By Carolyn Marnon – Melissa Tracy and Emily Rodler believe it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to train a child in dance or gymnastics. They took that quote with unknown origins and used it as the philosophy behind their almost 2-year old business – Village Dance and Company hidden inside the Metro Place Mall at the entrance near Nick’s Coney Island. “Be your own kind of beautiful” is a message on the wall.
Melissa and Emily met when they both worked for the Wayne Parks and Recreation Department at the old Wayne Rec Center. When the Parks and Recreation Department closed, they stayed in touch and held an 8-week class together at the Romulus Parks and Recreation Department. The students culminated that class with a big show.
After that, the duo were antsy to get back to teaching dance together. They felt like something was missing in their lives. Emily had been checking out some sites for a possible dance studio, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2016 that they located a spot at Metro Place Mall that worked for them. They knew they wanted to be in Wayne. The kids they knew lived in Wayne. They also wanted to be close to where those kids lived.
Neither lady appears to be a lady of leisure. Both work 9-5 jobs during the week. Melissa works on the line at Michigan Assembly Plant. Emily works for a corporate insurance company. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and Saturday mornings find them at their dance studio teaching ballet, gymnastics, tap, hip hop, lyrical and some jazz dance.
Pleased that former students from their Parks and Rec days have found them, they also have students that came from the Romulus program as well.
Melissa started her dance career at the age of 5 in the Parks and Recreation programs. As she got older, she danced at other places. As a high school cheerleader, she got into gymnastics. After graduating from Wayne Memorial High School, she started coaching cheer. She did a short stint as coach of the Detroit Diesel’s cheerleaders. Her three children were all in dance at one time or another. Her son, currently a high school senior, uses a front handspring as one of his moves in wrestling. When the Parks and Rec closed, it left Melissa with a sad feeling. She had worked at almost all the fireworks shows since she was 16 years old so her association with the rec center and its programs was a long one.
Dancing since she was 3 years old, Emily started her dance career at Susie’s Dance Pointe in Westland which has since closed. She danced recitals and competitions until she was 14. When she attended college, she danced on the Schoolcraft College dance team with about 20 other girls. She also danced with Full Circle Dance Company at Henry Ford Community College for a semester. Her favorite forms of dance are ballet and lyrical although she does teach all forms.
The classes are small, around 5 students. They do have a “big” class with 10 students and another class has only 3 students; this class has a dancer in a wheelchair. Students range in age from 2 years to adult. They stress that adults don’t need to have a dance background to attend a class. “We’d rather you have fun and want to learn something,” says Melissa. It’s all about having a good time and not “you’re not doing it right,” she emphasizes.
They want their students to be exposed to culture and to be able to take their dance experience and apply it to their lives outside the classroom. They want to help their students build confidence. Their student in the wheelchair? She’s a ballerina.
Students do not attend competitions. “We don’t have the extra hours for competitions in our life,” both say. The students do local performances.
Emily says, “We are all about our students! We really strive to create a fun, family-oriented, no pressure type of environment for our students, and we really want them to be able to learn how to dance and tumble while having a good time. We do all of this for them.” “We’re here because of them,” adds Melissa.
If you would like to see them in action, there is a dance recital Saturday, May 12, at 6:30 p.m. in the Stockmeyer Auditorium at Wayne Memorial High School.
Tickets are $7 in advance at the dance studio or $12 at the door the night of.
Village Dance and Company will be taking registrations for their next session in the summer. They can be contacted through their website at www.villagedanceandcompany.com