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Conversations with the Inspiring Michelle Dolighan-Rodenbeck

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Dolighan-Rodenbeck.

Michelle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in Aurora, CO and trained as a scholarship student throughout the country as well as Colorado Ballet Academy. After spending 14 years as a professional Principal Ballerina with Colorado Ballet, I had my 1st of three boys. I started teaching ballet in 2000 while I was still dancing and fell in love with inspiring children through dance! I taught at several dance schools throughout Colorado and was thrilled to return to the Colorado Ballet as an instructor in their academy in 2005. In 2006, I was named the Academy Director and set the children for all their productions as well as ran the school. By 2010, I had three boys and it was hectic, I decided I needed to be closer to home. After a deep search for where I wanted to put my heart and talents for dance, I wasn’t finding dance schools with my same philosophy on how to teach and inspire young people. So, with a strong vision and great support of my husband, we decided to open my own dance school. I was nervous and it all happened so quickly not to mention my boys were little, 3, 5 & 7. July 24, 2010, Classic Dance Academy opened and we’ve had great success, we are celebrating our 10th year!

Has it been a smooth road?
Owning your own business is not easy but it is so worthwhile! I wouldn’t have been able to open my own school without the support of my husband and my mom. My husband quickly became my “on-call janitor/handyman/performance crew” and more! My mom was so helpful with our boys as I spent a great deal of time in the dance studio or at the computer. As my boys have gotten older, they help behind the scenes greatly too. Two of my boys dance and the other runs our sound system for our shows-it’s a family affair! Running your own business can be very overwhelming, you wear many different hats and it is hard to find time for yourself as well as tend to the needs of a young family, there are never really “days off” so each day is a delicate balance. Having a super faculty of dedicated people has been essential, I appreciate daily for the people who chose to work for Classic Dance Academy, not only inspiring our dancers but also supporting me in so many ways. My advice for others is to have a good support system and stay committed to your vision. I was clear on the kind of people I wanted as the faculty to share in my vision and how I was going to develop the environment I desired. The right people were brought into my life to create such a special dance family we cherish today.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Classic Dance Academy story. Tell us more about it.
We offer all genres of dance; Ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop and have many levels in each genre to accommodate many students. We also have a great program for tiny dancers in our combo class for ages 3-5, pivotal years to build a love for dance combining pre-school themes with dance education. In my experience it can be difficult to find a dance school that has excellence in each genre, most focus on one particular area and can be lacking in others. We strive to offer a high quality, well-rounded dance education. Our primarily focus is ballet as it is the basis of all dance, however, we truly have great strength in every style! It is due to having top-notch instructors who are very experienced and well educated, also great with kids and committed to Classic Dance Academy. Our environment is different, We inspire through the encouragement of children together with a constant supportive, positive feel. We offer performance opportunities as well with 2 ballet productions annually, including the traditional ballet classic “The Nutcracker” and a ballet production in our spring student showcase with superb male guests from Colorado Ballet. We have received high recognition over the years in the competitive world with our competing/performing team “Classic Dancers” since 2011, led by our incredible director Heather Marsh-Schieck. Additionally, we’ve had great success in the elite ballet competitions in particular, we have had many top winners in the Denver Ballet Guild Young Dancers Scholarship competition, World Ballet Competition and consistently place in the top 10 of the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix since 2011, Our dancers have received the highest awards therein with the coveted “Hope” Award & “Youth Grand Prix” award. I was delighted to receive the Youth America Grand Prix “best teacher” award and “outstanding school” award as well in 2017.

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