gmhTODAY 22 gmhToday Oct Nov 2018 - Page 113

49ers, the Oakland Warriors, the Dallas Cowboys and the San Diego Chargers. A Recipe for Success As interested children come into the studio, they are initially grouped by age, but very quickly the teachers assess their skills and readiness, and move them into classes based on their skill level. The kids are then given a wide artistic exposure to multiple kinds of dance ranging from ballet to hip-hop, jazz, tap and contemporary. Lana partly credits this wide range of dance styles to their continued success in competitions. “My kids do so well because they can pick up any style,” she said. “You can’t be a well-rounded dancer if you only take from one teacher.” There’s more to her formula of success, however, she said. “Our theory is that all of my teachers work together and there’s no ego. All the teachers have a piece of the pie.” She raves about her teachers, of whom she has about 11 on staff right now. Most of them have other jobs, as well, and some may only teach one style, but she counts them as family. Wright herself still teaches, as well, something about which she said she is often asked. She is particularly excited about what one of her teachers, named Brooke, is bringing to the program. Brooke was one of the youngest professional ballerinas to dance with the San Francisco Ballet and Boston Ballet companies, at age 17. She went on to open her own ballet school in Idaho, and then moved back to Morgan Hill. “She did a whole new syllabus for the ballet program, bringing her knowledge. It’s exciting because the kids are pro- gressing nicely,” Wright shared. She also emphasizes discipline and organization. “If you’re not disciplined in the classroom, you can’t get any- thing accomplished. You have to be organized, be on time, and bring all your equipment.” Many of the kids who end up on the competitive teams, she said, are “Type-A, and leaders” and her staff works hard to help these kids learn to take a step back when necessary, and to shine when they can. “We remind them that everyone is going to get a turn.” Eventually, the stronger personalities level out and the shyer kids learn to step forward. “It’s so great to see them all work together.” For the Love of Dance The competitive side of the program takes dedication and work, and can be intense at times, so Wright said they try to lighten it up by having as much fun with them as possible. Whether that’s Wright herself dressing up as a hip-hop version of Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh” and dancing with the kids, or skit nights, which bring levity and teamwork together. She always tries to emphasize to the kids, “It’s not about placing [at a competition] but doing better each time.” “To survive in this industry is tough, but we have our system.” She recounted the praise of a woman who witnessed her teams dancing at Nationals. “She said ‘I don’t know what your formula is, but just keep doing it, because it works.’” Wright reiterates that it’s not the trophies that make her proud, but the growth of the children who come through her program. “It’s seeing these kids grow and become these great individuals,” she said. She still receives texts and emails from many students who have gone on to college and beyond. The studio runs full-time programming from September to June, for all ages, from two years old all the way up to adults, concluding with the annual show, and then drops into a slightly slower summer program. During the summer months they do roll out two-week intensives, which are a requirement for anyone wishing to qualify for a competitive team. Sometimes Wright is approached for special lessons, such as a recent gig choreographing a dance for a debutante ball where the teenage boys admitted dancing was a lot more work than they realized. When she’s not teaching, Wright is busy doing all of the other admin- istrative tasks that come with a business, and not least of all, is person- ally responsible for the ordering and sizing of the hundreds of costumes for the show. They are also consid- ering expanding the Morgan Hill location with an additional room to accommodate additional students. While she imagines she’ll retire and travel someday, handing off the busi- ness to her daughter to run, right now she’s happy being in the thick of it. Mainly, Wright is proud to have “put a little stamp” on her students’ lives. Power of Dance While dance undoubtedly builds physical strength and skills, Wright also expounds upon the intangible benefits and life skills it teaches: “It gives kids confidence they can use in school. You have to be able to stand up in front of a class. You have to learn to wait your turn. It teaches them to be kind and thankful.” GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2018 113