That’s Dancing Celebrates 20 Years and Continues to Grow
By Krista Martinelli
Sisters Andrea LaMaina and Michele Walsh started off with a small 1200-square-foot studio twenty years ago. Today they run a booming business of dance classes with over 800 students in a 10,000-square-foot dance studio at the corner of Jog and Lantana Road in Lake Worth. Their dream, That’s Dancing, has flourished, incorporating some of the most accomplished dance instructors around, winning many accolades and teaching all levels of students from 3 years old to adults.
This year’s gala will be their 20th dance gala, complete with five shows spanning over a weekend in June. They will be handing out awards for those who have danced with That’s Dancing for 5, 10, and 15 years. They will be awarding one special honor to an adult who has danced with That’s Dancing for 20 years.
While managing this many schedules and choreographing so many dances can be exhausting, the sisters look back and love seeing the progress that individual dancers have made. “It’s amazing to see the accolades from the alumni that come back to us,” says Walsh. “It’s heartening to read the Facebook comments like ‘you affected my life in a positive way,’” says LaMaina. “We’ve dedicated our lives to this community and put in a lot of hours here.”
I asked what things were like when they started off in the first year. At first it was just Andrea LaMaina with two part-time dance instructors. Enrollment was about 80 students. The sisters moved down from New Jersey to start this new venture. LaMaina wondered, “What the heck did we do?” sometimes second-guessing her judgment on starting up a dance studio. LaMaina, just 24 years old at the time, was in some ways ahead of the game. “We had a website when no other local dance studios did,” she recalls.
According to Walsh, their “word of mouth” advertising was good and has always been good. After five years, they expanded to a 3,000-square-foot space. They had maxed out their space with over 300 students. They got “super-organized” with their mother as the office manager. And That’s Dancing moved into their current large space as they entered their sixth year of business.
Even with rapid growth, one thing has remained the same. “We have a family atmosphere. And our faculty has very little turnover,” says LaMaina. “We’re so lucky because we have each other,” says LaMaina about her sister. “We’re good at different things, so it works well,” says Walsh in response.
Some of their dance teachers began as young dancers with That’s Dancing. For example, instructor Jessica Pearl was a dancer with That’s Dancing at age 12. Nicole Smith began with That’s Dancing when she was 10 years old. Both danced in the dance company Fusion Force (with That’s Dancing). Both attended college for dance education and returned to teach at That’s Dancing.
What is dance like for their youngest of students? Even a 3-year-old can participate in creative movement explain the two sisters. “We like to keep it fun yet structured,” says LaMaina. They take a combination ballet/tap/creative movement class. “We focus on their successes. All kids learn in different ways,” says Walsh.
Is it becoming cool for boys to go to dance classes? According to LaMaina, ten percent of their Fusion Force dance company is boys, which is very high compared with other dance studios. “We are seeing boys who are achieving a very high level of dance. And it’s considered cool,” she says. Instead of the feeling of Billy Elliot, when a boy dancer was considered an anomaly, the boy dancers are taking the stage proudly and excelling at That’s Dancing.
Another unique thing about That’s Dancing is that they host the So Fla Tap Fest each year, a festival created by Andrea LaMaina, who happens to love tap. “She felt a need for it in this area,” says Walsh. The tap festival has also helped to bring dancers together from different dance studios and break down the barriers among different studios. “At the end of the day, we’re all dancers – learning, sharing and growing,” says LaMaina. Now instead of not knowing each other at regional competitions, they are cheering for each other.
“Tap has always been my thing,” says LaMaina. “It’s really being a musician.”
LaMaina cautions people that dance is not as glamorous as it looks. “A lot of hard work, sweat and tears go into it. There are thousands of hours of training,” she says. I asked what the key is for success among their most accomplished dancers. “What they have in common is their own passion and self-motivation,” says Walsh. “All of our most successful dancers have that.” LaMaina adds that the most successful dancers have a love for dance. “It’s a need, not a want. They are true athletes.”
At That’s Dancing, they currently have students who hold the national titles for Junior Mister Dance Educator’s of America and Teen Mister Dance Educator’s of America. A lot of That’s Dancing students go on to dance on their college dance teams and major in dance at universities.
This year will mark their 20th dance gala, a major 3-day event with five shows, including over 800 students. “We’re constantly planning for it,” the sisters explain. The Monday after that weekend, we feel “used up, tired and proud,” laughs Walsh. All the preparation and the great team around us make it successful, they explain. It’s exciting for LaMaina and Walsh to hand out the 15-year awards because that means that the dancers started with them at age 3. The dance gala is ultimately very rewarding because it brings all the elements together, the choreography, the hard work and the persistence of some of their most dedicated dance students.
Because they are so busy with organizing, teaching and putting on the shows, the “twenty years has been like a blink,” says Walsh. Both sisters want to thank their mother for continuously helping them in running the business.
To sign up for dance classes, call (561) 642-9677 or visit their website at ThatsDancing.com. In addition to many different kinds of dance classes offered year round, they also offer dance camps and dance intensives in the summer. Sign up and find out why That’s Dancing continues to flourish in the competitive world of dance studios.