Maybe it’s the mountain air, the golden sunshine or the alpine elevation. There’s just something about Utah that makes it an astonishing source of outstanding dancers, from ballroom and TV stars like Derek and Julianne Hough to ballerina Whitney Jensen.
To uncover the secrets of Utah’s success, Dance Teacher turned to three of Utah’s most influential studio owners in the Salt Lake City area: Jana Monson of Creative Arts Academy to the north in Bountiful, and, in southerly Orem, Kim DelGrosso of Center Stage Studio and Sheryl Dowling of The Dance Club.
These women have carved out unique niches in the region’s incredibly crowded market. (“There is, honestly, I kid you not, a dance studio on every corner of where my studio is,” DelGrosso says.) They consistently turn out some of the state’s top talent while always focusing on helping kids develop self-esteem and maturity, as well as artistry. Here they share business perspectives, their personal philosophies—and some insight into Utah’s dance magic.
Photo by Kim Raff
Center Stage Studio
– Enrollment: 700, ages 2–18
– Faculty: 31
– Weekly Classes: 200+ in jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop, acro, ballroom, musical theater and vocal
– Teams: 13 jazz companies, 5 vocal companies, 4 hip-hop companies
– Competition: 4 conventions, 1 National annually
– Performance Opportunities: 2 annual student showcases, musical theater productions
– Guest Teachers: Talia Favia, Teddy Forance, Randi Kemper and Hefa Tuita
Teacher, entrepreneur, producer, casting go-to: Kim DelGrosso qualifies as an impresario.
The Center Stage artistic director has trained a who’s who of “Dancing With the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” artists in their youth: Derek and Julianne Hough, her own daughter Ashly Costa, Lindsay Arnold and Witney Carson, and Tony Award–winning choreographer Mandy Moore, who studied at her previous studio in Colorado.
But through her side company, DelGrosso Productions, she also creates entertainment for industrial events and helps cast dancers in TV and film. “Because I am connected to so many professional dancers,” she says, “I am able to book them.” It’s a nice bit of synergy: “The school supports it, and the talent supports it, and the studio supports the rehearsals.”
DelGrosso and co-owners Alex and Robin Murillo have shepherded CS’s transformation from the tiny studio it was in 1989 into a state-of-the-art facility encompassing nine studios, offices, a black-box theater, a lounge, a snack bar and a dancewear shop, plus separate ballroom and acro studios. Private rentals keep the studios full and help cover costs.
Alex runs the business side, freeing DelGrosso to teach. “I love being in the trenches,” DelGrosso says. She develops new programs in response to dancers’ needs and trends—musical theater, acting and voice divisions, for example, are all booming. Ballroom has become so big at CS that the studio co-produces an NDCA-sanctioned Utah DanceSport Challenge competition.
The success and accolades are nice, but “my core philosophy is that dance is the right of every person on this planet,” DelGrosso says. And to that end CS has a nonprofit foundation that provides need-based tuition scholarships.
“To bring people to a place where they find satisfaction
in storytelling through movement, or singing or acting, I feel like it’s absolutely critical in today’s world.”