Director of McClendon Academy
Visions of beautiful brown dancers illuminating a stage, giving a performance of a life time… Audiences roaring in anticipation of what is to come as each level of dancer from beginning to advance display their technical foundations of dance and performing arts. Her motto is to “Dream it, see it, and take ownership”! Her quote: “Artist must touch the souls of their audiences whereby creating visuals of passion, creativity and joy with every movement of their bodies”.
Visionary. Driven. Energetic. Neoteric. Instructive. Spiritual. Electrifying. Entrepreneur, Choreographer, Motivational Speaker, Artistic Director—all of these adjectives describe quite simply “Ms. Denise.”
Denise Smith McClendon, the founder of the McClendon School of Dance, now the McClendon Performing Arts Institute, one of the oldest and most prestigious dance schools, owned by an African American woman in the state of Georgia, recently merging with her daughter Jai McClendon Jones visionary of AREA is magnifying. Her passion, commitment and dedication to the development of students has over the years gained her high praises and recognition in the dance community. Her recent merger with her daughter, has propelled her philosophies and techniques of teaching and developing artist to new levels. She saw the future of performing arts; whereby she with pride joined the old and proven to the future establishing a performing arts organization which will far exceed any other in the Southern region.
A native of Atlanta growing up during an electrifying time in the city of Atlanta; the civil rights movement, black owned businesses, and the desire to see young ladies being exposed to classical ballet from amazing teachers from New York began her journey. She continued developing her developmental training throughout her college years where she was a student instructor and choreography for Clark College. It was during her years at Clark she began where she began McClendon School of dance.
For decades, “Ms. Denise,” as she is affectionately called by her dancers—many of whom began with her as young as two years of age and continued as adults—has been perfecting and providing a much needed artistic craft to Atlanta and DeKalb counties, in the dance forms of ballet, tap, modern, jazz, pointe, and praise & worship. The students she has developed magnify excellence as they are continuously accepted into prestigious dance programs such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater/ Fordham University, Joffrey Ballet/NYC, North Carolina School of the Arts, and School of the Arts and Interlochen to name a few. Some of the students have sustained successful careers in all areas of the arts and entertainment industry, whether touring with world-renowned artist or on Broadway. She has been recognized throughout the country for her philosophies on the arts which she has incorporated into a dance curriculum used to develop youth in dance.
Her presence is strong and her desire and passion to train dancers to exceed even beyond their expectations reigns supreme. Add to that, her determination-which is more of a calling-to instill educational, moral, and spiritual values in her students in a holistic environment which nurtures and develops is immeasurable. Her combined feats as a choreographer, taskmaster and surrogate mother, resonates from behind the doors, kept closed to all who are eager to serve as spectators. Hers is a serious mission, and one that cannot be interrupted. Discipline is paramount along with her desire to sharpen students observational and critical thinking skills as it pertains to the arts. Life is paramount for this veteran choreographer, and even her neophyte dancers know before they walk onto her floor, that respect for their parents, the craft, the instructors, and for self is mandatory to reach goals. She awakens the imagination to the beauty of dance all while presented a learning environment which causes the student to embrace their inner beauty and gifts.
Ms Denise is known for her yearly production, which showcase the talents of students. She utilizes every aspect of the performing arts with each show, allowing the audience to feel the energies of the performers as they glide through the air. These shows mimic life experiences therefore teaching lessons of positivity to audiences. She has written and produced productions which includes This Is the Story”, a major holiday event presented during the Christmas season adored for its interpretation of the birth through dance, music, and drama.
Ms Denise uses her expertise to mentor and inspire youth and adults as they seek her advice on life issues and challenges. Offering solutions either spiritually or as plain common sense, she listens and together reaches a solution best for those needing assistance. She has been recognized throughout the county for her philosophy on the Arts which she has incorporated into a dance curriculum. She is a woman who is not afraid to share her gifts to motivate, and inspire.
She was married to her loving husband, W. Oliver “Kip” McClendon, Jr. for thirty-five years, blessed with four beautiful children, Keisha, Jai, Kari and Tre’ and two grandchildren. She is a former teacher, and a member of organizations such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., East Cobb Metro Society, MECCA Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and Gospel Tabernacle Church. Denise is a motivational speaker, minister of dance, serves as an adjudicator for various events, enjoys serving her community, and loves to mentor her students who desire to achieve their goals. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her contributions as a legend in dance in the Atlanta metro area.
Dream it, take ownership is what she represents.