Let’s Dance! And Sing. And Act.

Heather Wayne
Heather Johnson Wayne, WC ’98.

Sometime those who can, teach. In the case of Heather Johnson Wayne, WC ’98, one of those who can teach also built a thriving business enterprise Heather Wayne’s Performing Arts Dance Academy in Hoschton, Ga.

After moving from a storefront shopping center to a bustling, stand-alone collection of studios, theater and rehearsal space, the 10-year-old school sits centrally to five fast-growing exurban Atlanta counties, all teeming with young families. Wayne, who employs many Brenau students, teaches ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop and a variety of styles. Really energetic students can become “triple threats” by engaging in all areas of instruction in the catalog – dance, voice/music and theater.

Wayne’s focus as a dance pedagogy major never was that she could always teach after a professional stage career but that she would always teach as her profession. The performance part, like her appearance after being picked from hundreds of dancers in the opening and closing numbers of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, was a bonus.

Eleven years ago Heather married a guy named – and we’re not making this up – John Wayne. They settled in his hometown, pronounced “Hoosh-ton,” which is about a half hour’s drive from the Hosch Theatre on the Brenau campus. They have two children, Ella Kay, 5, and Adelyn, 2.

Idols from the earlier matinee of her life – her time at Brenau – include the late Carol Smiarowski and Vincas Greene who as Wayne began her freshman year were commencing their freshman years as members of the faculty. Greene, who replaced Smiarowski as dance department chair when she died in 2008, taught Wayne modern dance, dance composition and improvisation. Smiarowski, who Wayne regarded as a mentor, focused on fundamentals and technical aspects of performances. She also steered her pupil toward the practical: paying the rent.

During Wayne’s junior year, Smiarowski encouraged Wayne to work at an off-the-beaten-path studio in Dahlonega, Ga. It was a struggle, Wayne says, balancing the job with her schoolwork and rehearsals for upcoming productions. After graduation she taught at Atlanta’s prestigious academy, The Lovett School. She did not teach dance per se, but built physical education classes for kindergartners through eighth grades around a dance curriculum. She had students doing musical theater, choreography, jazz/hip-hop – heck, even first-graders were waltzing.

Both experiences provided keen insight into markets and out-of-the-box thinking when she started her business.



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