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Meet Rachel Arnold of Dance Prodigy Studios in Greenville

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Arnold.

Rachel, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It all started about 23 years ago at the age of 9 when I told my parents that I wanted to be the first female professional football player in the offensive line or quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the Green Bay Packers. My parents were not especially keen on the idea with my petite frame and projected maximum height of 5’3. My mom, Pam Holland, signed me up for dance lessons at a small studio in our hometown of Anamosa, Iowa using the incentive that football players took ballet to help with their form on the field. My dream of football morphed into teaching dance after I attended my first ballet lesson. I was not particularly talented in the dance genre but I come from a long line of people who believe in hard work. After attending that small studio for two years I moved on to attending a more serious school about a half hour away in Cedar Rapids. In 1999, we moved to the McKinney, Texas area where I attended two dance studios simultaneously to put in extra time in the studio. In 2000 I decided to really commit to ballet for its technique and began studying under Debi Landrum (former ballet mistress of the Denton Ballet), Anna Marie Ewert-Pittman (founder of the Ewert-Pittman modern company and distinguished alumni from the Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts), Cindi Lawrence Hanson (owner of Gotta Dance in Plano and artistic director of the Plano Metropolitan Ballet Company), Catherine Mooney-Burton (former performer with the Dallas Opera and Lone Star Ballet) as well as many others. I also began assisting classes at 15 and choreographed a few pieces for a studio in McKinney and a recital piece for my home dance studio. During my high school and college years I went on to audition for (and make) many companies and programs such as the Plano Metropolitan Ballet Company, Paul Taylor Modern Company Intensive in New York, The Rock School, Ballet Austin, Pacific Northwestern Ballet, and many more.

I also performed solo and variation pieces for multiple ballets such as “The Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker, “Tweetle Dee” from Alice in Wonderland, one of the sisters from The Little Mermaid, and other principal roles from Don Quixote, Cinderella, and much more. During my last two years of performing, I danced en pointe for an average of 30-40+ hours per week.

Over the next few years, I worked with many amazing studios and dance teams to further their own dance programs. In 2010, I decided to make a big change by following my dream of opening my own studio. This studio would provide the same level of professional and experienced education for every dancer who walked through the door.

Everyone – Beginner, Adult, Recreational, Pre-Professional, Competitive, etc. Since then, my small beginnings in the North East Texas area have grown into a large studio family with a positive foundation and love for everyone that comes through the door.

My past students (from my studio as well as other teaching positions I have held) have gone on to teach dance, open their own studios, and join prestigious programs such as the Moscow Ballet, Plano Metropolitan Ballet Company, the Kirov Ballet, Chamberlain School of Performing Arts, Texas Women’s University’s Dance Program, The San Francisco Ballet, University of Texas’ Dance Program, Oklahoma University’s Dance Program, Dallas Conservatory of the Arts, SMU’s Meadows School for the Fine Arts, Greenville’s Flaming Flashes & Cheer Squad, Caddo Mill’s Drill Team, Leonard Tigerettes, Royse City’s Drill & Dance Team, Kilgore Rangerettes, Texas A&M Commerce University’s Lionettes Dance Team, as well as many other dance programs.

I have been awarded and recognized as a choreographer and teacher at multiple competitions where my choreography has consistently placed and been recognized for correct technique. My studio’s competition team and choreographed pieces have won awards at the regional and national levels such as “Best Costume”, “First Place Overall Solo” in the Petite, Junior, Teen, Senior and Adult age divisions, “First Place Overall Duet” in the Junior age division, “First Place Overall Trio” in the Petite, Junior and Teen age divisions, “First Place Overall Small Group” in the Petite, Junior and Teen age divisions, “Elite Top First”, “Diamond Elite Top First”, “Top First”, “Top Starz”, “Division I High Score”, “Best In Jazz”, “Best in Ballet”, “Best in Contemporary”, “Platinum”, “Platinum Plus”, Regional Title winners, invitations to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and SMU half time shows, cash awards, scholarships, and “Best Dance Studio” overall.

Each year I attend classes, conventions and workshops to further her dance education and her studio owner savvy. Over the years I have attended in studio classes, master classes and teacher training for ballet, pointe, contemporary, modern, hip-hop, tap and jazz with many well-known choreographers and master teachers such as Misty Lown, Alana Hess, Scott Combs, Austin Roberson, Debbie Landrum, Anna Marie Ewert-Pittman, Denise Wall, Ray Leeper, Mark Meismer, Dana Foglia, Chebar Williams, Stacey Tookey and Anthony Morigerato. The most inspiring teacher I have taken from recently was Mark Meismer. I adore taking class from him or listening to him talk about his love for the art of dance and the respect he has for his teachers!

My lifetime goal is to make a positive impact through my studio in every individual (students, parents, their families, community members, vendors, etc.) that I come in contact with. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the moment a dancer lights up because they have learned something new, overcome their fear of the stage, or when they (finally!) have their splits!! My biggest personal goal is to pass on my passion and love for dance to each and every student and to help my teachers retain and grow that same passion within themselves.

Has it been a smooth road?
I would say the hardest struggles I have had to overcome would be when I had to learn how to effectively balance work, school and my personal life when I was pregnant and right after I had my daughter. It was a hard time learning to be a present wife, mom of a newborn and going through postpartum blues while still being a business owner and Ms. Rachel the instructor/choreographer in the studio. I did not always do a great job at any of those titles but I think that I have become a lot better at learning to balance my time between them. There were a lot of times where I should have learned to put my studio phone/email down more at home and trusted my staff to handle things when I was out of the office.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Dance Prodigy Studios story. Tell us more about the business.
My dance studio is called Dance Prodigy Studios and is located about 45 minutes northeast of Dallas down I-30 in Greenville, Texas. At our studio we teach ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip-hop and pointe to all ages. We believe in providing the same level of professional instruction for everyone, for Beginners through Professional levels. My studio families love that we make everyone feel welcome.

Besides our value of technique, we are well known for recognizing the values and morals of the families at our studio and it is our promise as a studio to have clean age appropriate music, costumes, and choreography. I was homeschooled and my dad is a retired pastor. I try to always think of my parents’ values that they instilled in me when I review my teacher’s music, choreography and costume choices. I believe that it is not my choice as an adult influence in a dancer’s life to pick a revealing costume for them to wear while dancing onstage. I always ask for my company member’s parents input on anything that might be revealing. I recently had a dance mom message me about an article that she read about the influence of inappropriate costumes/clothes on a dancer’s self-esteem.

“I have always been grateful to have my girl dance at a studio where there is respect for her body and appearance at the studio and onstage. I know I can trust in clean & appropriate choreography for my daughter at your studio.” -Diana Sanchez

I strive to make a positive impact in our students by building up their self-esteem while also teaching them quality technique that they can use throughout their lifetime.

One more thing that I am really proud of is our winter ballet program. Each year we perform a fairy tale themed ballet with a winter twist in during the holiday season and donate all of the profits to a local charity.

Over the past 3 seasons we have performed Alice in a Winter Wonderland, Frozen, and the Nutcracker gathering around $10,000 in donations, hundreds of pounds of canned goods and frozen turkeys being donated to local charities as well as known families in need from the Greenville community. While being able to help out the community we are also able to teach life lessons to our ballet students with them realizing that their performance is helping provide for those in need within their community. This year we will be holding multiple performances of Beauty and the Beast starring Callie Golden and Emma Winters as Beauty at the historic Texan theater located in downtown Greenville, Texas. Each ticket is $25 and will provide not only admission to the ballet but also a full meal, gratuity and parking. The generous theater owner Barbara Horan and her chef James Horan are donating the venue, food, servers, lighting and sound. All of the ticket proceeds from this year’s ballet will be donated directly to the Hunt County Shared Ministries (FISH).

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
It is an exciting time for dance in Dallas area as more and more students are being recognized from local studios. Along with this growth and dance being seen on TV more I believe that the future of dance in north Texas is bright.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Mike Ward Photography
King Shots
Rockstarr & Co
Dance Prodigy Studios

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