Tucked away in a studio with creaking wood floors, a group of students surrenders to the movement of their dancing bodies and the beat of the bass rattling the studio’s mirrors.
“Plié, relevé, press those knees wide,” Kiira Schmidt Carper, a ballet and jazz technique professor said.
Her lively spirit flutters around the room, correcting the dancers’ warm-ups.
This fiery redhead with a slender, elegant frame has a vast professional experience in dance, including a career in New York spanning ten years, consisting of touring shows and Broadway productions.
Carper’s dancing history dates back to the beginning of her life. Her grandmother, two uncles, and her mother owned a dance school which Carper grew up dancing in. There she fell in love with the theatrics in dance.
She trained in various styles of dance growing up including ballet, tap, jazz and modern. She later majored in dance at Harrison School for the Arts, performing art high school in Florida. It was her experience there that propelled her into the world of musical theater and Broadway.
She quickly became enamored with her vocal lessons and acting classes, leading to a transition into musical theatre. She later obtained a degree in musical theatre from Elon University and stepped onto the stage in New York.
Her notable works on Broadway include “Follies,” “Anything Goes,” “White Christmas” and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Carper, however, remains humble about her work alongside big Broadway actors and shows. She acknowledges the massive amount of work and dedication she threw into her career and knows she did not end up where she is by chance.
“The reality of that lifestyle is taxing with auditioning constantly, but the payoff is really rewarding,” Carper said.
Family has always played a large part in her life. She always keeps photos of her family near to her while traveling and can even still recall the smell of her family’s old dance studio. Shortly after joining her first touring show, the cast and crew became her temporary family while on the road.
“I’ve always had a very supportive family back home and I’m lucky that way,” Carper said. “Transiting to New York was really rough but they helped me through it.”
Carper moved to New York in her 20s and fell into the flow of auditions and work and it slowly started to pay off.
“Auditions are always daunting at first and you have to get used to being told, ‘no.’” Carper said. “But the longer you stay and make connections, those ‘no’s turn into ‘yes’s and auditioning becomes life.”
After her many years of professional dancing, Carper felt it was time for a change. She and her husband moved to Texas and she chose to teach rather than take center stage.
This year is Carper’s third within the musical theater program at Texas State. Previously, she was a visiting assistant dance professor at Sam Houston State University.
acting freshman, credits Carper as one of the most encouraging and fun dance teachers she has ever had.
“Her teaching environment is really positive, but it definitely pushes you to your limits,” Kennedy said. “It really helps you break through and grow as a dancer.”
Camille Duvall, musical theater freshman, said she Carper to be revolutionary. Duvall said Carper has emphasized that dance is an expression and dancers should not be confined to a box or limited by rules.
“I’m used to being berated when I get something wrong in a dance class but it’s so different with Kiira,” Duvall said. “I’ve never heard someone scream so loud with excitement when you get something right.”
She encourages her students with counts, claps and loud vocalizations. This method simultaneously allows room for them to try, fail and succeed all on their own.
A life full of dancing and artistic expression has taught Carper many things but the most important lesson she has learned and hopes her students walk away with is the versatility of happiness.
“Trust the process, everyone is on their own path,” Carper said. “Success doesn’t just mean one thing, it looks different for so many people.”