Dream Believe Achieve – What a fabulous name for a dance studio! We were both intrigued (and in need of a good Fitness feature), so off we went to New Hartford to visit Carissa Monroe, or “Miss Carissa,” at her new studio. Take an adult tap class? “Why not?!” – which is quickly becoming our catch phrase!
Carissa has all the qualities you want in a dance studio owner and director – energetic, cheerful, fantastic dancer (obviously) and a good sense of humor. It was Halloween week so she was dressed as a ballerina princess, having just finished teaching a group of young children. How they must love being taught by the beautiful Miss Carissa! We already wanted to be her star pupils!
My years of tap dancing classes as a child served me absolutely no purpose that night. Lora (having done zero tap in her life) and I were equally “challenged,” but oh how we laughed and gave it our best shot! Luckily our co-students were a group of super encouraging ladies who cheered us on, every step-ball-change of the way.
The warm up was a breeze. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Right foot, left foot. Front, side. Shuffle right foot in a semi-circle, front to back. Heyyyy, look at us! Can I just tell you how satisfying it is to make that clickety-clicking noise with your feet?
As things got trickier, i.e. everything after the shuffle-ball-change, I found that it was easier to try to mimic the sound patterns being made, rather than the footwork. I’m not sure this method had anyone fooled, but who cares, it sounded right!!
We worked on a routine the class had been practicing for the past few weeks (you can drop in any time, they always review and break it down), The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars.
By the end of the hour, which whizzed by, we were “glowing” both in sweat (such a workout) and in accomplishment; we felt very successful! So much fun. Thank you, Miss Carissa!
We asked Miss Carissa some questions:
What was your background in dance before starting DBA?
I began dancing at the age of 8 years old and studied in ballet, tap, jazz, acrobatics, lyrical, and hip-hop at a local dance studio. Beginning at the age of 11, I was at my dance studio 6 days a week whether taking class or assisting with the younger students. I competed at dance competitions both regionally and nationally for 17 years.
In 2006, I was crowned Miss Dance Diva at a national dance competition. I was always known at competitions for my theatrical faces when I performed, receiving numerous special awards over the years for my technique as well as stage presence. I consider the stage my “home” and I find nothing more exciting than performing. I began teaching at two local dance studios in 2005 and continued teaching at both for 10 years prior to opening DBA Dance. There I worked with children ages 2 and a half through adults in many different styles of dance. I taught students both at the recreational level as well as competitive level and found nothing more rewarding than watching my students shine out on different stages at many different events over the years. In 2007 I began attending Dance Masters of America (DMA), a 4-year intensive dance teacher training school in Buffalo, NY. (We began year one with 212 people and by year 4 there were 26 of us if that tells you anything LOL). This is a very prestigious program with teachers traveling in from all over the world to be certified by the best of the best. While attending DMA I took classes in, ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, modern, contemporary, improvisation, musical theater, children’s work, acrobatics, liturgical, music and counting, dance notation, yoga, pilates, gyrokinesis, anatomy and kinesiology, comparative body movement, dance history, nutrition and stretch and strengthening classes. I graduated from the program in 2010, excelling in all of my exams and received my diploma from DMA and I am certified by test to teach dance. I continue to further my dance education constantly by attending seminars all over the US frequently, as dance is an ever evolving art form. I have studied with some of the world’s most renowned choreographers and teachers in the dance industry, that you see featured all over television constantly.
In 2011 I became a licensed Zumba Instructor and in 2012 a licensed Zumbatomic (Zumba for kids) Instructor. I also still continue to dance myself, constantly heading into NYC to take classes and train at Broadway Dance Center, Steps On Broadway and Alvin Ailey’s Dance Theater, as well as locally at the University of Hartford. In 2010 I went through many rounds of auditions for Fox’s TV show “So You Think You Can Dance”. In 2012 I began dancing with Rebecca Moore Dance Company, a modern based company out of New Milford, CT. And in 2013 I did some apprenticeship work with Catapult Entertainment (a shadow based dance troupe) under the direction of Adam Battlestein. Catapult were semi-finalists on America’s Got Talent, Season 8, in 2013. I traveled to Philadelphia with them for a performance, as well as being apart of commercial shoots for YMCA and William Raveis Realty and preparations as they got ready for each round of America’s Got Talent.
That about sums that up quickly…lol. Not easy to remember 19 years of my background. LOL.
What was the inspiration to start your own dance school?
I have always and will always say my biggest inspiration in life is my students. When I began assisting in dance classes at the age of 11 at my local dance studio I knew from that point forward that I wanted to work with children when I got older. Then I realized what better than combining my love of working with children and my love of dance together! From that point forward I dreamed of opening my own dance studio, and it’s still completely surreal to me to be living that dream out, that I’ve been preparing for the past 15 years. There is nothing more inspiring than watching a child beam with excitement when that tricky step they’ve been working FOREVER on finally clicks in their brain. Or to watch the young ones imaginations take over in class. My students become like my own kids and they inspire me to become a better dancer, teacher, and person every day of my life. I am committed to passing my love, passion and knowledge about this great art form down to them as well as teach them life lessons that they will carry with them forever.
I have always had a personal motto, it’s been tattooed on my foot for years, *Dream*Believe*Achieve*Inspire* (Dream big, Believe in yourself no matter what, Achieve everything you set out to do in life, and Inspire as many as you can along the way). Hence where the studio name came from, but what my students don’t realize I tell them all the time, as much as they say I inspire them they’re inspiring me just as much in return.
What do you love most about your job?
Ugh…this might be the hardest question ever. What is there not to love!?!?! I always told my Mom growing up that I never wanted a job that I woke up dreading to go to every morning, and I certainly made that dream come true. I look forward to every workday of mine, and I truly mean that. It doesn’t seem like work to me. I get to do what I love everyday, I stay in shape, I get to express my individuality and creative side but I think what I’m going to have to say what I love most about my job are the people and families I get to meet and work with. Thanks to dance I have 2 families in life, my biological family and my dance family. My students always seem to turn my bad days around instantly. Whether it be with their smiles, or colorings, or hugs or simply their “I Love You Miss Carissa!” statements, (I hear a lot of those). They warm my heart and have shaped me into the person that I am today. My student’s families are supportive and loving and kind and make my studio the warm atmosphere that I always dreamed of it being. The relationships I have formed with my young students all the way up to my teenagers and continuing on to the parents is something I will forever be thankful for.
Future dreams for the studio?
I have always dreamed of my studio being known as the community dance studio. A place where there is something offered for all ages of all abilities. A place for all ages to connect with others and create lifelong friendships. I want my students to learn about so much more than just the dance steps. We will pride ourselves in teaching our students about teamwork, confidence, focus, commitment, self-respect, and discipline. Most importantly though, our biggest dream for the future is to make our students and communities aware of those less fortunate. Through dance we want to reach out into our community and even further over time, to help those less fortunate. Our goal is to participate in a lot of charity work/events for small organizations as well as international to raise money to give back. Our mission is to teach the next generation that dancers can have a strong positive impact on the public simply through their movement. We want our dancers to understand that impact, and embrace that gift. This is the generation of dancers that can step up and make a change in human kindness and create positive attitudes for our future.
Current piece of music that you can’t hear without dancing?
I listen to ALL styles of music from country to classical and everything in between (my friends often laugh at my playlists). I love going back to “old school” jams, but if I were to pick something more current I’d have to say I catch myself jamming out to Natalie La Rose’s “Somebody” quite often! 🙂
Why should adults come try a tap class or hip hop class?
Our studio currently offers adult tap, hip-hop and lyrical/jazz for dance classes as well as all of our fitness classes. There’s so many benefits to dance; coordination, balance, posture, poise, confidence, socialization the list goes on. To top it all off it’s a great FUN workout. Who wants to go to a gym everyday of their life? I’d rather pop into a dance class, mingle with new or current friends and get my exercise in while having fun doing it and leave with a smile on my face. No one is ever too old to learn how to dance, because I do hear that often! And for those who took dance way back in the day it’s like riding a bike I promise it comes back much faster than you would think it does! Our bodies muscle memory certainly kicks in! Dance is something that everyone of ALL ages can participate in…there’s really no excuse not to dance! 😉
Bev’s Favorite Thing: Tapping away to my hearts content, right or wrong, it felt good!
Lora’s Favorite Thing: Getting a really good cardio workout in AND it didn’t feel like a workout!
Website – www.dbadance.com
Address – 283 Main Street, New Hartford CT, 06057