Miss D: "Michael Jackson Was an Icon, He Was Important to Me"

Bring It's diva dance coach talks who inspires her and how her dreams influenced a new generation of dancers.

Posted: 04/08/2014 08:45 AM EDT

Dianna “Miss D” Williams has already made her mark in the world of dance. As the star of Lifetime’s Bring It, which airs on Wednesday nights (check your local listings), the dance coach peppers self-esteem, manners and self worth into every hip hop, tap, jazz or modern dance move she teaches her students. When Miss D talked to BET.com, she not only shared some secrets behind her Dancing Dolls studio most classic moves, she also chatted about her own dance inspirations.

When you’re teaching on Bring It, you appear to be somewhere in between a dance coach and drill sergeant.
As far as my voice and the way I demand things, I guess that would be somewhat accurate. But I don’t run a military-style coaching technique, nor do I run a military-style practice. In the military, you’re not asked how you feel, you’re just kind of told what to do — and because they are still growing as young adults, I do give the girls the opportunity to have a voice when we’re doing different things with choreography and routines. They do talk to me about how they feel.

How was your studio discovered for a reality show?
The Dancing Dolls have been around since 2001 and like a lot of dance teams and aspiring artists there are things placed online and on social media sites. Our videos were mostly just put out as advertising for new members and Lifetime found us on YouTube. I thought it was really amazing that they found us interesting and thought that what we did here in Mississippi was something worth looking into.

Tell us how Michael Jackson influences the moves of the Dancing Dolls students.
These kids probably weren’t even born when Michael Jackson was doing what he was doing. But I grew up in the '80s, I’m a fan of Earth Wind and FireThe Gap Band, Michael Jackson and his whole family were people I grew up listening to. Michael was an African-American icon and he’s important to me. So any style we’re going to do similar to his — we have to nail it. It’s not only important to me but it’s important for our culture and these kids to understand that Michael Jackson had a huge impact on the world. His dance style was unique and funky. He took a chance with the crotch grabbing [laughs]. But it was different and the world just embraced it.

Share some details about your dancing roots and history. How did your style evolve into the unique one that’s featured on Bring It?
I’ve been dancing since I was three or four years old and I started out in ballet. I was an overachiever as a kid and mom would say that I thought ballet was boring. I wanted to try something that was a little difficult and I started tapping. Tap became something that was really important to me and it just trickled over to my mom saying, "Let’s put you in every dance style and see where you shine." That’s what pushed me to do what I’m doing with the girls — the tap, the ballet, the hip hop and the jazz. As I got older, I said I want to be like Debbie AllenFame was a movie that made me say, “Wow, I want to be like her.” Fame was huge for me.

Finally, take us on your road and journey from being a dancer to becoming a teacher.
I tried out for the dance team at the local college here in my city. I tried out five or six times and I didn’t make the team. I said, “You know what? Maybe this is not what I’m supposed to do. Let me give my talents to someone else and let me see if they can succeed.” This was back in 2001, ever since then, I’ve been teaching different members of the community who want to be apart of the team. Every dance style I had in me I was teaching to someone else. I figured if I couldn’t succeed at it on a personal level, then maybe I could change the life of someone else.

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(Photo: Lifetime Entertainment)

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