“Sorry I can’t. I have dance.”
Growing up, that was the most commonly used phrase for the dance team coach at Oxford High School.
Not only is she a coach to a team of nine talented teenage dancers, but she is also a teacher to many at the Oxford Academy of Dance Arts, a fitness teacher at Snap Fitness, a mom of three and a wife here in Oxford.
Robyn Lyons, 39, has been dancing ever since she could walk. She grew up in various locations in the valley of California, including Woodland Hills, Canoga Park and Calabasas, dancing in some of the best studios that each location offered.
Lyons is trained in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical and hip-hop. She has performed in many competitions, recitals and professional shows to count, performing each genre of dance to large audiences around the country.
In high school, while her classmates and friends were deciding where to attend college with the best Greek life and party scene, all she could think about was where she could go to continue her passion.
Lyons ended up attending Santa Barbara Community College, where she earned her arts associates degree in dance. This degree allows her to work as a dance team coach and professional dance teacher.
However, even after getting her degree, she wasn’t quite ready to transition from being the student to the teacher.
“Dance is my true escape and will always be my first love,” Lyons said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to grow up while all my friends were going to big colleges and moving on, getting ‘big girl’ jobs and stuff, it was just that I loved dance too much to quit while I was so young and at the peak of my dance career.”
As an adult, Lyons was a member of the notorious Los Angeles Ballet Company for three years, performing a major role in the Nutcracker every holiday season.
Simultaneously, she took classes under two very influential figures of the dance world – Dennon and Sayhber Rawles. The two masters of dance are known both internationally and nationally, especially throughout Hollywood.
They have choreographed dance numbers for various films, including “Staying Alive,” starring John Travolta.
Not only was Lyons trained by some of the best in the business, but she danced among them as well. Some of her idols growing up were Leslie Weisner, Nancy Davis and Ellen Bauer – all star members of the Los Angeles Ballet.
Shortly after making the decision to leave the company, she came back to take master classes with John Clifford, one of Los Angeles Ballet’s best dancers. In those master classes, she got the opportunity to dance with Weisner, Davis and Bauer. To her, this was a dream come true.
“They were just so beautiful to watch. I wanted to dance like them, with them and just be them so bad,” Lyons said. “Getting the chance to dance with them was one of the best memories I have looking back at my dance career”.
Once Lyons met the second love of her life, her husband, and started a family, the two decided to make the move to rebel nation, also known as Oxford, Mississippi, about three years ago.
Now that her life was being altered with a husband and kids, she was finally ready to take the next step in her dance career – become a teacher at a studio and coach a high school dance team.
Lucky for her, Oxford High School was looking to start a dance team, and they needed a coach. The second Lyons heard about this, she was on the phone setting up an interview. She got the job, and the team has been an asset to the school spirit of Oxford High for three seasons now.
Lyons is in tip-top shape, outgoing, hardworking, and most of all, fun-loving. She loves getting to share her passion with kids, while helping them improve every day.
“I think it was very apparent how bad I wanted this job, but also how qualified I was to take it,” she said. “I worked very hard as a dancer to get to where I am today, and landing a job as a coach was another dream come true for me. It is something I have always wanted to do”.
Although she follows a pretty steady schedule from day to day, she wakes up never knowing what she is going to get, whether it is drama with girls on the team or drama with the three kids of her own.
No matter what, she wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, dancing is something that keeps her sane, even if she is just coaching or teaching. It is her escape. It always has been and it always will be.
“Ugh, my life is definitely crazy sometimes, and a little hard to manage, but I do it, and love what I am doing every day, whether it is being a mom to my three kids or being a coach to my nine dancers this season,” she said. “It’s pretty cool, because every day, I get to do what I love, so no matter how hectic my life gets, I still have dance to calm me down”.
The Oxford Chargers varsity dance team is known as the “Chargerettes.”
Before they compete at the state competition in December each year, the team attends two-hour practices four days a week, sometimes even five.
Their competition dance consists of both lyrical and jazz moves choreographed by Lyons herself and sometimes others for assistance.
“Competition season is tough on both the girls and me,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it is definitely worth it after I watch them compete.
“Nothing makes me happier than seeing them performing what they love and having fun, even if the dance doesn’t look perfect. To me, as a dancer myself, that isn’t what it’s about.”
Not only does Lyons love being a coach to the team each season, but the girls love her too. Auditions are held every spring, and even returning members must tryout again.
Ellie Hinton, junior, explained that Coach Lyons is someone that makes everyone feel talented and important.
“She really makes everyone love coming to practice and just love being on the team,” Hinton said. “She’s really fun and makes everyone feel comfortable, but when it’s time to get serious, she knows exactly how to push us so that we always look the best we possibly can.”
Lyons explained that the team is more than just a spirit squad, but a family. She and the team spend a majority of their time together. They all attend practices each week, fundraisers, pep rallies, football, basketball games and just about any other major event going on around Oxford throughout the year.
While being a part of the team as both a member and a head coach is a big commitment, Lyons tries very hard to make it an environment where positive growth occurs both mentally and physically.
“Each season, I have a group of girls that I really do consider my family. I want them to feel like they are a part of something bigger than just a dance team,” Lyons said.
“It’s a team of girls who share the same passion as me [for dance] that I hope to send into the world a little bit kinder, smarter, sweeter and more mature, whether they chose to continue to make dance a part of their lives or not”.
Her effort and success in doing so truly shows. Even today, she still finds herself saying, “Sorry I cant. I have dance,” and she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I wasn’t sure how, but I always knew dance would forever be a part of my life in some way,” she said. “I am very content with how much dance is in my life, and I feel lucky to not only have such a beautiful passion, but to get to share it with the people in my life every day”.
Jana Rosenberg is a 20-year-old sophomore Broadcast Journalism major and Cinema minor at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. She spent seven years of her life in Newport Beach, California and then moved to Cary, North Carolina with her family in 2006. Rosenberg graduated from Green Hope High School in 2013 where she was a member of the varsity dance team. Before earning a spot on the Green Hope dance team, she was a competitive figure skater for six years. Rosenberg finished the best season of her skating career as US Figure Skating’s 2007 South Atlantic Regional champion. She discovered her love for writing and the mass media at an early age and has dreamed of working as a broadcast journalist in the entertainment industry ever since she was able to watch networks such as Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and E! News. Aside from school, Rosenberg is a member of Hinge Professional Dance Company in Oxford. She is also an assistant coach and choreographer for the Oxford High School dance team. On top of that, Rosenberg works as an intern at HottyToddy.com, covering various kinds of news around the Oxford and Ole Miss area as an online reporter.