Imagine, if you will, a large basement space turned into a dance studio - complete with bright pink walls sponge-painted with light pink spots, eight-foot ceilings, PVC barres, and a wall of mirrors... This was where the studio began in the summer of 1999. The first year there were 30 students signed up, classes were on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the day (homeschoolers only at this point), and the cost was $12 per month and included your recital costume.
It all began when it did because Vine Street Ballet, the company I was training with, went bankrupt and sold all its equipment and costumes. I had life savings from dog-walking and babysitting saved up, and I purchased what I needed to create a studio in my parents basement. You see, I was only 14 years old. I had had a dream since the age of 9 to be a dance teacher. It was really always my dream - and my parents supported me wholeheartedly by investing in my education and encouraging me to step into the teaching world when the opportunity came around. I am forever thankful that my parents didn't say I needed a "real" job like being a doctor, lawyer or banker. They saw that wherever your passion is, is a place you can thrive. I didn't have a passion for science or numbers. I had a passion for dance and it drove me to success.
Our first recital was in December 1999 and was The Nutcracker. Why I wanted to have a show only a few weeks into our year with a studio of only beginners, I have no idea! But, the students rose to the challenge and did an amazing job. However, I didn't think so at the time. I didn't understand it was normal for 3 year-olds to wave, or for classes that had just finished their dance to forget a portion. I wanted my students to be at my level in a few short weeks and did not have patience, kindness, or understanding of how to get them there. Now, looking back on that performance (My uncle owned a videocamera back then and lovingly taped it for me. For those of you younger readers, this was before the time of DVDs or cell phones.), my heart is bursting with pride at my students, and I wish I could go back and tell them what an AMAZING job they did, going from ultimate beginners to performers in just a few short weeks.
After that point I kept training, often driving up to 4 times a week to Iowa City to train at a collegiate level in order to continue being challenged. Being homeschooled allowed me to create a schedule that made the long drive possible. I am forever grateful to my parents for believing in my dreams and helping make them a reality.
A lot has happened in the last 20 years, but one thing has stayed the same. Being a dance teacher is still my dream and passion in life! I am so thankful for everyone who has been a part of the journey of my life - Each and every one of you has helped to shape me into the woman I am today.
Pictures from the first year... Notice Miss Rachael was one of these students as well!