What came first, walking or dancing?
When I was a little girl, my family moved to a small town in Illinois. I remember walking down Main Street one day and there was a dance studio. I just stood there at the big glass window looking in until finally the owner of the studio opened the door and said, ‘Do you want to come in?
What was the path that led to Las Vegas?
I danced professionally with the River North Dance Company in Chicago, musical theater in Chicago and in New York, plus commercial gigs and the Milwaukee Ballet. I came to Vegas in 1999 to do six months at the Luxor. I had a pre-conceived notion of what Las Vegas was, but, once I got here, I felt really good about it.
How did the Rock Center begin?
I opened in 2009 and the students came to me. All of a sudden Disney contacted us to do their Lion King auditions and rehearsals at the Rock. And Cirque contacted me to have their auditions here. I started with about 40 kids and it began to build via world of mouth. All of a sudden during competitions, we started getting recognized like crazy.
What do you see as the key to your studio’s success in competitions?
Some programs take the quick route. I don’t. It’s like a microwave dinner: It doesn’t taste as good as a slow-cooked meal. If you slow-cook a dancer and take the time to build and train, the results are wonderful. Some just want to dance fast and lift their leg up to their ear in a short period of time. I believe in the exercises that serve dancers and learning each step focusing on the muscles that surround bone and how we get them stronger. I teach the foundation.
What was it like to have your studio on NBC’s World of Dance?
Super stressful, but great! When they approached me, I said, “I’m not really interested. I need to focus on my studio.” Then I took the kids who won dance awards to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate. I said, “By the way, you guys, NBC contacted me to put you on World of Dance and I said, ‘No.’” The kids were like, “What? You said no? We have to do it!” The kids really wanted to show the world that Vegas is not just about gambling. It was still very stressful, but the kids loved it.
Do you have to be an elite dancer to train at the Rock?
We have a couple of the top dancers in the world, but we train dancers of all abilities. Want to have some fun at a great hip hop class? Come in. You can learn some cool dance moves and call it a day, or you can train to be a champion. ◆