New dance studio hits its stride
September 24, 2009
When Jennifer Voxakis closed Rocky Mountain Dance Academy in Frisco in June, after 18 years, it left a void in the dance community.
So Kelly Monahon, who had worked at Voxakis’ studio, jumped in to fill the space – literally. She remodeled the studio, located downstairs in the Frisco Mall, from top to bottom; she stripped three layers of flooring, resprung the dance floor and put down a new surface specially made for dancers, and she painted, added new ceiling tiles, bars, a stereo system and a dressing room.
On Sept. 14, she and two other instructors, Heidi Swatzloff and Robyn Lerner, started teaching ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and modern to kids, with an additional adult hip-hop class on Thursdays. The six weeks or so prior, they focused on teaching choreography to the 19 kids in Alpine Vibes, the academy’s dance company that competes in four to six events a year.
Monahon grew up in New York, started dancing at age 3 and trained for 15 years at the Country Academy of Dance under renowned dancers from the New York City Ballet. She taught dance for more than a decade in New York and Boston before deciding to become a ski bum for a season, to take a break from teaching and performing in dance companies.
But once Summit County got a hold on her, it wouldn’t let go; she’s now entering her fifth season here, and she doesn’t have plans to leave anytime soon.
However, when she began teaching in Summit, she ran into a bit of a clash of perspectives.
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“It was kind of an uphill battle, because dance is (mostly) considered an after-school activity instead of an art form, like back East,” Monahon said.
Her biggest challenge: Kids wanted to wear sweats (or even worse – jeans) to ballet class rather than the standard tights and leotard. Her solution: Fine ’em.
For every item kids missed, from tying their hair in a bun to donning leotards and tights, they had to pay $5 to the Summit Dance Fund, which Monahon founded last year as a nonprofit to provide scholarships for local dancers to continue their dance education outside of Summit County. Suddenly, the kids began to respond.
Monahon believes attending class properly dressed translates into more concentration and discipline, and her students proved her correct.
“It was a pretty interesting little transformation,” Monahon said.
Though in print, Monahon may sound rigid, she’s anything but. She’s simply dedicated to teaching dance – and teaching it well. Her vision: To give serious dancers the same opportunities for success as city kids have. She also wants recreational dancers to have a fun place to explore.
“She’s very passionate about what she does, and she see the girls through to completion,” said Tammy Campbell, whose 16-year-old daughter, Bailee, studies with Monahon. “If they’re having a bad day, she’s there for them.”
Jan Brewer, whose 16-year-old daughter, Jordan, takes lessons from Monahon thinks Monahon is “awesome” at what she does.
“She gets down with them on their level,” Brewer said. “She deals with them quite nicely.”