News-Sun photo by KATARA SIMMONS Gabriella Martens and little sister Chloe Martens are all smiles Tuesday evening during Union's Rhythm dance class in Avon Park.
click any photo to view this story's photo gallery
published: Friday, March 01, 2013
Local professional dancer offers free classes to youth
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
AVON PARK - Brandee Shattenberg's love of dance came about at a very early age. Since Shattenberg was just a toddler, the Avon Park native has made dance the center of her life over the past 28 years.
The 31-year-old dance instructor previously taught lessons in Wauchula, but with a new year came a new mission and Shattenberg discovered the need for her skills right here at home.
For the past six weeks, Shattenberg has been giving free dance lessons to local youth ages 4 and older. Shattenberg has made Union Church her new studio where she offers lessons to her students in four different genres every week, but unlike many other dance instructors in the area, Shattenberg offers her services for free.
"She decided to start a non-profit organization where kids can get free dances from a professionally trained instructor," friend Cynthia Berlin said.
Berlin went on to say what a big heart Shattenberg has and how the love of dance drives her to do great things.
"She's always had a passion for dance. She told me that my children were a big part of the reason she wanted to do this; that God called her to do this for parents who can't afford the lessons," Berlin said.
The thought was put into action and before she knew it Shattenberg's small studio of 40 students grew to 90 in just two short weeks. Shattenberg currently has 110 dancers enrolled in the Union's Rhythm dance studio.
"When I was growing up I had lessons, recitals, competitions so many things going on with dance. I sat down with my mom the other day and crunched the numbers and found out my parents were spending between $1,000 and $1,500 a month on dance. It is impossible for most of the parents to do that nowadays, so I decided that I wanted to do something here to give the kids a chance to dance and the opportunity to learn," Shattenberg said.
The petite instructor's passion for dance is so fierce that she does not charge a weekly or monthly fee for the students to participate. Parents are asked, however, to purchase dance shoes for students. Shattenberg continues to hold fundraisers to offset the costs of dance shoes and allows those who can not afford shoes to participate without them.
"I try to do as much as I can to help out ... Dance has always been a big, positive part of my life. Growing up, when something bad was going on or when I was stressed I'd just dance and I would feel better. Kids today don't always have the confidence like I did growing up; it's something a lot of them are lacking. I'm trying to build that confidence and this gives them something to look forward to and something to do every week," Shattenberg said.
Shattenberg knows that running a non-profit is real work and has heard a tiny amount of skepticism about having a no-charge dance instruction, but she pays it no mind. Shattenberg enjoys the freedom of dance and the hassle-free method of a no-cost studio.
"I love to dance. I'm not in it for the money," Shattenberg said.
Union's Rhythm dance instruction is held from 5-8:30 p.m. each Tuesday. Dancers aged 4-17 are given hands-on instruction in the genres of tap, jazz, ballet and hip-hop.
Currently, due to the high volume of students, there is a waiting list for the classes.
"I didn't want to have to close the doors on anyone, it just became so overwhelming, but the kids love it. It has been 100 percent positive feedback and I get more and more girls coming to sign up every week," Shattenberg said.
For more information or to be placed on the Union Church Union's Rhythm dance instruction waiting list contact Berlin at 443-6267 or Shattenberg at 873-1912.
Small Banner Ads