Performance Opportunities: Annual full-length ballet and contemporary concerts, plus an annual charity production - Guest Teachers: Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Kristen Gorski, Liz Imperio
When their studio burned down in 2011, Jana Monson and her husband faced a turning point. "We had to decide, 'Do we close, or do we pick up?'" she says. Ultimately, they pulled together funding with a $750,000 mortgage, savings and insurance payments for construction of a purpose-built 30,000-square-foot building with 11 studios, sprung marley floors, dressing rooms, waiting and homework areas, an office and a teachers' lounge. "It's amazing how much stronger we are," Monson says. "We couldn't have had the success without that trial, because we didn't have the space for it." More importantly, she says, "all the kids in the community realized that you can overcome hard things." Dance and life skills are inseparable at CAA. Monson brings in about 15 guest teachers each year. "It gets the kids connections, and then when we go to conventions, they're familiar with people," she says. "It makes it exciting." In addition to winning top convention prizes, Monson's students have amassed an impressive resumé of corporate commercials, TV roles, modeling jobs and university scholarships. Yet her overriding interest is in cultivating them as people who are ready to go to college, develop professional dance careers and be mature, caring adults. "We do a benefit concert every year for either a local family in financial need or a charity," she says. "The seniors help run it. It really helps them develop leadership skills and gets them ready for college." The benefit has raised more than $120,000 since 2009, and everyone plays a role in fundraising and performing. "Even down to ages 5 and 6, the kids are really getting that mission: 'What else can you do with dance, besides just for yourself?'"