Did you know?
A self proclaimed ‘metal head’, Shelby is also a singer and proud anime nerd! Read on to discover more about this quirky combo!

Born and raised in Anaheim Hills, California, Shelby Powell-Hicks is an Orange County girl at heart with a broad world view.

Aside from a brief stint working in New Mexico and attending college in Alabama, Shelby’s OC roots and upbringing are what led her to discover her love of dance. She attended Lutheran High School of Orange County, where she eagerly engrossed herself in their theater program. She later earned her bachelor’s degree from Alabama College in Communications and dreamt of becoming known for writing Science-Fiction novels.


Hailing from a conservative Christian upbringing where social dancing was frowned upon by elder generations in her family, her dad wouldn’t even attend her early performances. Only a high school student (at the time), Shelby didn’t let that stop her from following her heart and pursuing dance and musical theater. Once a source of contention within her own family,  dance eventually became an important aspect of her life in which she found the most freedom.

Since then she has become an avid dancer of salsa for over 15 years, Argentine tango for four years, and has decided to give Lindy Hop a try just this past year. This self-proclaimed metal heads’ favorite style to dance to is salsa, as she can’t hold still whenever she hears its percussive rhythms.

Not long into her dance journey, Shelby sustained a hip injury that causes a slight limp, a lot of pain and requires her to use a crutch. While many people would see this as reason to give up on dance or other endeavors, Shelby welcomes the challenge and continues to persevere and push through the pain while inspiring those around her with her irrepressible spirit.  She says that despite her injury and constant pain she endures, that dancing makes her happiest. She added “I’m never more happy than on the dance floor. Dancing is freedom, dancing is stress relief. I met my boyfriend here (at ATOMIC) because of dancing, and I’m also grateful to the health benefits it’s given me.”

While Shelby encourages and inspires dancers and non-dancers a like to persevere through physical and personal obstacles just as she has, she finds artistic inspiration from legends like super star icon Michael Jackson. Citing him as her favorite dancer and performer of all time (which most dancers don’t dispute), she emphatically declared, “If you don’t know you betta ask sumbawdy.”

This witty intellectual began social dancing at ATOMIC in 2012. When asked how she wound up working behind the desk, she replied, “I’ve always loved the atmosphere here and I’ve always wanted to be involved with a company that I already love so much.”

Shelby is happy to work in a place that she also considers to be a safe place for her to express herself. While reflecting on her own dance journey, Shelby added that her favorite thing about working at ATOMIC is seeing new students come in for the first time. She explains, “They’re usually so worried before the class and I try to help them through the nervousness, but the moment the class is over they’re over the moon and instantly love it. They find that spark in ATOMIC that I found six years ago. I want to keep that happiness going.”

We all have that co-worker or loved one who we wish to have a similar experience.  Hopefully we can all be so lucky to be a special part of someone else’s dance journey, just as Shelby does for current newbies, and long time dance veterans once did for her.


Fun facts:

  • Desired superpower : To walk through walls
  • Guilty pleasure : Shelby admits to being a huge (with a capital ‘H’) anime nerd and loves all genres from slice-of-life to action
  • Other hobbies: Baking, sketching, watching classic horror movies
  • Bonus talent : Sings for her church in Riverside.
  • A character that best embodies her : Shelby proclaims, “Nerd alert: Levy McGarden from the anime Fairy Tail. She’s small, but smart, and doesn’t quit no matter what.”