Starting at San Jacinto College as a student in 2001, Jennifer Salter already knew dance would be a part of her future. As a dance professor at the South Campus, Salter says her life has come full circle.
"I have been a dancer since I was 3, and I just knew this was my path," she said. "San Jac is where my heart is. I love this program and knew I'd return here one day."
Salter grew up in Pasadena, training as a competitive dancer and joining the dance team in high school.
"We competed locally and nationally for several years," Salter said. "I remember long Saturdays and late evenings at the studio rehearsing for any number of competitions or performances, but I loved it!"
When it came time to decide on her college major, Salter never skipped a beat and chose to pursue her passion.
"I honestly cannot remember talking to anyone about what I would study in college," she said. "This was an easy answer for me — dance, of course. Why would I even consider anything else?"
After San Jac, she transferred to Sam Houston State University and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance in 2005. She took a two-year hiatus from academia to pursue dance in New York City before returning to SHSU to earn her master's degree.
"While I was in New York, I was taking every class I could, watching performances, and working jobs that paid very little," she said. "It was a fun time in my life where I was free to explore my passions."
Salter returned to Houston after completing her master's degree and began searching for teaching jobs. Initially looking for drill team instructor positions, she realized higher education was her calling. In 2014, she began teaching in San Jac’s dance program as an adjunct instructor.
My passion for teaching dance is not only sparked in the studio, where I get to explore movement and watch my students discover their purpose, but it's also during lecture time in my dance appreciation courses.
Salter has taught full time in the program since last fall and enjoys changing students' perspectives.
"Academic and concert dance are very different from studio and drill team dance," Salter said. "A lot of what we work on at San Jac is meaning-making. It is much more emotionally involved. About one semester into the program, I can see students change how they approach dance and movement."
Her artistic endeavors have led her to create dance films, photography, and graphic design, and her choreography has been recognized and presented at local and regional festivals.
Several of her dance films have premiered at national film festivals and art exhibits around Houston. Salter served as a grant panelist for Houston Arts Alliance and partnered with Frame Dance Company to develop curriculum and instructional videos for Houston ISD's middle school dance programs.
"I feel so lucky to have found my passion for dance and creativity early in life but even luckier that I had people who nurtured my journey," Salter said. "I can only hope to be as inspiring and supportive for my students as they were for me."
Learn more about the dance program at sanjac.edu/programs/areas-of-study/arts/dance.