Gay Whitt: 60+ years of teaching more than just dance lessons

Tri-Cities Original

An Erwin dance teacher has been on the job for more than 60 years…and she doesn’t plan on taking a final bow anytime soon. 

This year marks Gay Whitt’s 63rd year of teaching. She’s 78 years old. 

Whitt’s interest in dance goes back to when she was just five years old. 

When I started dance, my mother and I walked from Pine Street all the way through downtown Johnson City all the way to the Holloway School in North Johnson City for my lessons and we walked home, Whitt told News Channel 11′s Josh Smith.

Soon, the performer knew her real dream was to teach, rather than perform.

Later on, another love of her life came along: her husband Jerry.

When he proposed, he said ‘you can teach dance as long as you want to.’ I don’t think he had this in mind, she said with a laugh.

Gallery: Gay Whitt

When children visit her second-floor studio in downtown Erwin they don’t just get a lesson on dance, they also get a lesson on life. 

I think there’s too much competition in every phase of their life, Whitt said. Not only when they’re young, but when they get older. It’s always about being the first and the best. Being the top of the line in everything. And that’s not for every student.

We do not do competitions, she said. Never have.

Early in her career, she decided her studio would be different. It’s about art, not competition.

Just learning the mind-body experience and learning to apply those things to all areas of your life, she said.

Ovarian cancer couldn’t stop Whitt. She’s now fully recovered. And fully determined…to keep on dancing.

Why does she keep doing it?

Because I love it, she said. I can’t imagine not doing it.

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Born and raised in the Tri-Cities, Josh Smith has been a member of the WJHL team since 1999. His family roots go deep in the region, and he’s traveled through almost every part of it covering news on local TV since 1995. When he’s not on the job, he’s with his wife, two sons, and daughter.   “They’re the best part of me,” he said.   You may run into them biking on the Tweetsie Trail, hiking around Bays Mountain Lake, or browsing the shelves at the local public libraries.

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