For the past 21 years, DeAnne Boegli, Vice President of Corporate Communications, has been moonlighting as a dance teacher at a dance studio in Brodhead, Wisconsin. She started the studio in 2001 when her young daughters (pictured at right) needed a place to dance. She started teaching on Saturday mornings with 30 kids. Over the years, classes moved to weeknights and DeAnne began hiring staff to keep up as the business kept growing.
“We've moved twice and finally found a forever home when the local hardware store went out of business. Today, we have 6,000 square feet of space, three studios with floating hardwood floors. It's beautiful, and the dancers love it," says DeAnne.
DeAnne started dancing when she was 3 years old. In high school, she taught classes to help pay for her own dance classes. She took some college dance classes. However, owning a dance studio was never on her career path. She was focused on a career in communications after graduating with degrees in journalism and psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Things changed a bit once she had children. “I realized I wanted my girls to go to a dance school like I did, but the closest one was 30 minutes away—and they always fell asleep on the car ride, which any parent knows is a recipe for disaster in the late afternoon."
Driven by the desire to provide them a better dance experience, she decided to do it herself. She took some small business development classes to prepare. She's been fortunate to hire great instructors and other staff so that she could work her day job, raise her busy family, and keep the studio operating at night. “I don't know what normal people do after work, but I go to dance!"
When DeAnne was interviewing for a position at WPS Health Solutions, she used her side hustle as a reason to hire her. “I've learned so much by being a small business owner and entrepreneur. It translates to my day job. And in return, much of what I've learned as a communications professional has made me a better boss and business owner. I especially love the creativity I get from dancing and teaching dance to children. The students certainly keep you on your toes in more ways than one!"
The Brodhead Dance Academy has eight part-time dance teachers (some are pictured at left) and nearly 200 dance students. At its peak just before COVID-19 hit, the business had over 280 students and taught 52 classes a week.
Instructors teach tap, ballet, modern, hip hop, and jazz dance styles. DeAnne says they are slowly building the business back up and hoping next season will be even better. Students come to Brodhead from a 30-mile radius, which says a great deal about the studio's reputation.
The pandemic has been devastating. The state of Wisconsin closed all fitness and dance schools down for several months during the first peak. DeAnne and her team had to retool everything and finally held their annual dance recital outside in the parking lot after months off. In a normal year, they'd host four recitals with 600 people in attendance at each show (the population of Brodhead is 3,600).
“We did the best we could in 2020. It was a stressful time and expensive to produce an outdoor show. We had a stage and music brought in, side curtains, and a huge professional backdrop that we put over the side of our building. DeAnne smiles when she says, “It actually worked out perfectly, and the weather cooperated, too."
During these past two years, she says she's learned a lot about creative problem solving and perseverance. She had to dig deep in her heart to keep things going. “We were nearly forced to close our doors forever, but we made it. I was not going to let these kids down just when they needed us most!"
One thing that sets the Brodhead Dance Academy apart from other studios is its commitment to positivity. At the end of every class, each student says, “I'm Smart. I'm Strong. And I Love to Dance!"
Traditionally, in ballet class, students do a reverence, a small movement to thank the teacher. DeAnne changed the tradition to use positive psychology to instill a lifelong technique with her dancers. She says, “I know it works because even when I'm having a tough day, I say that little statement, and it makes me feel better. I've had kids tell me that even once they are in college, they keep using it or modify it slightly. My favorite part of the annual recital is at the end of the show when all the kids say it in unison. It gives me goosebumps every time! Dance Teacher Magazine featured us for it in 2007, and it was very exciting."