Dance Studio Secrets features the stories and experience from members of the Dance Studio Owners Inner Circle.
Pull back the curtains for an up-close and personal look into how other studio owners are creating thriving businesses and fulfilling lives both inside and outside of the studio.
Check out this week’s sneak-peek into our Inner Circle dance studios, featuring Moore Than Dance Founder and CEO, Angela Manella-Hoffman.
Today you are going to meet a Dance Studio CEO with such a bright spirit that it will jump off the pages. Whether it’s on a coaching call or at an in-person Inner Circle retreat, Angela always lights up a room. She is also extremely invested in ensuring that her students are becoming better humans every time they enter her studio.
Tell us about your background in dance and performing arts, and how that evolved into you opening your studio?
Well, I started acting professionally when I was eight doing a lot of theater and commercials and I went on tour with different professional shows and performances. While I always was a great dancer, I never quite fit the body type that was needed.
And I wasn’t a great singer.
So I continued professionally through adulthood acting, dancing and doing a little bit of singing before I started teaching for other studios. That’s when I noticed – quite devastatingly – that a lot of my gorgeous students were really body conscious…which started to really bother me.
I kept thinking about what I would do differently if I had my own space and my own studio.
Fast forward a few months, and one day my husband was driving by and saw that there was a dance studio building for sale, and something just clicked. We looked into it and that’s where we started.
We started back then with the one studio and now we have three thriving studios. I realize now that my whole life I’ve been preparing for thisit, but I never knew I was.
What did you want to do differently from other studios you had seen or worked at that you knew from Day One was really going to set you apart?
One of the first things I wanted to do was to incorporate singing, dancing and acting so all of our students really can be triple threats. We also started to bring in guest teachers, experts, and leaders who talk to them about the profession and how they can really make the most out of every minute in the studio.
The main reason I wanted to do this was because of my own experiences having been in both a studio and a ballet company when I was growing up. I always had a foot in both of those doors and could take away lessons from both.
Even more important to me though was to make it a priority at our studio to let the children really feel and understand that they are a gift, and that it doesn’t matter what their body type is.
I want them to know that anybody can dance, and anybody can sing. While our culture started with a focus on body-image and confidence, it has also evolved to a point where we now teach a lot of students with special needs who wouldn’t fit a typical type of dance class or studio.
We also do a full-length musical every other year where we bring in an orchestra, sets, and lights and go to a different theater and all of our students are included in that. It’s a very inclusive place.
What kinds of strategies do you use in class to combat the negative body-image that is such an issue for young dancers in our industry?
We do a lot of journaling in and out of the classroom. At the beginning of the season, I give each of my competition and teen dancers their own journal and I write little notes and affirmations in it scattered throughout the journal which they’ll open up on different days.
I also share my experiences a lot, especially with my older dancers. I’ve talked with them about my memories of my ballet teacher pulling me in front of the whole class to demonstrate how fat I was and that I would never be a dancer. I tell them that they are a gift from God – that wherever they are at, that’s who they are and it’s nothing to feel ashamed about…or that it’s something they have to change.
Another huge thing, especially for this age group, is that we don’t allow phones in the classroom at all.
For my younger dancers, we find so many opportunities to use the power of language to reiterate what a gift they are. They may say “My legs are tired; I can’t keep dancing.” This alone is such a great teaching opportunity to remind them how blessed they are to have legs that work! Even little exercises where we bend over and stretch and say, “thank you, thighs, for keeping me up today.” I try to incorporate silliness with it and other funny little things so it’s not like beating them over the head with a lesson!
What were the 3 biggest milestones that defined your transition from Teacher to CEO?
The biggest one was joining the Dance Studio Owners Inner Circle, which really opened my eyes to everything. I remember the first Inner Circle Retreat where we were talking about stepping out of teaching, and it just blew my mind. I remember you saying that, and I’d never thought of that before!
Another big one was getting my own office within the studio. I had always worked at the front desk when other people weren’t, but when I finally got my own little office…that really made me feel more like the CEO.
The third milestone was hiring a great office manager. That took a lot off my plate and also gave me the confidence that it was done in a really professional way instead of me dropping the ball on things.
Angela Mannella-Hoffman is the Owner and Artistic Director of Moore Than Dance in Fridley, MN. Known for her creativity and passion, Angela has developed original programming for her studio including “Movin’ with the Moose!” preschool musical theater and dance classes and “Special Stars” classes for those with special needs.
Angela started acting professionally at the age of 8. Her theater credits include; The Guthrie Theater, The Children’s Theater Company, Shakespeare and Company, MN, Minnesota Shakespeare Project, Hennepin Stages and many other local and regional theaters.
She has acted in over 300 commercials and industrials. Angela is an active voice-over actress, lending her voice to companies such as 3M, Cargill and Target.
Dance credits include; Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy, Super Bowl XXVI, Paul McCartney’s Back in the US tour, and many industrials and plays where she was the dance captain.
Angela lives in Minnesota with her husband and son. She loves spending time with her eight brothers and sisters, friends and extended family.
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