As the parent of two young children, I have a simple wish that they both are happy and turn out to be positive members of the community. The importance of positive experiences outside of home and school is critical in making this wish a reality. Structured programs that teach skills and simultaneously improve self esteem and confidence in our children are quite valuable. When these programs are led by role models that mirror our beliefs and actions, it can become pretty powerful. We, as parents, are willing to spend money on this type of investment in our child’s development. Let me introduce one of these organizations…Wishes Dance Studio.
What began as a single program at the Fishers YMCA has evolved into one of the best youth programs in Fishers. The process began in 2002 when Kelley Richards approached the Fishers YMCA and inquired about starting dance classes. Classes began in 2003 and steadily grew through 2006 until a designated location could not only be supported but was necessitated. Wishes Dance Studio has since recently relocated to its new home at 12810 Ford Drive. The move was initiated by the sheer growth of the program and, quite frankly, a need for more parking that could not be accommodated by the former location. The amount of participants and the loyalty to the program are astounding, but not the least bit surprising.
Wishes’ new 8,000-square-foot studio is centrally located in Fishers (behind Don Hind’s Ford) and is decorated in a Paris-inspired theme. There are 3 distinct dance studios, each with their own personality, designed to accommodate the various aspects of the business. There is also a “dressing room” upstairs which serves as a space where children over the age of 8 can do homework, relax, or socialize between classes. Ample lobby space for the parents is a welcomed addition, while an enhanced website and registration process are currently in development and expected to launch in 2013.
As nice as the new space shows, what really sets this business apart are the people that teach the classes. The instructors are led by Kelley Richards, a former professional singer and dancer and current small business owner. Kelley has transformed her passion for dance into a well-balanced business catering to a variety of dance levels ranging from beginner (recreational classes begin as young as 18 months old with parent participation) to elite. As is the case with many small businesses, Kelley’s family is intimately involved in its success. Her husband, Jeff, has supported this vision emotionally and literally as he built all the dance floors, cubbies, and shelves. Her 18-year-old son, Colton, serves as the office manager and webmaster while her 15-year-old daughter, Ciara (an impressive dancer in her own right), serves as an instructor.
Kelley is quick to praise the teachers that are part of the program. “I am extremely fortunate to be joined by talented instructors who love dance and do an extremely good job of relating to children.” A testament to the loyalty that exists in her organization is one of her current teachers named Emily. Emily is a long-time loyal student who literally grew up inside the program since 2003 and is currently a senior. She is now teaching classes at a satellite location and doing a tremendous job.
At the core of Kelley’s business are two types of classes that are labeled on her website as recital classes and non-recital classes. Recital classes cater to the more serious dancer who has demonstrated a commitment to the art and visits the studio 2-3 times per week. These classes focus on the fundamentals of dancing and teach through repetition and practice. These classes culminate in a recital that takes place in April every year. The program has grown so large that 3 individual recitals are required. All of them take place on the same day at the Paramount Theater in Anderson, Indiana. All the girls perform in various roles throughout this performance, demonstrating the skills they have acquired throughout the months of practice. The seniors are highlighted and have earned an opportunity to pick their own costume and music and to choreograph their own solo dance which is preceded by a video montage. It makes for a very special evening for the students, teachers, and families. I would be remiss not to mention Kelley’s most mature student in her 90’s that performed a ballroom piece at the recital this past year.
Non-recital classes are typically more recreational in nature and provide an entry experience into dance in a fun and positive atmosphere. What distinguishes this programming from the competition is engagement of the children into the activities. You will see strategic, yet subtle, actions like locating parents outside the classroom after the first day of class. This allows the child to begin socializing with the teacher and classmates on their own terms. Parents are treated to a small show the last day of these 6-week sessions where the kids demonstrate everything they have learned. Every class includes time allotted for the teacher to interact with each student by asking them a specific question. The result is an established relationship between teacher and student that is unique to each participant. The curriculum is designed to engage the children by using their imagination. You will see instructors dressed up like Belle or Tinker Bell who encourage the same type of dress from the participants. You will hear music from popular kid movies in addition to some alternative songs that you might find yourself singing on the car ride home after the show. All this is taking place in addition to the girls learning proper form and dance terminology.
In addition to the core business, Kelley has expanded some of the offerings to include birthday parties, summer camps, and even girls-night-out burlesque parties (for the parents of the dancers). Two recent brainstorms and programs in development include putting on two big events every year. The first is a Cinderella Ball that will include the entire “Royal Family” of the dancers and is projected to include horse and carriage rides in addition to a footman who will patiently try a slipper onto each girl’s foot, reminiscent of the fairy tale. October will host a Haunted Dance Studio and include a masquerade ball and trick or treating.
Parents who have experienced any of these programs for their children have fueled the growth. Kelley admits that besides her website, she has made minimal investments in marketing. “Word of Mom” is a very powerful tool that has almost single-handedly increased awareness.
If you would like to find out more information regarding Wishes Dance Studio, you can visit their website at wishesdance.com or call the studio at 317-435-2541. You can also witness the Paris-inspired decorations by visiting the studio at 12810 Ford Drive, Fishers, Indiana 46038.
Not only am I the author of this article, but I am writing this from the perspective of a dad whose daughter has flourished in the non-recital programs and asks us on more than one occasion when she can take the next session of dance. I am one of hundreds of parents trying to make my wish of developing two well-rounded kids come true through the well-balanced business of Wishes Dance Studio. I guess we can call that “Word of Dad,” although it doesn’t quite have the same ring.