TRAVERSE CITY — Sue Buck and Betsy Carr remember when their Dance Arts Academy business was small and the dance studio they occupied even smaller.
“It was teeny-tiny,” Buck said of the business partners’ first dance studio at the Opera House.
The two professional dancers have, since founding the business in 1996, worked step-by-step to choreograph a successful business model that blends a passion for teaching dance with an ever-growing demand for the arts in Traverse City. The end product is a lucrative bottom line and an academy that outgrew two studios in 17 years.
Buck and Carr are now orchestrating construction of a new, 11,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art dance studio at 1015 S. Garfield Ave.
“People have been super supportive,” Carr said of the expansion. “Its been buzzing since we were first able to make the announcement and we closed on the lot.”
The secret to their success, the women said, is two-fold: they are doing what they love, with one woman’s skills complimenting the other’s. Buck focuses on the business side of the academy while Carr, as Buck puts it, “flies artistically.”
“We bought an existing business that was struggling a little bit,” Buck said of the academy’s origins. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘These are our strengths. Let’s do what we love,’ and it just exploded.”
“Exploded” is the right word to describe the arts-based business’ growth. Hundreds take classes at the Dance Arts Academy, currently located in the Traverse City Outlets mall. The parking lot bustles every night with parents who shuttled their kids to classes that range from “Mommy and Me” dance instruction for toddlers to the prestigious Company Dance Traverse.
The Arts Academy produced multiple professional dancers who work on Broadway, appear on the Grammys and in other highly prestigious venues.
“Our students and our success speaks for itself,” Buck said. “It hasn’t been a priority for us to self-promote. We figured (success) will follow. At the end of the day we are in the studio with our kids, doing what needs to be done.”
Parents said they believe in the business because it offers a safe, constructive outlet for their kids.
“Ballet, jazz, tap,” Charlie Brammer said as he helped his daughter Emmalynn, 7, tend to her dance outfit in an academy hallway. “It’s a good chance for her to build coordination and grace -- all the things in life that I lack.”
Dayne Sempert, 13, of Elk Rapids, comes to the Dance Arts Academy daily to chase his dream of being a professional dancer.
“I like to be able to express myself without speaking, and to be able to move to music,” Sempert said. “It feels really good.”
Student Rachel Gischia, 17, shares the dream. She drives from Cadillac to the academy five days a week.
“I want to be on Broadway,” Gischia said.
Parent Tam LaPointe involved her daughter, Ellie LaPointe, in the academy’s dance classes at a young age, then watched her and her dance career aspirations blossom.
That “has been the most wonderful experience of our lives,” Tam LaPointe said.
“It is an absolute joy watching the kids grow and watching Ellie grow,” she said. “We’ve traveled together to competitions and conventions. The kids learn such discipline, structure and responsibility.”