When I first opened AIM in 2012, I had lofty goals of creating a dance academy where dancers from all over Richmond would flock for top-notch training in a highly demanding and challenging atmosphere. I wanted our dancers to achieve artistic and technical excellence at all costs. I made a lot of mistakes chasing after that goal. I expected too much of my students, staff, and myself. I was easily frustrated when my dancers didn't reach my goals for them. I neglected my dancers' and my own physical, emotional, and mental health. I yelled. And I cried. A lot.
In 2015 I reached a breaking point of immense burnout. I came close to shutting down the studio for good. But I knew I would have so many regrets if I did that. So instead, I reached out for help. But I couldn't find the support system I so desperately needed, so I created one. I founded a support group for dance studio owners called DSO Connect where we could share ideas and inspiration and hold one another accountable. It is a community of studio owners to troubleshoot our problems and celebrate our successes together. What started as a small group of dance studio owners has now grown into a community of about 500 members, a podcast, live business retreats, in-person and virtual training seminars for dance educators and business owners, and a business coaching program for studio owners.
Cultivating and leading this community for dance studio owners has forced me to take a long hard look at myself and my studio. I train my coaching clients all the time on identifying their "dream client" and their studio's "niche," but I had avoided doing that work myself for my own studio.
I've spent the last seven years doing a lot of soul-searching to discover what kind of studio I want to lead and what sort of legacy I want to leave. I've listened to my customers, both students and parents, about what they love about dancing at AIM. I've had long conversations with faculty about what makes them excited to come to teach at AIM, and what we can do to improve. Hosting the DSO Connect Podcast has led me to countless conversations with dance educators and professional dancers revealing a common thread of lasting trauma experienced as a result of their dance education and professional careers in dance.
I've constructed a new vision for AIM, not based just on my own goals and dreams, but based on the feedback and ideas from the community we've cultivated together and the synthesis of the conversations about dance education I've had with hundreds of dance professionals. This new vision feels right in my bones. I know that by staying true to this vision, I will leave a legacy that I can be proud of. But more importantly, we will create a dance community where everyone feels seen, respected, and valued, so that our dancers can truly thrive and achieve their own goals.
Here are the two main pillars of this new vision:
I've been thinking about this quote a lot lately: "Be the person you needed as a child." I had an amazing childhood and an amazing dance education. But I was still left with the scars of toxic dance training. I don't claim to know all the answers to rid the dance industry of its toxicity and trauma, but I can educate myself and my staff to make sure my own students are left with fewer (and hopefully zero!) of those scars.
I invite you to join me in this new vision of AIM, where technical and artistic excellence is achieved not at the expense of dancers' whole beings and holistic health. but because of the importance we place on them.
Copyright © Arts In Motion Dance Academy, LLC
Casey Royer, Owner/Artistic Director
10492 Ridgefield Pkwy
Richmond VA 23233
804-322-9902 (text line)