This photo was taken in August 2004 at our official ribbon cutting!
This year marks the 15th year that Kaleidoscope Dance has been providing dance classes for dancers of all ages on the north shore of Chicago. I recently found myself thinking back to why I started the studio all those years ago.
So where did it all begin?
I started walking before I was one, and I loved to sing and dance in my basement. I took my first dance class at age 3, at the local park district. My mom loves to tell the story: The teacher left the class to go to the bathroom and I decided to get up on the stage and take over the class! The rest is history.
My parents decided that maybe I needed something more structured so they asked around and we found the Joliet Ballet Society. Claudette Soltis did not start dancers until the age of 4, but my mother insisted that she give me a shot. My mom was never a “dance mom,” my parents were both teachers, so they left it up to the professional dance teachers to evaluate me. Well, I got in at the ripe age of 3.
Katie Ward, was my first teacher. She was warm, nurturing, and I remember her class to this day. The ballet studio was strict. Six days a week ballet and pointe. The Ballet Society gave me the opportunity to work with many other ballet greats such as Irina Kolpakova of the American Ballet Theatre and Dace Dindonis, formerly of the Indianapolis Ballet. I spent countless years dancing in the Nutcracker with Indianapolis Ballet, taking classes in Chicago at Ruth Page. I knew I wanted to dance. My other love was choreographing and putting on shows. Ask my sister and the neighborhood kids! I had them dancing on swing sets, in the basement, in the park – I even charged admission to the shows. You could say I was practicing for when I would own my studio.
In high school, I continued to dance and also fell in love with Musical Theater. I was in every musical at school, I took weekly voice lessons, and played the flute in the high school band, plus danced 6 days a week. I was a busy kid. On breaks, I would get antsy and drive my mother nuts dancing all over the house!
I wanted to continue to sing and dance so I chose Millikin University in Decatur, IL. Millikin University was just ranked one of the top 25 schools in the country, coming in at 11, for best theater and dance programs. At Millikin, I auditioned for every musical and dance production and eventually was invited to choreograph a few, which was a huge honor. I took dance class- Modern, Ballet, Jazz, Musical Theatre, Tap, Composition, and Dance History, just to name a few. I got a job teaching dance at the Decatur Park District, and fell in love with teaching and inspiring youth.
After college, I moved to Chicago. Auditioned like crazy in the city and waited tables at Ed Debevic’s. I eventually became the Director of Dance at the JCC here in Skokie. This was my first job teaching and running my own dance program. They had a huge preschool program and I taught them all dance after lunch was over. This was by far the most challenging teaching gig I’d ever encountered. A big class of tired preschoolers who weren’t necessarily interested in dance, but nevertheless, there we were. I learned how to gauge the mood of the room in seconds, how to change quickly from one activity to the next, how to come prepared with 4 times as much material as I thought we could possibly get through and how to abandon any plan in favor of whatever would work. I loved my time at the JCC and it helped prepare me for opening my own studio.
At the age of 24, Kaleidoscope Dance was born. With years of dance training under my belt, no business experience, and a big dream, I signed a lease in 2004 in the same place Kaleidoscope Dance still calls it’s home. It has been a labor of love, my first “child,” and something that I am immensely proud of. My husband, Jeremy, (we had only been dating 3 months at the time), was on board with the plan. My dad said, “he’s a keeper, don’t mess this up!”
From the moment I signed that lease, I knew that 1,800 square foot space would eventually turn into 7,000 square feet. I knew one day, with a lot of hard work, I would build that dream studio. I continue to refine our approach to dance, our mission, vision, and values into what the studio stands for now: Kaleidoscope Dance provides quality dance technique and instruction with emphasis on: the discipline of dance while remembering the joy of movement; respect for mind, body and soul; and expectations for each dancer to reach his or her individual potential. At Kaleidoscope, we understand that dance education is more than just instruction. We believe in promoting positive self-esteem while instilling the love and appreciation for dance and movement. Our expectation is for each dancer to reach his/her potential and we provide individual attention, no matter the level.
This year marks 15 years in business. I could not do this by myself. My dance instructors, studio manager, and front desk staff are a huge part of the success of Kaleidoscope Dance. My staff works extremely hard to embody what Kaleidoscope Dance is all about. I am forever grateful for their hard work, passion, and friendship. Thank you for taking the time to learn a little about me and my journey to opening Kaleidoscope Dance.