The dance will go on
Rhythm Elements Dance Studio to take in abandoned Starbound dancers
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.”