No matter our age, most of us need exercise to be fun in order for it to truly work. Whether you’re sick of running in circles on the track or your child is tired of chasing a ball up and down the court, exercise boredom problems can often be solved by dance.
In its 52nd year, Barbi Lee Dance has the benefit of experience. Often teaching second or third generation Barbi Lee dancers, it’s easy to say that owner Barbara Lotsberg has created something like a family.
It’s a non-competitive studio, which Lotsberg says sets it apart because “we focus on the art of the dance, and [don’t] treat it as a sport.”
With classes mainly for youngsters, Barbi Lee also caters to adults who have previous experience, “mostly made up of our teachers who have nearly all been dancing with us for 30 years or more,” Lotsberg says.
The studio’s season runs from September through mid-May, though enrichment classes are offered during summer. Beginners’ classes are available for all ages, and children can start as young as 3 years old.
“One of the things that makes us different is that we prefer a parent to sit in on the classes for the young students,” Lotsberg says. “This assures that they will practice at home and practice the right moves.” This also allows instructors to work at a quicker pace, as students are able to keep up with the class. Another aspect that sets Barbi Lee apart is its combination classes. From 4 to 8 years old, children take ballet, tap and tumbling. At age 9, dancers can add jazz, extra ballet, contemporary and hip-hop to the mix. Students are later able to add an additional class in a style of their choice.
As for the adult dancers, some grew up dancing and didn’t want to stop, as is the case with Cynthia Klaus. “I started dancing at Barbi Lee at 7 years old, and I have continued to take classes as an adult,” Klaus says. Her daughters, ages 10 and 12, also take lessons at the studio. Her years as a student, and now as a dance mom, are a testament to Barbi Lee. “While the music and dance styles have changed somewhat, the wonderful teaching methods and structured approach to lessons has not.”
Those teaching methods back up Lotsberg’s philosophy of dance, providing an education “that expands children’s creativity and confidence while providing them with solid dance technique,” Klaus says.
Parent Anne Lee agrees with Klaus, saying her daughters, ages 10, 16, 18 and 20, all have danced at Barbi Lee—her youngest two still do—and each learned so much more than how to dance elegantly. They also learned how to “live with grace and confidence,” she says. “[Lotsberg’s] method of fully preparing her students for each dance they perform has taught them also how to work hard in everything they do.”
If you have experience and want to step back onto the dance floor, or if you have kids who want to dance non-competitively, Barbi Lee Dance Studio might be the answer to your New Year’s family fitness resolution.
It’s a childhood dream come true for Victoria McNamara, who knew at the age of 7 that she wanted to own a dance studio. After working at a studio for four years after college, and with the support of her family, her dream came true. “I was 25 years old and didn’t know I couldn’t do it,” McNamara says.
Now in its 22nd year, the studio started with 75 students and one instructor, but has grown to 400 students, 17 instructors and five large dance floors. Its growth is evidence of McNamara’s commitment and also of the effectiveness of her philosophy of balance.
Growing up, McNamara was deeply involved in clubs, organizations, and sports. She wants other students to be able to experience those things as well if they wish. “Dance is important to me,” McNamara says. “But that’s just a piece of these girls’ lives—there’s more to life than just dance.” So her studio is built on life balance.
Classes are available to kids as young as 2 years old, and many of the teachers who work with the youngest students have degrees in elementary education, so parents can feel comfortable knowing they understand how to communicate with children.
For the youngest kids, classes start with tap, ballet, jazz and hip-hop. At about age 10, students start taking pom or dance team class; musical theater classes start at age 6. Victoria’s also offers pointe at age 12 and strength conditioning classes for all ages.
Then there are the dancing dads. Fathers of dancers who wish to participate meet once a week for dance class (and socialization), and practice for local competitions. Being a dance parent at Victoria’s isn’t just sitting on the sidelines, says mom Stephanie Shupe, whose 16-year-old daughter started dancing there when she was 3. “We all contribute to costumes … it’s not just our kids getting something out of it, the parents are too.”
Shupe says her daughter, who is on the competition dance team at Victoria’s and the competition cheer team at school, can do both because of Victoria’s philosophy of life balance. “They both make her better at each. The tumbling and strength from competitive cheer, and the art form and lyrical nature of dance—they’ve both helped her.”
Whether you want to strengthen and tone your own body, or your child wants to dance for fun, be in the high school musical, or make it to Broadway, Victoria’s knows how to get you there. They have dancers who have gone on to be Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders, Timberwolves cheerleaders, Rockettes, and one student who just finished a run on Broadway playing Cinderella.
“We keep the individual dancer in mind,” McNamara says. “Many of [the teachers] are parents. I have two beautiful daughters and they are very different, and they learn differently.”
Elizabeth and Nicole Klaus
The youngest of the bunch, Platinum Dance Center entered the scene in 2010 at the hands (Or should we say, feet?) of Lexi Zimmermann and Erica Leanna, former Minnesota Timberwolves dance team members. While they started in Minnetonka, they moved to Edina in their second year and have thrived since.
“We opened the studio because we wanted to give something a little more [competitive] to the dance world,” Leanna says. “We were young so our studio is designed differently.”
They specialize in children’s dance, so most classes offer tap, jazz, creative movement, and hip-hop at the recreational level for young kids, as well as performance and competitive levels. The bonus at Platinum Dance is their affiliate next door, Ashley Ballet Arts Academy. All competitive dancers at Platinum take ballet to help hone their skills. The connection between modern dance and ballet was deliberate for Leanna and Zimmermann. “We wanted to put those two items under one roof,” Leanna says, adding each discipline reinforces the other.
Platinum has four studios, nearly 600 students, and about 10 professionally trained dance instructors. Aside from more traditional dance classes, there is also a boys’ hip-hop program, with two male teachers.
Their award-winning competitive dance line competes locally, with four major competitions each year. Balance is important here, too, says mom Sara McGrane, whose 8-year-old daughter is in the competitive program. “She is still able to do other wsports, which is part of why we love Platinum Dance Center,” McGrane says. Her normally shy daughter loves performing at Platinum, and McGrane loves the community the studio has built. “It is still a small-feeling studio where you know everyone, they recognize the importance of family…and doing things other than dance,” she says. This focus on community translates into the kids working together, rather than seeing each other only as competition, McGrane says.
Jasmine Hoedeman, whose 11-year-old daughter is in her third year at Platinum, says this is their second studio experience, and they are loving it. “The studio balances competition, learning and personal confidence,” Hoedeman says.
That focus on community helps create a bond between dancers that also extends beyond its walls. “We put on a charity showcase each year,” Leanna says. Every February, the competitive dancers and performance team put on a mini recital. Partially a sendoff before competition season begins, proceeds from the event are donated to a different charity each year. And most importantly, Leanna says of the annual charity showcase, “It’s really fun.”
Dance for Grown-Ups
Arthur Murray Dance Center offers lessons in numerous dance disciplines, and you don’t need any previous experience. Event coordinator Kristi Cartier says people take classes for a number of reasons, including recent empty-nesters taking advantage of newfound free time, couples preparing for the first dance at their wedding, and those who watched Dancing with the Stars and now want to dance like the stars. Visit twincitiesarthurmurray.com or call 612.920.1900 to learn more or get started.