Studio Owners

These 3 Studio Owners Are Shaping Utah's Dance Scene

Kim DelGrosso, Jana Monson and Sheryl Dowling (Photo by Kim Raff)

Maybe it's the mountain air, the golden sunshine or the alpine elevation. There's just something about Utah that makes it an astonishing source of outstanding dancers, from ballroom and TV stars like Derek and Julianne Hough to ballerina Whitney Jensen.

To uncover the secrets of Utah's success, Dance Teacher turned to three of Utah's most influential studio owners in the Salt Lake City area: Jana Monson of Creative Arts Academy to the north in Bountiful, and, in southerly Orem, Kim DelGrosso of Center Stage Studio and Sheryl Dowling of The Dance Club.

These women have carved out unique niches in the region's incredibly crowded market. ("There is, honestly, I kid you not, a dance studio on every corner of where my studio is," DelGrosso says.) They consistently turn out some of the state's top talent while always focusing on helping kids develop self-esteem and maturity, as well as artistry. Here they share business perspectives, their personal philosophies—and some insight into Utah's dance magic.



Sheryl Dowling

Sheryl Dowling

Photo by Kim Raff

The Dance Club

- Enrollment: 300, ages 3–18

- Faculty: 30

- Weekly Classes: 125 in jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop, turns, improvisation and gymnastics

- Teams: 6 levels, from littles to pre-professional

- Competition: Company dancers attend 3 conventions annually; 1 National every other year. Jazz Club team attends 2 conventions and 1 competition yearly, plus 1 National every other year.

- Performance Opportunities: Christmas concert, spring recital and company showcase, plus an annual charity production

- Guest Teachers: Martha Nichols, Brooke Pierotti and Danny Wallace

"Most dancers come to us because they know we are strict," says Sheryl Dowling. "The great majority of our kids don't start at The Dance Club as a fun little hobby."

Two-thirds of Dance Club students participate on teams, and the commitment is serious: Company dancers take a minimum of 15 hours of weekly classes and rehearsals, plus competitions, performances, conventions and an annual charity show, which entails fundraising by every age group.

Dowling makes those expectations clear when kids audition, which helps ensure a good match between students, families and studio. "Most of the kids stay," she says, "and some will come at a little bit later age because they know we're serious." And when a match is not right, she offers thoughtful referrals. "If another studio will work better, we're so supportive," she says.

Since opening DC in 1979, she has trained the likes of Allison Holker of "DWTS" and "SYTYCD," Norwegian National Ballet soloist Whitney Jensen and Dowling's two daughters, Joey Dowling and Jacki Ford, who danced with the Rockettes and on Broadway and started Jo+Jax dancewear. But Dowling is less focused on producing professionals than on helping kids mature. "Really, we try to arm them with life skills: being dependable, learning how to work hard, being honest."

The smaller student body keeps classes to 10 to 16 students, one of Dowling's priorities. "I like knowing the kids," she says. In fact, most of her faculty "grew up" at DC, including co-owner Allison Thornton. And though DC may be smaller-scale, its custom-built facility is big-time: six studios with marley or wood floors, a Pilates room, a lobby and patio, a dancewear shop, offices, a teachers' lounge and a snack bar.

"For those people that we're a good fit for," Dowling says, "it's a great little family."


Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
Jill Randall

Whether you're in need of some wintertime inspiration or searching for new material for your classes, these six titles—ranging from personal stories, classroom materials, detailed essays and coursebooks—are worthy picks to add to your pedagogy bookshelf.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.