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Wednesday, September 1,2010

Stepping up, Spartan-style

New dance center features everything from ballroom to hip-hop

by Jane Alexander
Tiffany Russell has seen a lot of dance studios. She attended four dance academies, danced abroad in over 100 cities and performed in seven musicals.

But when she had her second child, her dancing needs changed. She wanted to find a dance studio that would be conducive to a hectic mother’s schedule, yet still challenged her as a dancer. After scouring the Lansing area and coming up dry, she finally decided she’d just have to create one herself.


At Spartan Dance Studio, dancers can purchase classes in varying amounts or with club cards, as it suits their situation. They attend only when their schedule permits it, but when they do show up, Russell says, they will get their money’s worth.


"It’s more userfriendly," Russell said. "It’s very understanding of the fact that people have families, they have exams, they have other things that pop up in their daily schedules that can’t allow them to be in class every week. So we’re giving them the freedom to keep dancing, stay fit, use it as a health resource and come in and have fun."


The studio will hosti open houses for its adult classes today from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. The studio welcomes all skill levels and offers a range of dance options, from ballroom to bboying — that’s breakdancing, for those who haven’t spent much time spinning on their backs on the sidewalk.


"In a lot of the studios I looked at when I came here, I was meeting a lot of college girls who were saying, ’The places we’re going to — they’re not fun, it’s mom and pop-run studios,’" Russell said. "It just wasn’t challenging for them, or youthful. Dance is kind of like fashion trends: Dance styles are con stantly evolving, so you can’t do one thing one year and 10 years later still be doing the same thing and expecting it to be current. It’s always changing."


As Russell settled in to her new studio, she gradually lined one of its walls with pictures of her dance teachers — and she quickly realized she’d need more frames.


"My teaching staff is very deep. I’ve got a Pistons dancer that’s coming up as an instructor. A lot of my kids have traveled to New York and L.A. for professional instructions; a lot of them are certified. I’ve got two Cecchetti level four tested-out ballerinas, which is pretty much as high as you can get for testing in ballet. Tom (Morosky, an instructor in bboying and hip hop) and Hongda (Shen, also a hip-hop and bboying teacher) both compete in battles for bboying and Tom had gone to L.A. and made it into the final rounds of ‘America’s Best Dance Crew.’ So I’ve got some really talented people.


“I’ve got 15 people on staff and they’re all college kids. I’m as old as they come right now."


All of the teachers are from Michigan, 10 from Michigan State University and LCC.


The studio also accepts Sparty Cash, money stored on MSU IDs to be used as a balance account.


"We’re the only place right now that’s fitness-based that’s involved in Sparty Cash,” Russell said. “There’s a tanner, and the rest are all restaurants, so we’re very excited to be bringing a fitness name to Sparty Cash."


Russell hopes to eventually offer advanced dance classes and competition options. She also wants to expand to a larger studio in the area, but all this depends on the community, she says.


"Based on the need the public gives me, based on what happens, I’m already looking at a space that’s 4,000 square feet that we will make a state-of-the-art dance studio. We would be moving into it in January. But a lot of that depends on the community really saying, ’You wanna know what? This is what we want and we really want to get behind it.’"


Spartan Dance Center


217 Ann St., East Lansing www.spartandancecenter.com (517) 999-5415



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