Sandra Atkinson

Sandra Atkinson
Chair of the Dance Department in the Jim Henson Center for the Visual and Performing Arts at Northwestern High School, Hyattsville, MD

Bachelor of Arts in Dance, UNC Charlotte (2003)
Master of Arts in Performing Arts, American University (2005)

Hometown: New Haven, Connecticut, and Charlotte

When Sandra Atkinson was a student at UNC Charlotte, all of the arts programs were in Rowe Arts, and the dance and theatre programs were in a combined department.

“My experience at UNC Charlotte was filled with interdisciplinary opportunities,” she says. “We were never held back by our major but were encouraged to explore, discover, and create. I participated in everything I could due to the abundance of opportunities the Dance and Theatre Department offered on and off the stage. Having those experiences gave me the confidence to further my education and start my own dance theatre.”

In 2013, Sandra founded Light Switch Dance Theatre, where she creates socially conscious multidisciplinary work for non-traditional spaces. Light Switch Dance Theatre “strives to make every space an interactive artistic place where real social issues are addressed to evoke social change through the arts.”

Sandra has performed professionally with Next Reflex Dance Collective, Peter Dimuro, Jane Franklin Dance, Carla & Company at Dance Place, and Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. And in addition to works for her own company, she currently choreographs works at Montgomery College (Rockville, MD), Black Rock Center for the Arts (Germantown, MD), and City Ballet (Hagerstown, MD).

Sandra has continued the interdisciplinary practice that was nurtured at UNC Charlotte and frequently works in the theatre world. She has choreographed for productions at Glass Mind Theatre Company, Fells Point Corner Theatre, and Strand Theatre – all in Baltimore – as well as productions at Montgomery High School (Rockville, MD), Montgomery College, and Notre Dame of Maryland University.

Sandra is also highly regarded as an educator, and her teaching/choreographic credits include American University (Washington, DC), Goucher College (Baltimore, MD), Community College Baltimore County (Essex, MD), American College Dance Festival, and Washington Ballet School. In 2012, she was awarded the Smithsonian Faculty Fellowship from Montgomery College. She is currently serving on the Dance Student Learning Outcomes/Assessment Committee and Center for Visual and Performing Arts Curriculum Committee for Prince George’s County Public Schools. She also serves as a judge for the Helen Hayes Awards through TheatreWashington and on the Grants/Scholarship Committee for the Maryland Dance Education Association.

Her advice for today’s students?

“Don't be afraid of the word ‘No!’ because hearing that word shouldn't stop you, but should engage you in a conversation of ‘how.’ Participate in everything that's offered and more, because those experiences are priceless. However, be mindful of creating a balanced life for yourself.”

Sandra received the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award in Dance.