Earlier this year, Magnolia was faced with the looming possibility of losing a long-time staple of Seattle dance.
After more than four decades, Roseanne’s School of Dance was set to turn off the lights, leaving the neighborhood without the studio that had long served aspiring young performers.
With the owner planning a move to California when the lease on the space at 3116 W. Smith St. was up, the namesake and founder, Roseanne Casper, reached out to local dance studios to gauge their interest in expanding.
For Elizabeth Chayer, the opportunity made sense. The owner and founder of the American Dance Institute decided the time was right to add a second location in addition to their studio in Greenwood.
“Magnolia is a wonderful community that’s kind of like it’s own little enclave, and there’s a real sense of people here not wanting to go off the hill,” she said.
It only took three-and-a-half weeks between taking over the space and officially opening for business on Sept. 26, with a lot of long days and work from Chayer’s husband, a contractor whom she also referred to as the “director of marketing and maintenance.” Along with a fresh coat of paint, and the replacement of the studio’s mirrors, the main change to the space was the addition of an observation window.
“Most schools won’t let you watch classes,” she said, “but I feel parents are spending a lot of money on this stuff, they should be able to see their investment if they want to.”
Though it may not seem at first glance that the change from one dance studio to another is substantial, the American Dance Institute breaks from its predecessor in Magnolia in several different ways.
While Roseanne’s School of Dance offered classes for children and young adults, the American Dance Institute also has an extensive slate of adult classes in addition to their courses for kids. Thus far, Chayer has found that many of the adults coming in for beginning classes are not new to dance, but returning after a long hiatus.
“They’re always pleasantly surprised because it doesn’t take that long to get your sea legs back,” she said. “… It feels a little stiff at first, but before you know it your body remembers what it has to do.”
Meanwhile, Chayer said she also hopes that the school becomes involved in various neighborhood activities.
“We have a unique performance philosophy in that we focus more on community events and things in the neighborhood for the kids to participate in so that they have multiple opportunities throughout the course of the year if they want them,” she said.
Chayer also noted what makes her school different from others in the Seattle area. One of the biggest distinctions, she said, is how her instructors teach, while others don’t take students through the motions.
“They say to the kids or adults, ‘Here, do this,’ and they don’t really explain why and how to properly initiate the movements so that they’re doing it correctly.”
Another big difference is the school’s non-competitive nature. Finally, Chayer said, the school isn’t a “hoity-toity, nose up in the air, everybody has a perfect ballet body school.”
In simpler terms, “no snootiness.”
"We’re a school that welcomes everybody of every size and shape,” she said. “They will always feel welcome … I insist on that. It’s one of the things that I feel is really, really important, that if people feel welcome every time they come they’ll want to keep on coming back.”
For more information on the American Dance Institute, visit www.americandanceinstitute.com.