwell. “We will stop in and check on everyone and make sure that they don’t forget me so I’m not too far away I’m always just right around the corner so if anyone ever needs anything just you know I love you so much students out there and send a card if you get a chance love that.”

The 39th Annual Sherri’s dance recital is this Saturday at McMahon Memorial Auditorium. Due to COVID restrictions, capacity is still limited, so it will be a ticket only event. However, the recital will be live streamed on their website to watch for free, at Sherrisdancecenter.com.

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