Ricki Feeley performed in several large cities while studying for a degree in dance at the University of Montana.
The experience was invaluable for Feeley because she had the opportunity to perform with many talented dancers. But, it was also frustrating. While living in San Francisco, she had to work numerous jobs just to make ends meet, and that left little time to devote to dancing.
“I got great experience, but not anything that I could prolong,” she said.
Feeley grew up in central Montana near Lewistown, where several relatives still live.
“Every time I’ve moved away, I keep getting sucked back to Montana. There are so many generations of my family here,” Feeley said.
Feeley started Terpsichore Dance Co., a contemporary modern dance company, in Missoula, and brought it with her when she moved to Billings. She also teaches dance and runs an interior design business, LuBee’s Decorating Service.
She is encouraged by the current state of the arts in Billings.
“I feel like being an artist in Montana, it’s on a smaller scale,” she said. “In a big city I feel like my voice would get drowned out. So in Montana, we say we’re the pioneers of the art scene. Since I’ve moved here, nine years now, things have changed a lot. I have a lot of friends, and they’re always doing projects.”
Feeley has been dancing since she was four years old. “It was the '80s, so we had ballet, tap and jazz. We did a lot of dances to Janet Jackson,” she said.
"Terpsichore is a dance company first, meaning we choreograph and present dance pieces to the community. These dance pieces usually have deep personal meaning to the choreographers and dancers. For example, we recently displayed a piece that confronted the sadness of the Syrian refugee crisis. Second, Terpsichore is a nonprofit organization. We want to give back to our community.
"I recently volunteered at Lewis and Clark Middle School, teaching dance in an after-school program. We’ve donated money we make from our shows to various other organizations, such as the Red Cross to support refugees and Tumbleweed here in Billings to support our youth. Dance saved my life, and I want the children in our community to have the same opportunities that I had growing up.
I’m also passionate about dance as therapy, moving your body through dance can have an extraordinary therapeutic reaction to individuals who suffer from traumatic brain injury, autism, and other conditions.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job? Balancing the creative art in my brain (it never stops) with being a mother, wife, daughter, and friend. Organizing and managing everyone to produce shows is always a challenge, which would not be possible without the support of members of the company.
What’s the best business advice you have received? To always believe in myself and to never give up and to believe that what I am doing is important.
Who gave you that advice? Julia Marble
Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Support the arts. As an artist, I am reliant on people supporting us. I would love to be more involved in the schools, and I would love the schools to see dance as an integral part of art and education.
Outside of work, my biggest passion is: My kids and creating a beautiful life for them.
Which living person do you most admire? My mom.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? The relationships formed with the dancers. We are a family without whom I would not be successful.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Apart from having kids, my greatest achievement would be launching Terpsichore. It started as an outlet for former dancers to “relive the glory days” and it became something so much more. Dance is more than an art for me, it is my life, and it defines who I am.
I’m happiest when I’m… hanging out on the beach with my family.