The History of HMD (Part 1)
As we end decades week here at HMD, I've been spending a lot of time thinking back on the last decade of dance here at Hearts in Motion. I have realized that so many of our dancers might not know the history of the studio. Many of our dance parents were likely not even parents when we first started this journey and SO much has changed in the span of 10 years. I thought it would be fun to use this blog to share a little bit about the history of HMD for anyone who doesn't know our story!
The story starts back in 2010 with me, Miss Ali, graduating from GVSU with a degree in Public Relations and Business. Throughout my college experience I'd been part of a group called GVSU Dance Troupe which was an on campus club. We put on shows each semester with ticket proceeds going to a good cause and I can honestly say that my best dance and college memories came from being part of that group! I choreographed many pieces for the organization and served on the executive board running all of the fundraising for the group my senior year. Here is one of the last photos I had with this group (it's me on the far left)! Miss Kylie is in the picture too (see if you can spot her)!
While I had technically graduated, I had one last class to take during Spring Semester at GVSU. During that time I started to dream up this idea. During that Spring and Summer I had interviewed at a few PR firms and nothing about that had quite felt right to me. I knew I was going to miss dancing and teaching dance so I started trying to figure out how I could incorporate those things into my life going forward. Of course, what would make more sense than creating my own program to teach dancers rather than trying to teach for someone else? I must have always had that entrepreneurial mindset without even knowing it! I talked to my family about it and we tried to come up with name ideas. I knew I wanted it to be a program that would reach a lot of students, spread a love for the art of dance, and make it accessible and flexible to all. It was actually my mom (who MANY of you know from the front desk) who came home one day with the idea for the name Hearts in Motion. I LOVED it and I knew right away that was the perfect name. I decided to add Dance Project to the end of it at the time because at that time I had a different plan for HMD than what we know it as now. At that time, I planned on offering 100% drop-in classes. I had attended drop-in classes for myself as an adult dancer but had never heard of such a thing for kids so that was where I started! I spent a lot of time searching for a location which was not the easiest task. Eventually, I found out that the Wealthy Theatre in Eastown had a dance studio attached. It was perfect! I paid my deposit for a handful of weeks and set out on trying to figure out how to get students!
I look back now at the beginnings of the studio and know that I was a little naive to think I could just rent out a studio and people would come but I think that attitude has definitely helped me in so many ways. There is a quote by Mel Robbins that says "Start before you're ready. Don't prepare, begin." I've always been a little bit of that mindset. While I do value preparation and attention to detail (especially now as I've gained more experience), there is something to be said about pushing yourself and starting before you're ready! I also firmly believe that without starting some things before we are ready we won't have the chance to fail and without failure we won't learn. Another favorite quote of mine by John Maxwell is "Fail early, fail often but always fail forward." So, I figured out the paperwork I needed to file with the state to create a business, went to the Ada 4th of July parade to pass out fliers and created a Facebook page to start spreading the word! About a week later, we hosted our first dance classes at the Wealthy Theatre Annex. It was absolutely AMAZING, the greatest feeling in the world, and approximately 6 people came the whole day (LOL)! See that's the funny thing about "failure"; It's all dependent on your perspective. At the time I was just ecstatic that anyone came to my classes. I was SO ready to share my joy of dance that it didn't matter if only one student came!
Classes were held on Saturdays. Dancers could pay for one class at a time or purchase a punch card to keep coming throughout the Summer. I remember printing and cutting out the punch cards to bring to the studio and carrying all of my dance props in a bag with me from week to week. Each week we'd have a couple more dancers join to come try things out as word spread! I was finally able to put my business casual wear that I'd purchased for interviews to good use for an article about the studio!
At this point, I was loving teaching so much that it became super clear to me that I had potentially majored in the wrong field (yikes!). I was teaching dance on the weekends and working for my dad in his office during the week (to be clear, the back office for a sports memorabilia store is really not my sweet spot either). I started looking into what it would take for me to go back to school to get my elementary teaching certificate. There was a meeting for a graduate teaching program at Grand Valley in early August for those who had already graduated and were interested in going back to school to get their teaching certification. After that meeting, I decided to go forward with the program. I loved teaching dance and thought I could continue to teach dance on the weekends or part time and teach at a school during the week. It would be a 2 year program because I would first need to get a teachable major (which would require a full year's worth of 18 credits each semester), followed by my teacher assisting, student teaching and graduate classes. I enrolled in classes and got started at the end of August. Looking back at this Summer, SO many things happened and I made some of the most important decisions I've ever made (though I didn't know it at the time)! While, in the end, I didn't necessarily need to pursue my teaching degree in order to run the studio, it is something I've found to be invaluable over the years. That experience truly helped me to grow as an educator, communicator and a leader.
Originally, I thought this would just be one blog post but I think this is a good stopping point for the moment. The first few months of HMD were so exciting and I learned so much. Many of you weren't there at this time so I love sharing the story of those small beginnings as well as what led to the decisions I made. I'm excited to continue sharing how things developed and grew from there, and many of the memories we've made along the way!