Professor Spotlight: Adalia Ellis

For four years, Adalia Ellis has taught Afro-Latin dance and public speaking at FMU, and to her, both are equally important.   

“When I was little, I used to play-pretend that I was the teacher, and my siblings would play as my students,” Ellis, a professor of mass communication at FMU, said. “I’ve always loved teaching and helping others.” 

Ellis once was a teacher-counselor while in her late teens at a religious summer camp. She was inspired to become a professor while training to teach at these camps. 

“Every summer, even through college, I was at those camps,” Ellis said. “That is where I really fell in love with teaching and helping others.”  

Public speaking is a class in which Ellis has a good bit of experience. While living in South Korea for six years, she designed an entire public speaking course for Soonchunhyang University. Ellis said the class was intended for higher-level English speaking students at the university.   

Ellis also lived in Canada for some time. During her residence there, she traveled with a dance group and performed in surrounding provinces. 

“We would perform, and while doing that, I would speak and engage the crowd as well,” Ellis said. “I got used to speaking publicly so much, and I loved it.”  

Her experience and love for the course helped her build many skills FMU would soon enjoy having.   

Ellis said she wanted to do more for her community. One day, she decided to look online and found FMU was searching for professors.   

Ellis graduated from Coastal Carolina University (CCU) with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in theatre. She later returned to CCU for a master’s degree in teaching, focusing her studies on history and social studies. Her specialty in history helped open her eyes to Afro-Latin dance.   

Ellis now owns a dance studio located in Downtown Florence. There, she teaches Afro-Latin-style dancing. These dances include Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba, to name a few. In her class, Ellis focuses on these dances and how they are connected with African dance and rhythm.  

“I feel like it is really important to know the roots of something because when you think of salsa dancing, you think of Latin dancing,” Ellis said. “A lot of people don’t know that a lot of these dances are rooted in a dance called Son, rooted in Cuba, which is ultimately rooted in African culture and dance.”  

The polyrhythmic basis of African dance came from the Atlantic Slave Trade. When enslaved people were brought to foreign countries for labor, dancing and art became a form of escape for them. These dance styles then flourished into others, creating all the Latin dance forms we know today.   

“This class is a great way to use the arts to teach history,” Ellis said. “History is a record of people’s experiences, not events.” 

Ellis believes that to teach history, you need to consider how people experienced life during those times. Understanding the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade outlines the impact it had, not only on the people who were enslaved, but also on the countries they were brought to. Ellis said people should also consider the impact of the Slave Trade on indigenous people. 

Teaching others is Ellis’s passion, and it is conveyed clearly in how she talks about the things she loves and in her journey to her career.