Waldwick, NJ: When you think of a typical dance competition, you may have scenes in your mind of the reality show Dance Moms where a teacher, some talented kids and their mothers venture out into the brave, anxiety-ridden world of contests. At these events it might seem like your whole life depends on what the judges think of you and how you score. While the dancers often try to be gracious to one another, the mothers are frequently behind the scenes complaining. They might put down the teacher, the studio, the other competitors even ones in their own children’s class, gossip and break confidences. Stressful doesn’t even begin to describe it. On Dance Moms the dancers win trophies galore in this atmosphere.
But Kelley and Danielle Larkin (aunt and niece), owners of Studio L Dance Co. in Waldwick, Hoboken and Bridgewater, NJ are adamant that the above scenario is NOT how to win, at least not in the long run. It’s not about going for the gold, stepping on people’s toes or speaking negatively of others. Studio L has been known in the community precisely for their competitive dance teams and they’ve also won a multitude of trophies. (although dancers of all abilities are all welcome and have a place to dance at Studio L) There are celebrity dance teachers and some students work 7 days a week on their training and routines. (although there are plenty of dance opportunities for students who come just 1 day a week, too)
So, how is it that so many dancers thrive as competitors without succumbing to the stereotype?
It’s because, according to Kelley Larkin, teaching dance isn’t the primary goal or focus. “We credit our entire team of committed and talented teachers and administrators who focus first on teaching these students about being a good person, and secondly on being a dancer. 6 of these staff members ‘Team Larkin’ are dedicated practically 24/7 (Kelley and Danielle Larkin, Nicole Laguardia, Jamie Gallo, Tyler Glovin, and Jessica Fernandez) and triple as directors, teachers and choreographers.”
Kelley adds, “Our number one goal is to produce confident, respectful, disciplined, hard-working and caring young women and men. Their success is due to their time management and work ethic.”
Here are some of the main principles of the Studio L programs:
Kelley Larkin is one of several sisters in her immediate family who dance, and she has 3 talented nieces, all who dance, including co-owner Danielle Larkin who has had a prominent career in jazz, lyrical and modern dance. Kelley’s mom was a dance studio owner for most of her career and was nationally known as a leader in the industry. Kelley and her sisters who grew up in Minnesota would travel with mom all over the country for dance competitions and would often take advanced trainings in NYC. Kelley’s sisters are carrying on their mother’s legacy and famous Larkin Dance Studio in Minnesota while Kelley extends the family business on the East Coast.
Shari Beagelman, a Studio L mom told the Bergen County Review the following:
“Studio L changes kids’ lives. My girls grew so much, and I look to Kelley to help raise them. I know my girls will turn out to be amazing humans because of Kelley and Studio L Dance. Kelley’s niece Danielle is a breathtaking talented choreographer that takes dance to another level. Danielle has a special positive but disciplined approach of encouraging kids to dance their best and not accept any less.”
She adds, “I won’t have my girls dance anywhere else. I literally can’t because the training both physically and mentally and sense of family and teamwork are beyond top notch. I feel safe having my girls dancing at Studio L. They learn to make good decisions and draw deep within to dance with their hearts and through their souls.”
Business expert Jim Loehr wrote a book called The Only Way to Win: How Building Character Drives Higher Achievement and Greater Fulfillment in Business and Life. The premise of the book is exactly as the title states. There are many ways people try to compete in business just as there are ways people compete in dance.
However, like Jim Loehr says, there’s only ONE way to win a dance competition every time and the Larkins would agree. And, that is to get up there knowing that you’ve worked with all your might, that you’ve grown as a person, that you’ve given of yourself to others for the greater good, you’ve bridged relationships, and you’ve developed an inner strength from living with integrity. So, when the judge says you need to improve your extension, scores you down a few points because you fell down, or someone doesn’t like your routine, you are grateful for their feedback and you take it to improve for next time.
When all these elements are in place, you’ve won. Every time. Trophy or not.
For more information on Studio L Dance Co. in Waldwick, NJ please see www.studioldance.com.