For over 44 years, Bethany Westfall has been teaching dance in southern Douglas County.
“I moved into this county back in 1974,” Westfall said. “Then I met some Myrtle Creek people, and they found out what I was doing. I was asked to go down to Myrtle Creek and teach, which is what I started doing, in the fall of ‘74. That’s how it all started.”
Westfall is originally from Spokane, Washington, where her mother was a dance teacher with a studio in their home. Dance was commonplace Westfall’s whole life. Her mother exposed her to different techniques and a variety of teachers, though ballet was always her first love. Westfall began her instructing career at her mother’s studio when she was 17.
Throughout her life, Westfall has been in countless performances with a wide range of companies. For two years, she drove down to Ashland every weekend to perform with the State Ballet of Oregon. She has also spent a lot of time with companies in Eugene, performing, touring and — as she puts it — having a really good time. She has also taught all over the state.
Westfall’s first south county location was the gym at Tri-City Elementary, where she was given the entire space.
“We had no bars or mirrors or anything,” Westfall remembers.
Her studio has moved twice since then. She now teaches at the Myrtle Creek Community Center three days per week. Her students range from 3 years old to adults. Most come from the south county area, but a few students travel from Grants Pass. Some are the grandchildren of her first students.
“The community, especially down in Myrtle Creek, has really kept the studio going,” Westfall said. “They have been really supportive of me down there and the families have been wonderful. At this point, I am teaching the children of the children of the children.”
Brenda Fischer, who grew up in Riddle, began learning from Westfall when she was 8 or 9. When she moved back into the area a few years ago, she was shocked to learn Westfall was still teaching.
“She is a really neat lady. Her passion for dance shines through,” Fischer said. “My daughter had been in dance in California for two years; she learned very little except how to put on a cute costume. Since being in Beth’s class this past year she has picked up some real skills.”
Westfall’s classes include classical ballet, tap, contemporary, modern and more. Her season begins around mid-August and continues through the end of April. She accepts students year-round, though anyone joining around mid-December may not be ready for the year-end recital. When she first started, she held many recitals throughout the year, but she has now limited it to once per year. The recital is held at Umpqua Community College’s Jacoby Auditorium, which Westfall says is one of the best auditoriums in the state. According to Fischer, the recital is always a “packed house.”
“I’ve been to other recitals around here and I have to say, I put on a pretty good show,” Westfall said.
Each recital has a variety of dances, which begins with a themed ballet. Last year’s theme was “Fairies of the Four Seasons,” which Westfall said was really well-recieved and loved. This year, she has been inspired by a sound effect called “Toys in the Attic” and plans to include toys, dolls and “stuff in the attic” as costume inspiration.
“It’s what I do. I like it, I enjoy it and I am pretty good at it. It beats working at Burger King,” Westfall said.