When Laura Stein moved to New Orleans from New York three years ago, she had difficulty finding a community for adult dance classes. So, Stein took it upon herself to offer “underground” lessons at her home on Dauphine Street. The classes were a hit, and she partnered with Jessi Donley to form Dancing Grounds. They soon realized the need for a bigger commercial space, and with the help of a landlord and a successful $16,000 Kickstarter campaign, Dancing Grounds transformed a shotgun on St. Claude Avenue into a gorgeous dance studio.
Stein notes that there was a big need for this type of dance outlet in the city. To date, she estimates 1,600 adults and 1,000 children have taken lessons from her. She credits the community support from volunteers and schools for helping the organization grow.
Promoting dance is an “easy sell,” she says. “People love to dance themselves or watch others dance.” The supporters of Dancing Grounds noticed the need for dance first and then responded to that need. At this point, she has no trouble filling classes.
Dance is a holistic form of exercise with many benefits, but traditional studios can be intimidating to people without a dance background. Dancing Grounds strives to remove those barriers. Stein hopes everyone can walk in and feel welcome, and her goal is to make the studio a “comfortable, safe environment to explore dance.”
Furthermore, Dancing Grounds offers a membership model similar to many gyms. For a monthly fee, dancers can try out an unlimited number of weekly classes. In addition, Dancing Grounds offers yoga and pilates lessons.
Dancing Grounds also offers a number of dance classes for children. Stein notes that the kids were thrilled to finally get access to a studio and now act like they “run the joint.”
“To start any organization or business requires complete dedication,” says Stein. But because she and her dancers get to do what they love, the time and effort is worthwhile.
With Dancing Grounds’ rapid growth, funding is the organization’s biggest challenge and donors are always welcome. In particular, scholarships for children are needed. In addition, Stein would like to help make dance a more sustainable career, noting that there’s real value and skill in teaching.