Hi everyone, it's me...Miss Maria! I'm excited to be able to introduce myself to you in our first blog post and give you a little 'behind the scenes' on how Valley Dance came to be!
I currently live with my rescue dog, Maisie, in Bethlehem, Pa (she's from China!). When I'm not teaching dance, her and I just love binge watching Netflix, finding fun places to walk to, and refurbishing old furniture (we probably watch a little to much HGTV). I also am lucky enough to live close to all my family, so we spend a lot of time together! And I love travelling, last year I spent Thanksgiving in Portugal & Italy with some family & friends over there!
I've dreamed of opening my own dance studio my entire life! I credit my former dance teacher, Miss Julie of Miss Julie's Dance & Fitness Studio in Roseto, Pa, for instilling the love of dance in me from a young age. I was always dancing, whether it be through the hallways of school or choreographing dances in my head in the back seat of my parent's minivan on long car rides. Dance was and still is my whole life. I thank Miss Julie for allowing me to begin assistant teaching classes at her studio when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Once I got to high school I began teaching my own classes and never looked back. I knew teaching dance was what I wanted to do.
In college I continued to dance 24/7 (....literally, college dance rehearsals could sometimes go 'til 1am!) So I was a very exhausted dance major who also was the head choreographer of our student dance ensemble. All through college I also continued to teach dance at a studio in Scarsdale, NY. None of this ever seemed like 'work' because dancing, teaching and choreographing was what made me the happiest! In 2010 I graduated from Manhattanville College and received my degree in Dance & Theatre with a concentration in Dance.
Immediately after graduating college I continued to teach a few times a week at Miss Julie's in Roseto, I also spent 5 years coaching the Northampton High School Dance Team, and I was lucky enough to stumble across a little newspaper ad in the Nazareth Key for a performing arts center looking for a dance instructor. That job was for Movement Theater, where I spent the past 9 year working for the most incredible studio owner, Colleen Samsel. I was given so many incredible opportunities at Movement Theater. I was able to teach and work with such a supportive and talented staff and I have taught so many amazingly wonderful students and met so many incredible families. Going from teacher to Assistant Director was such a great learning experience for me. I learned just how much hard work and countless hours went into running a dance studio, and I LOVED it all! Seriously, I haven't met a spreadsheet I didn't like.
During those 9 years I also had the opportunity to dance with the Monarch Dance Company where I met and became friends with so many talented dancers and got the chance to work with talented choreographers and perform all over PA, NJ, Washington DC, NY and more! It was such a great and challenging experience that I'm forever grateful for.
This time last year I started Dance With Me, a mobile dance studio that brought classes into preschools. I just thought of this as another 'side hustle', but looking back I think it was probably the start of Valley Dance! I was fortunate to be contacted by Miss Sue at Children's Garden Preschool in Bangor, Pa. This past year I taught two classes a week at her preschool, during my lunch break at my day job! (Did I mention I'm always tired).
At the end of this past dance season I came to the realization that I could do this whole 'opening a dance studio' thing. I don't know why I took me 9+ years to realize this...but I'm glad I had the opportunities I've had during that time. They were all learning experiences that prepared me to start Valley Dance! With the guidance of my mentor/former dance teacher Miss Julie, she helped encourage me to look for a church or hall to rent out to have my classes. I thought running a dance studio out of a church was a crazy idea. Why would anyone come? But then I realized it's not about the location, it's about the quality of dance education that I provide to my students. It took me a while to realize that I could do this, but with the help of my family and friends I've realized I can and I will!
I'm so excited to embark on this Valley Dance adventure. We are starting small, but I have incredibly big plans for this studio. And I hope you will join me on them!