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Dance program makes art more accessible to children

Families with children who have always wished to dance, but have not been able to due to time or monetary constraints, may now able to experience the art form. Hearts in Motion offers a new type of dance studio.
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Hearts in Motion: Fall Schedule

Classes are $6.00 per class or $20.00 for a four class punch card.

Classes are on Saturdays.

9:40 a.m.-10:25 a.m. : Tiny Tots (2 year olds)

10:35 a.m.-11:20 a.m. : Let's Move (3 year olds)

11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m : Intro to Dance (4-5 year olds)

12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. : Ballet/Jazz Technique (6-10 year olds)

Weekday evening classes may be available depending on interest.

For more information: [email protected]


Hearts in Motion Dance Project was founded two years ago with a simple mission: make dance more accessible for families with children. Alison Brown, founder and head instructor of the project, felt the need for a new type of dance studio: one in which children could experience dance without the strict commitments and expensive costs.

Brown, who grew up dancing, felt this need on a personal level.

“My inspiration comes from my sisters. They danced at studios that charged an arm and a leg for a full year of classes and costumes, and the prices just kept adding up,” Brown says. “My parents decided they wouldn’t dance at those types of studios anymore. I had an idea for something different.”

Hearts in Motion offers drop-in style classes for flexibility and affordability, with the next session begining in September. Children can attend as little or as often as they wish. Parents will never have to commit to paying for a full year of dance and will never have to pay for a missed session.

The different facets of the dance project allow for a wide range of participants.

“People tend to assume that this is an inner-city dance project, but really, I have students that are coming from all over. I have kids come from Ada, from Allendale, I have families that can walk here,” Brown says. “For some families the low cost is the biggest benefit, but for others it’s the laid back atmosphere. I get a lot of different type of people, but really all the same in their love for dance.”

Brown says that summer tends to be the busiest time for families. Vacations, sports, barbeques and relaxation make it difficult for children to commit to a weekly dance schedule.

“I understand how busy families are. If they can’t come one week, or for a couple of weeks, that’s fine. We’ll always be happy to welcome them back,” Brown says.

The cost of dance classes can scare away parents as well. Traditional studios in the Grand Rapids area can have a monthly tuition fee ranging from $30 to $105 and the the price per costume may cost upwards of $65.

“Some kids would love to be able to take dance classes, but their families just can’t fit it in their budget," Brown says. “For them, dance classes may seem the least important thing to spend money on. My classes make it a little easier because it’s at a price they are more comfortable with.”

Schools run tight budgets, just as families do, Brown says.

“They may be trying not to, but sometimes schools have to make cuts. A lot of times, it’s the arts that get cut first,” she says. “Kids need a creative outlet, something that makes them think and something that makes them feel proud.”

According to Brown, the benefits of dance do not stop there. Higher confidence, greater cognitive skills, and better physical health are positive aspects of dance for children. In a typical dance session at Hearts in Motion, children are using their brains and their bodies for 45 minutes.

“I started this because I am super passionate about making the arts more accessible for kids. I feel that any type of art is great for children, not just dance. I’m just playing my part in it,” Brown says.

Brown, who currently rents space from Wealthy Theatre, says that it may be a while before a permanent setting is acquired.

“The past two years have been a series of trials,” Brown says. “I’ll test a class and if it works and people come, I’ll do it again. I’d love to have a permanent studio of my own, but that’s a huge financial risk. I’ll be doing some more trials in the future to see if that is something that’s attainable.”

Brown’s financial success and personal view of success are not always mutual.

“It’s a financial struggle sometimes,” Brown says. “If not enough kids show up, I might not break even that day, but it’s something that I just love to do and am happy to get out of bed for it every morning.”

Hearts in Motion hosts a recital twice a year. Families must sign up to take part in the recital, but Brown explains that it is a motivator and something that children look forward to.

“The kids just get so excited to go up on stage and show their families what they’ve worked so hard on,” she says. “Most kids who sign up to be in the recital try to come every week to practice, but we get others who join shortly before. We make it work. Everybody can be involved.”

“I love to do it, to teach dance to these children,” Brown says. “It’s amazing to watch the children grow into confident dancers."

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thanks, Chels

Thanks for reporting on this. Dance in GR has been an amazing thing to witness for me.  It is an artform I appreciate yet do not completely understand. 

Alison definitely built this from the ground up. I was lucky enough to be involved with Wealthy Theatre as she was starting out and got to see the immediate growth and her personal dedication. 

Other organizations such as Dance in the Annex (DITA) and The Moving Company are great representations of the diversity in our city's arts community.

Alison is an integral part of that as well offfering low priced classes for different levels and using a great community space in Wealthy Theatre.

Good stuff.