“That’s like a fairy tale for them—that’s dance. It’s dance.”
For nearly 65 years, one local woman has been teaching dance along with gymnastics to little girls all across the East Mississippi area, and she has also trained every dance and gymnastics instructor that teaches in Meridian and Collinsville. “Well, my mother loved dancing, so she put all of us in. There were my sisters and I, but my sisters didn’t really like it as well as I did—so I continued,” said Pat Gray, owner of Pat Gray Academy of Dance and Gymnastics.
She’s continued for decades, and now her daughter and granddaughter are involved in her academy. “My grandmother has been there for me my entire life. She is an inspiration to me, not only as a dance teacher, but as a person,” said Holly Koch, who now has her own dancing studio in Collinsville. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling to know that they are carrying on and doing what I would love for them to do and what I would still love to be doing myself,” said Gray as she sat next to her daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandson.
When she was growing up, Pat Gray and her mother traveled all across the country and brought back what they learned right here to Meridian. “I’ve seen so many little girls just come out of that little box they keep themselves in, and they’ve just blossomed into such beautiful and vibrant young women,” said Koch, who also does choreography at her grandmother’s academy.
“We have these children who leave us and go and do what they love to do, but they still come back and say, ‘thank you so much for what you’ve done for me,’” said Gray. As for her granddaughter, it’s about more than just continuing a legacy. “She truly has inspired me, not only as a dancer and to become a dance person, but just to become a better woman.” Coming up on May 18th at the MSU Riley Center, dancers from her academy will be performing to original choreography put together by her daughter, Sharon, and granddaughter.