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Finding your Mary: How to Choose the Perfect Dance Studio

Updated: Jun 17, 2022

I must start with an apology. The post is a little lengthy, but I wanted to share with you a bit of my studio-starting-story. In announcing the opening of our new studio, I’ve gotten some interesting feedback. Some are incredibly excited about it; others have asked, “Do you teach dance?”; and still others have said what many have wondered: “Are you crazy?! We’re in the middle of a pandemic!”

Here’s the thing: around late January/early February of this year, I began to feel a calling. Part of it, I think, is because of the state of education in Kentucky (and nationally, for that matter.) My children all enjoy – and need – arts education, but their experiences through the school system are limited. Schools simply don’t have the resources to elevate a range of arts experiences for our kids. At the same time, my girls talked to me about some of their friends who would love to participate in studio dance, but their families simply couldn’t afford it. The opportunity gap really bothers me. So I stewed about it. I prayed about it. I talked about it with trusted friends. And it was undeniable. I was being called to do something about it. No one was more surprised than I. Although I did lead a creative ministries team in college and have choreographed and performed many interpretive dances, I have not been a dance teacher. And although I am a certified Pilates instructor, I have never owned a studio. It didn’t make much sense.

Once I made a decision to investigate the option, though, I never looked back. I vetted multiple locations across Richmond and was pleased to be warmly welcomed in the Richmond Mall community. The pieces started falling in place. The journey so far has not been without its bumps and bruises (did I mention that I am well aware that we are in the middle of an international health crisis!?), and I know more trials will come. Still, I’m thrilled about the opportunity to start our studio with a dance focus. We’ve intentionally named the studio Creative ARTS and Talent Studio. Our goal, within a few years, is to integrate and explore opportunities for more of the arts… or to develop community partnerships with others who are interested in the same agenda.

I would like to clearly state, too, that my goal is to work in conjunction with other dance studios to provide a range of options for our community. I like to think this is similar to choosing the perfect hairdresser. Many of you, like me, have appreciated and cherished your hairdressers for some time, but never more so than now, when you’re able to get back into that coveted chair for a much needed haircut after the COVID closures. I’ve had many hairdressers in my life – all of which have been fine – but when I settled on THE BEST HAIRDRESSER FOR ME, it just was a perfect fit. There are plenty of capable hairdressers, but mine provides me with a perfect haircut, much needed color, fun conversation, and more. I leave her chair feeling refreshed, happy, and confident. (Shout out to Mary Abney for being this magic maker!) When I found my Mary, I settled in and knew that I had found exactly what I needed.

Our new studio is simply another option in our community. Some existing studios specialize in specific genres of dance. Others prioritize private, individual lessons. Still others offer competitive dancers with 7 or 8 competition opportunities. All of these options are great, because families can choose that perfect fit for them. We knew, by opening a new studio, that we would meet a different niche, and while I’m not a traditional dance instructor, I am an educator. I understand skill progression; physical, social, emotional, and academic development; the importance of family connection; and best practices for learning. These elements influence the approach that we take at CATS.

Our nuances, then, will be in these kinds of things:

1. Our course offerings are varied and evolving .

2. Our leveled courses will reflect learning goals, outcomes, and adherence to national standards.

3. Our Dance Partners will help us support scholarships for dancers who demonstrate financial need.

4. Our competition team will participate in multiple competitions, but travel expectations will be reasonable. We understand families have lots of other commitments as well.

5. Our community-minded focus on the arts has led us to develop an agenda that advocates for arts education overall. The phase in process will take some time, but we can partner with other community businesses, arts advocates, and leaders to broadly promote the arts. We eagerly look forward to building those partnerships.

6. Finally – and this is not to suggest that other studios don’t do this as well – we are committed to having a safe, positive climate where students can learn and grow. Giving our dancers opportunities to demonstrate leadership and responsibility as Ambassadors or as mentors to our younger dancers reinforces our commitment to a positive learning environment.

We, at the Creative Arts and Talent Studio, encourage you to ask us questions. Review our comprehensive Studio Handbook (located as a link on the “CATS Teams” page within the Studio Dancer description). We want you to be comfortable with your choice, and we know that your trust and confidence in us is a gift as well as a responsibility.

You know, finding that “just right” hairdresser can take some time, even some trial and error. But finding that fit (yes, Mary Abney!) is well worth it. Why not give Creative Arts and Talent another look? We just might be exactly what you’re looking for!

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