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Diane Robinson

Diane Robinson

Founder and Artistic Director of Hollywood Studio of Dance

Born: Minneapolis, MN, United States
Heritage: African American

Young Publishers

Book: View Book PDF

Diane Robinson

Founder and Artistic Director of Hollywood Studio of Dance

My name is Mrs. Diane Robinson. I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1958. I’m the youngest of four children. I went to school at Blaine grade school, Grant, which is now Bethune, and I went to Lincoln junior high school and I graduated from North High School. Then went on to get my degree from the University of Minnesota in business.

When I was younger, I used to be a kid that would always get in trouble. One of my main issues was fighting. If I didn’t like what you said or you bothered me or something, I was always kind of fighting the other kids.

What ended up happening was I ended up in what they call special ed. And that’s kids who they felt was a little difficult time with and so um…while in special ed I was in a special room that they would take kids that always got in trouble and we had like a room where most of the kids who didn’t get in trouble knew those are the kids who got in trouble or you had a learning disability or whatever, that was your room.

And so as I was growing up through first, second up to sixth grade, I didn’t know that I was not receiving the proper learning skills. I don’t know if I was written off. I don’t know if it was because I was born in during the time of the 50s and the 60s where um…mostly African American kids did not receive a good education. I can’t really pinpoint what was the reason why I did not receive the quality of education as other kids, but…

I graduated…I went on to go to Lincoln Junior High School and at that time I realized I didn’t know as much as the kids my age and then I was still put into a learning environment where we were kinda put over to the side. A room of difficult kids or kids they felt that couldn’t learn at the same level as other kids.

After being frustrated with that, I went to my principal and said I did not want to be in that room. I didn’t like um…being pointed out. I think that was some of the reasons why I fought a lot because people thought that when you were in that particular classroom that you wasn’t smart. That you didn’t know anything. So I think when they were calling me names or saying you were stupid or something like that, I got very offended and I’d fight all the time.

So, um…after taking um…a number of tests, they allowed me to get out of that area and I went on to um, being in a regular classroom with other kids. I would just go to one particular room for reading and math.

One day the Children Theater came into our school—I was in 8th grade at that time. We got to audition to dance, sing, and do theater. I was one of the kids that was picked along with two other kids. They would pick us up and take us to the Children’s Theater and we would dance and do um, theater.

But I had one problem. When I was in the acting class, I couldn’t read. And the other kids could read. So when I would be there, I would just…when they would come to the part of reading, I would just sit, I wouldn’t read at all. I wouldn’t disclose to people that I couldn’t read, but when I went to my dance class, I would do all of that.

You know, or singing, I could kinda do the singing because somebody’s singing next to me and I would just pick up. I was always good at um, memorization. So I could always remember something, but I didn’t know a word if I never saw it before.

I knew certain words: was, this, that, or whatever. But I did not know um, words like…I never learned how to sound out words, what you might know as phonics or um, making a sound like the word, making a sound like the letter A-ah. I didn’t learn those things. So therefore, I didn’t know if I saw a word I didn’t know, I didn’t know how to sound it out and figure out what that word was.

So after being at Lincoln and being in a class that finally was teaching us those skills, I went on…I was then…brought my reading up from a second grade level to a fourth grade level. And I had a teacher in 8th grade that really liked me. So, she took a liking to me and when it was time for me to go to North High School, she checked with North High to see if they had the same reading program. Once she found out they didn’t, she had convinced me to stay another year, which I’m very thankful she did.

I was able to get my reading up to another…to about a 4th-5th grade level. Finally when I graduated from North High School…I should go back…when I was at North High School, not having a program, I remember a teacher saying to me, Even though I was trying really hard to learn at that time, I wasn’t fighting as much because I had dance. I had other activities to do to keep me busy and um…I felt I was able to build my skills level and kids wasn’t laughing at me because I was in that special ed room.

I wasn’t fighting and getting in trouble like I was. But when I got to North, I remember a teacher saying to me, she says…she didn’t help me, but she said to me, You know, you should be further ahead than this. And that was all she said, but that stuck with me and I always…from that point on, respect that teacher I had in 8th grade who really stuck with me and believe I had the skill to learn and didn’t write me off.

But after graduating from North, I was still…um, after the Children’s Theater, I should go back to that, I was able to get a scholarship to the Minnesota Dance Theater. I was kinda…was intimidated continually going to the Children’s Theater and wasn’t able to read so my counselor said, Why don’t you try Minnesota Dance Theater?

So, I went on to dance with the Minnesota Dance Theater doing different dances and everything like that. From there, I graduated from high school reading at, like I said, a 4th or 5th grade reading level and wasn’t very happy with that.

I went on to work for Honeywell. What I remember the situation I had at Honeywell was filling out an application. When I was filling out the application, I would fill out the words and scratch that word out, fill out another word. It happened to be that someone I went to school with was a grade ahead of me worked there and she says, You know, Diane, I can’t really submit this application. You tell me everything and I’ll write it.

So that was how I got my first job still not being pleased with my ability. One day I was watching TV and I saw a Minnesota Literacy Council saying If you cannot read, contact us. So I contacted Minnesota Literary Council and met a lady. I went over to her house three days a week and she taught me how to get my reading level up to a 9th grade level, 9th-10th grade level.

Then I decided that I was going to go to college even though I wasn’t at the college level, I decided I was going to do that. So um…I enrolled…I started taking classes. They offered free classes at the library that you can take classes at the University of Minnesota, but you would go through the library and take these particular classes.

And so I started taking those classes and um…then I decided I was going to quit Honeywell and go to school full-time. But I was not going to go to what they call General College. When you go to college at the University, they have General College and they have Liberal College. And their levels were…

If you’re not at the level of people that are at Liberal College, you can start at General College. But being that I was always put in classes that I felt that set me aside from the other groups, I didn’t want to go to that particular General College.

So I entered in Liberal College. And even though I took me…somebody else would have to study an hour, I would have to study four hours in particular classes. I would tape my classes and I would study for hours.

Eventually, I got my degree in business. It wasn’t the highest GPA, it was a 2.9, but I was very happy that I did graduate and receive my degree from the University of Minnesota. And I did not go through General College to do that.

So that’s my story there. Just to tell you about what I did from outside of education, at the age of 19, I bought my first rental property. Um, then became a renter. I would …became a landlord and I rented.

At the age of 26, I bought my second rental unit. And at the age of 28, I bought my third rental property and became a landlord and also I was going to school.

Then I decided I was going to…after I graduated, I was into sales. For about five years, I sold um, hair products. I sold hair products for a number of years and decided I wanted to do something in my community that I felt that helped me and guide me through my life. I wanted to open up a dance studio.

I opened up a dance studio on Broadway & Penn. I don’t know if any of you guys have ever saw it. It has the trophies in the windows and it says Hollywood Studios. Has anybody ever saw it?

Okay, so I opened that up in 1991 and I started teaching dance. The reason why I wanted to do that is somebody gave me the opportunity to give me something that I love to do and that was dance and I wanted to give that opportunity to kids as well.

I felt it gave me a lot of skills that I didn’t get in school. A couple of them is determination. When you dance, you have to learn a dance routine and if you don’t get it, you have to keep going over it and over it until you learn that dance routine.

What I felt that taught me was persistence. Even though you don’t…you can’t accomplish something the first time, don’t give up. Keep trying and trying and trying. Eventually you will accomplish it. It may be hard, but you will accomplish your goal.

So I figured if I could do that through dance and teach kids who maybe don’t have other skills mastered, but they felt they are good at dancing, they can learned the skills I’ve learned as: Don’t give up, Be persistent, Build your confidence, Be able to stand in front of someone and be able to dance or to speak and not feel hesitant about doing it. I felt dance gave me those particular skills to do that.

I went on to purchase the building that the dance studio is in. So those are the kinds of things I have done as an adult, but I wanted to say that when you are a kid, you want to take school very serious.

You wanna…because that’s not the teacher’s life, that’s your life. And nobody takes care of your life but you. You can make decisions that are good or you can make decisions that are bad. But whatever you do is gonna affect you.

So, as a kid, no one ever told me that, but I wanna pass that on to you. So when you’re in school and you wanna do something that may not be to your benefit, like read your books, do your math, do….follow direction of your teacher. Just stop and think. If I don’t do those things, that’s gonna affect me. I won’t be able to get the job I want. I won’t be able to go to college because I haven’t learned the skills I need to learn to do those things.

So if you wanna be a lawyer, you can’t be a lawyer if you’re not taking care of your business now. If you want to own your own business, you can’t own your own business if you don’t learn to read and write, if you don’t learn to read that contract, if you don’t learn math skills. Okay?

Because otherwise people will take advantage of you if you don’t understand the laws. Learn to read, learn to write, learn your math or English because you have to do that end business every day.

Every day I have to write a proposal. I have to write grants. I have to write contracts for teachers who come and work for me. I have to write um…scripts for our dance recitals. So we do…we don’t just dance, we also do acting. So I have to put together a script. If I couldn’t read or I couldn’t write that script—those skills that you are learning right now—I wouldn’t be able to do that.

So make sure that you learn these skills and you will be able to accomplish your goal as a lawyer or a doctor or a dance teacher or a business owner. Those are the skills you need.

So, I don’t know if I’m 30 minutes, but…if you have any other questions, I guess I can start questions. Thank you.


Step Right Up & Lead!

Honoring Diane Robinson

Do not follow
Step right up and lead

When I was younger
I would get into trouble
I bullied and got teased
But I learned not to pick on others
and they learned not to pick on me

Do not follow
Step right up and lead

I never knew, if it were I
or because I was black
Could hardly read, did not receive
a good education looking back

Do not follow
Step right up and lead

Then in 8th grade had a teacher
Who really did like me
To be persistent, to not give up
To learn to read like a dance routine

Do not follow
Step right up and lead

Love has the power
To set you free
Love has the power
To be all that you can be

Do not follow
Step right up and lead

Once you’ve found
what you love to do
things work out right
And for me I love to dance
It guides me through my life

Do not follow
Step right up and lead

I love to dance because I can go
Into another world
Express myself, be somebody else
To feel my body twirl

Do not follow
Step right up and lead

“Love has the power
To reconcile
Love has the power
To make someone smile

To walk that extra mile
for somebody else
To make that someone smile
not just for yourself
To treat that someone
how you would like
to be treated yourself”*

Do not follow
Step right up and lead

Words & music by Larry Long with Dr. Marcia Wyatt’s 3rd Grade Class. Elizabeth Hall International, Minneapolis Public Schools.

*Bridge: I See Change Coming by Larry Long, 2012

Copyright Larry Long Publishing 2012 / BMI