BJ Cerny makes mark in dance world, local schools
BJ Cerny says she will continue dancing until she is dragged off the stage or physically can't because she uses a walker. After all, dance is her love, outlet and passion — even a skill she has passed on to students involved in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District dance scene.
"I am very lucky that what I am most passionate (about) has been a part of my life for as many years as it has and that right now it still is because dance is one of those very short-lived careers," says Cerny, athletic secretary at Wilsonville High School. "It is just not something you do forever, so I am very thankful and blessed for that."
Over the years, Cerny's dance career has led her to coach West Linn High School's dance team, do choreography for WLHS's May Day performance and WHS's Springfest performance, coach WHS's cheer team, dance professionally for sports teams and in parades, and more.
But Cerny never thought she'd be this vested in dance, especially during her first years as a WLHS student.
During high school, she was heavily involved with choir and drama and thought her interests would lead her to become a music teacher. But during her junior and senior years she joined the Debutantes — WLHS's dance team — and her path quickly changed.
"I didn't even make the dance team my first year. We joke about that but it's a good thing to tell young kids that, 'Hey, just because you don't make something the first time,'" Cerny says. "Look where I went after that."
Cerny's favorite memory on dance team was winning the state championship her senior year when she was captain and helped with choreography.
And just two years after discovering her passion in high school, an opportunity unfolded for Cerny when WLHS's JV team formed. She was invited to coach JV before eventually joining the coaching staff for the Debutantes for 11 years.
This was only the beginning.
Cerny taught summer camps for dance teams throughout Oregon as a dance instructor — a position she still holds — and was on the Portland BlazerDancers for four years when the team first formed.
"It was interesting because we were kind of breaking ground with the fans — some supported and loved it and some were just like, 'Get them off the floor; we're here for basketball.' So we were definitely the guinea pigs of, 'Where we go with this and will it continue?'" Cerny says. "It was amazing because that was to be considered a professional dancer (and) to see those big names right there in front of you, sometimes having one of them land on you because we were sitting right on the court. They don't sit on the court anymore but we did and there were times they were tumbling on us. We really witnessed some great players that are still icons in the NBA."
Cerny then went on to dance for the former Portland WNBA and arena football teams.
"That was a blast because I have a husband that coaches, lives and breathes football at West Linn High School so for him to be able to go to these indoor football games and be a part of that, it was an exciting and electric venue," Cerny says. "We got to ride in during the intro on the back of Harley motorcycles."
Cerny also twice had the opportunity to contract with a dance company in Japan where they put on shows that included dancers, magicians and tumblers every day.
"It was completely different than anything I'd been doing and Japanese culture is amazing," says Cerny, adding that her only dance injury was cracking a rib during a partner lift in Japan. "That type of dancing was completely different. It was high heels; it was the big feathers on your head; it was everything that I hadn't done yet so it was quite interesting and I enjoyed that."
While Cerny continues to instruct summer dance camps, she has also been involved with the One More Time Around Again Marching Band since 2006 — a group of people who have participated in a high school or college band, flag, baton twirling or dance team. This band performs in the Portland Starlight and Rose Parade every year, and opens up the CityFair on Portland's waterfront.
She's also choreographed the dance for the marching band since 2011.
"I try to find a happy medium so that the younger ones are still going to have a good time and our more experienced ones aren't feeling like it's too much and they can't handle it anymore because we like that we are a wide (age) range," says Cerny, adding that the dance component is more jazz-focused.
While Cerny has definitely had an eventful dance career, she can't forget that she's been the OSAA Grand Finale Director at the state championships since 1990 and was the choreographer for the All-State Dance Team auditions for 19 years. She was even awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Dance Drill Coaches Association in 2015.
But the main reason Cerny values her dance career is the family and bonds it has brought her, especially because her parents moved to
the Philippines when she was 19.
"Back then it was snail mail — no phones — so I relied a lot on my dance team family. I think that's part of the reason why it's especially strong for me," she says. "Dance is a small community."
And for Cerny, dance has been an emotional, physical and artistic outlet for her and she has been happy to teach the craft to others.
"I think most teachers are passionate about seeing what they can instill in youth and where they go with it and hopefully broadening them. You never want to make a mini you," she says. "It's rewarding to see what you give and the response of when they thoroughly enjoy and like it and are willing to do their best for you. It's a reward you don't just get sitting at a desk."