A Personal Message from Ofelia
Posted by Paulina

Dear Dance Family,

Sixteen years ago, on April 1, 2004, dance 101 was born. Three months earlier I cashed out my IRA ($40,000 - it was everything I had) and signed a lease on a small one room studio on Miami Circle in Buckhead. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into - I only had the dream of a beautiful studio that would touch others' lives as dance had touched mine. I was 46 at the time. I didn't know anything - not the first thing - about running a studio - much less how to create a concept that did not exist (there were no adult only studios at the time that welcomed inexperienced dancers). Paulina, in college back then, came up with the name Dance 101. 

With no money for advertising and no Facebook to get the word out, we opened with a free week of classes. 119 people found their way to us and we sold an 8 class card for $80 that week. Fueled by Redbull and advil, I taught 19 out of 24 weekly classes while the front desk was staffed by student volunteers. It was such a labor of love. 15 years later, Billboard Magazine would recognize us as #4 in the top ten dance studios in the country.

A lot happened along the way and every bump (many) took a piece of me with it - including the loss of my marriage to a man I loved intensely who, feeling abandoned, divorced me over my long absences from home as I logged in 16 hour days, 6 days a week. Please don't feel sorry for me. I tell you this because behind every small business, there's a story of sacrifice, grit, determination and an unstoppable fighting spirit. 

Every small business you drive by began with someone exercising their dream.

I don't know if the studio will survive our present situation. Even with the cap on classes or the rate increases or any number of other decisions made, as long as people are afraid, the studio, like so many other small businesses, will suffer a slow death. When the number of membership freezes and cancellations exceed the number of new members, it's just a matter of time. My only hope is to fight against the decline long enough to where people feel safe in returning. If we can hold on until then, we can rebuild.

So when you are feeling frustrated with that 15 class limit (because we need to make room for new members), or the rate increase on your membership, please consider the following:

During the mandatory shutdown, we were the only studio that did not furlough all of our teachers. Instead we made every payroll - every one - thanks to you and others like Janine who donated her paycheck back to the studio to help us meet payroll for teachers whose only source of income was the paycheck we were providing.

  • We never stopped working. We produced 60 class videos and put them on Facebook, invited all of y'all to join and didn't charge anything to those of you supporting us.
  • We reopened with 79 classes in Atlanta and 31 classes in Alpharetta while other studios are only gradually opening.
  • We discounted unlimited memberships during the shutdown and we gave rollover classes on count based memberships.
  • We are incurring great expense to fog/sanitize the studios to keep us all safe. Our expenses have not gone down, they've gone up - at a time when revenue has gone down. Hard decisions were necessary and we were strong enough to make them - even knowing that they would be unpopular. That takes guts. And leadership.

 
I am proud of all of this.

As our world slid into crisis, we mobilized and gave to everyone: to you, to our teachers and staff.

My message to you is this:

If there is something in your life that you love, that brings you joy -whether it is a dance studio, a hair salon or a favorite restaurant, any kind of small business... small businesses are struggling right now. Support it. Or it's going to go away. Fight for what you want in your life. Fight for that which makes you happy. Don't leave the fight to me or to other people. Fight for it!

 
And if you want to do more to help save dance 101, here's what you can do:

Subscribe to our new online platform <here>. For $35/month you have access to 70 on demand classes with new classes added every week. In July we will begin live streaming Reb3l Groove and Dancer's Stretch - and that's just the beginning - many more classes will be live streamed as we move forward.

The important thing is for you to follow your heart. If dance is helping you through this crisis, don't stop. If dance 101 is important to you, and you are in a position to support us - do it.

At some point, things will return to normal. The question is whether that normal will include dance 101 in our lives.

Warmly,
Ofelia