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Q&A: Rice sisters return to hometown stage

Dance and fitness studio owner Sonya Rice, center, is flanked by her two daughters, Cory, left, and Courtney, right. Rice’s daughters fly in each year to support their mother’s big event each June. (Photo Courtesy of Angie Long)

Dance and fitness studio owner Sonya Rice, center, is flanked by her two daughters, Cory, left, and Courtney, right. Rice’s daughters fly in each year to support their mother’s big event each June. (Photo Courtesy of Angie Long)

By Angie Long
The Greenville Advocate

Sonya’s Dance and Fitness Studio owner Sonya Rice looks forward to her annual recitals as more than just a chance to showcase her students’ achievements for the year.

It is also an opportunity to spend a few precious days with her daughters Cory and Courtney. The Rice sisters make a special effort to attend the recital each June and be a part of the excitement both on stage and behind the scenes.

Cory attends Florida International University in Miami. The journalism major, who works at P.F. Chang’s, loves to go snorkeling and exploring nature trails in her free time.

Courtney, who graduated from Florida State University last December with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance, now lives in New York City. Working with the Gibney Dance Company in administration, she is also nanny to a 9-year-old child. In her free time, Courtney continues her dance classes and is a part of the Stillness Rebellion, a collective for choreographers.

Q: I know it probably requires some juggling of schedules in addition to travel expenses to fly down/up here for the recital. Does it almost feel like a reunion of sorts when you are able to come?

A: (Courtney) Yes, it is definitely a big reunion! It is like Christmas or Thanksgiving. We know Mom’s show is the same weekend every year. And despite school or work we always find a way to come home to help and support her. We really enjoy helping because it is what we grew up doing and we’re good at it. It feels very familiar. That is really special when you live in big cities like New York and Miami where nothing feels familiar. And it is another time we get to see each other.

Q: Cory, you live in Florida and Courtney, you are in NYC — not exactly next door to each other. When did you get together to work on that fun and funky dance duet you performed at the recital?  How often on average do the two of you get to see each other these days?

A: (Courtney) We put that dance routine together Friday morning the day of the opening show. Cory didn’t get in until late Thursday night so that was the only time we had. We see each other these days on holidays and special occasions. We didn’t start doing duets together until we both had graduated and out of the house. Mom wanted us to be a part of the show somehow and Cory and I love to just get on stage and play.

Q: Your mom said she was always able to pretty much separate “Miss Sonya” the teacher from Mama for her girls as far as life at the studio and at home were concerned. What are some of the best life lessons you’ve learned from your mom serving as both teacher and parent to you? How does she continue to inspire you now that you are “grown?”

A: (Cory) Both “Miss Sonya” and “Mom” were very determined women, doing whatever it takes to get the job done. And they both were very patient and loving. Mom has a gift of heart, and makes everyone around her feel special and loved. All of her students love her and feel the love she has for them. And they all feel special. We know there is nothing that could keep Mom from getting to us if we needed her. Miss Sonya and Mom taught all of us how to love.

(Courtney) I would say Mom continues to inspire me and Cory with her will and determination. She built her business from the ground up by herself when she was close to my age now. She has done everything from teaching all classes, bookkeeping, choreographing, show planning, paying bills, keeping our house running, helping me and Cory in school, and taking care of her mother and zoo of animals, all by herself. She is a superwoman. We don’t know how she does it and we both try to be like her in that aspect. To be determined and confident in ourselves and to know that we can do anything we set our minds too. Once she sets her mind on something, you can bet it will be done.

Q: Courtney, your mom told me she loves to dance the roles that are the most unlike her — the sultry villain, for example. What types of roles are you most attracted to?

A: Hmmm, good question. It’s not that I have certain roles I like to dance, more so it’s certain emotional levels I like to go to. The dance, or character, I want to be very emotionally invested in it. I want to be able to go to the extremes of hope, hatred, horror, sorrow, and excitement. I want the audience to tangibly feel what I am feeling. The vulnerability of going all the way inside of an emotion in front of a crowd is the best feeling ever. So the more extreme of an emotional role it is, the better.

Q: So, what’s in the future plans for the Rice sisters?

A: (Courtney) I want to audition for Broadway, find a traveling job and get involved in film production.

(Cory) After I graduate, I hope to work for National Geographic and continue to live at the beach or on an island.