The dance will go on

Rhythm El­e­ments Dance Stu­dio to take in aban­doned Star­bound dancers

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - KAYLA ROBINS krobins@cov­news.com

From the heart­break and frus­tra­tion re­cently sur­round­ing the clos­ing of Star­bound Dance Stu­dio in Por­terdale and its owner’s sud­den can­cel­la­tion of a dance recital and fail­ure to re­fund fees fi­nally came a bright note.

Four par­ents af­fected by Va­lerie Odom’s swift de­par­ture from Star­bound Dance Stu­dio teamed up with the di­rec­tors of Rhythm El­e­ments Dance Stu­dio, also in Por­terdale, to open its new stu­dio in the now-va­cant Star­bound space and are ex­pected to open the doors on Satur­day, June 7 at 10 a.m. for the pre-planned sum­mer in­ten­sive classes for the stu­dio’s com­pe­ti­tion dance team.

Those same doors will shut off the past hurt as Tom and Gina John­son and An­to­nio and Me­gan Reid wish to move on and fo­cus on what re­ally mat­ters: the kids. And dancing. “We’re just look­ing for­ward to mov­ing ahead,” said

Me­gan Reid. “We don’t want our dancers to lose in­ter­est over the sum­mer or any of their tech­nique.”

Reid, whose two chil­dren, Marie, 7, and A.J., 9, at­tended Star­bound this past year – A.J. was also on the Com­pe­ti­tion Ju­nior Hip-Hop Team – al­ready has her plate full with her full-time job. She served as the mu­nic­i­pal court clerk of Por­terdale for five years be­fore be­com­ing the city clerk for the past two. But she said she couldn’t pass up the op­por­tu­nity.

“My kids love dancing down there (at Star­bound). I was al­ready down there twice a week, and I had a huge in­ter­est in it. I’ve al­ways wanted to own my own busi­ness,” Reid said. “It was the right time.

“So Gina and I spoke, and she of­fered to part­ner with me, so now we’re go­ing to run the busi­ness. She’s a suc­cess­ful busi­ness owner, and I felt like it was a good fit.”

Gina John­son and her hus­band, Tom, have owned Multi-Care Cen­ter in Cony­ers for more than 18 years. Their daugh­ter, Sophia, who will turn nine at the end of June, has been dancing with Rhythm El­e­ments for two years and was on Star­bound’s Com­pe­ti­tion Ju­nior Hip-hop Team for the 2013-2014 sea­son, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to par­ent Wanda Rosado from Gina John­son and Me­gan Reid.

“We were all hurt by what un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent hap­pened, but we all wanted to stay to­gether. This is the best way. We’ve formed some great friend­ships, and we’re look­ing for­ward to see­ing all the kids we’ve grown to love over the past year,” Reid said.

Reid said she is not among the group of par­ents pur­su­ing le­gal ret­ri­bu­tion against Odom.

She said she just is go­ing to move on.

“We re­ally want this to be a pos­i­tive thing,” Reid said. “We’re look­ing to bounce back and be bet­ter than ever.”

What she said seemed like stars align­ing led to the part­ner­ship with Rhythm El­e­ments di­rec­tor Ja­son Croom and in­struc­tor Cor­nelia Virella.

Croom is trained in hiphop, the­ater dance, chore­og­ra­phy and act­ing and is a dance coach. Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to Wanda Rosado, Croom and his dance crew, Swag­ger Crew, were the re­gional win­ners of MTV’s Amer­ica’s Best Dance Crew, and he was a coach on the MTV show “Made.”

Reid said some par­ents were al­ready send­ing their chil­dren to Croom and Virella’s stu­dio – who have been sub­leas­ing one room from an­other stu­dio and look­ing to ex­pand – in­clud­ing the John­sons’ daugh­ter.

“I’ve wit­nessed Ja­son and Cor­nelia in ac­tion, taken my kids for vis­its. They do an amaz­ing job,” Me­gan Reid said. “They were look­ing for a stu­dio, but they wanted to do the dance part. We want the man­age­ment to be cor­rect, so why not put it all to­gether?”

“We just were re­ally sur­prised with what went down, and to see the sit­u­a­tion (the par­ents and chil­dren) were in was heart­break­ing,” said Cor­nelia Virella, an in­struc­tor at Rhythm El­e­ments who has been help­ing Croom with the move. “We didn’t want to see them like that. The chil­dren put in so much work, and we def­i­nitely wanted them to have a recital and cer­tainly want them to con­tinue their dance ed­u­ca­tion.”

Virella, who is trained in bal­let, tap, jazz, mod­ern, lyri­cal, African and hip-hop dances, said she hopes the re­open­ing of a stu­dio in place of Star­bound will “take the kids’ minds away from the neg­a­tive and give them some­thing to look for­ward to.”

“We didn’t want the chil­dren to think that all adults be­have badly be­cause it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to set ex­am­ples for the kids,” Virella said. “This is re­ally about the kids. I know the par­ents pay the money, but we wanted the kids to un­der­stand that there are adults who are adults to the full sense of the word.”

Virella said the stu­dio in­tends to ex­pand on Star­bound’s Zumba class by of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of new classes, in­clud­ing car­dio hip-hop, for adults to bring in health com­po­nents.

“When you have par­ents with a health fo­cus it trick­les down to the chil­dren,” Virella said. “It’s about more than dancing. It’s about be­ing healthy and eat­ing prop­erly and treat­ing your body well.”

Rhythm El­e­ments will still have the com­pet­i­tive dance and for-fun rec classes Star­bound em­bod­ied, Virella said, but will be­gin to in­tro­duce drama and vo­cal classes. She said the goal is for Rhythm El­e­ments to not just be a dance stu­dio but a per­form­ing arts pro­gram.

“It gives us an op­por­tu­nity to fol­low our vi­sion and work with these kids on a whole dif­fer­ent level,” Virella said.

She also said dance is about fam­ily and not just one per­son. To prove this, she said the stu­dio in­tends to give dis­counts for fam­i­lies who at­tend to­gether.

Virella was trained by chore­og­ra­phers Alvin Ai­ley and Mia Michaels and, in ad­di­tion to dancing, is an ac­tress, chore­og­ra­pher and di­rec­tor, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to Wanda Rosado. Her and Croom’s full cre­den­tials can be found at rhyth­mele­ments.com.

Af­ter re­mod­el­ing the space and re­open­ing the stu­dio that was shut with hardly an ex­pla­na­tion, par­ents, chil­dren and dancers may fi­nally be­gin to fo­cus on what this whole sit­u­a­tion be­gan with.

“We want all of the re­la­tion­ships to con­tinue,” Virella said, “to calm things down, set­tle things down, and get back to the busi­ness of dance. And just move for­ward.”

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