Victoria Pace began studying dance at the age of 6, and had the great blessing of growing up in a supportive Southern home where higher education was not only encouraged, but required. She attended UNA, Athens State University, Calhoun, and North Shoals, and holds degrees in Photography, Computer Information Sciences, Business Management, and Marketing. However, dancing was her chief love. 29 years ago, as a young bride, she worked third shift, slept, and in the afternoons taught dance in her basement. She quickly outgrew that, and then she and her then husband built a studio adjacent to their home. She outgrew the studio as well. In the meantime, she gave birth to two boys, and then Victoria unexpectedly found herself in the position of being a single mom. She supported her toddlers through her dance school in Florence for 20 years, met Allen, (the love of her life) 10 years ago, and he encouraged her to open up another branch of The Dance Academy in 2014.
The Dance Academy locations are in Florence at 2801 Mall Drive, and in Athens at 1207 East Forrest Street. Over the years, this well trained troupe has given sold-out performances of The Nutcracker Suite, has won many Platinum and High Gold awards, as well as college scholarships for exceptional students. Several of her students have worked in New York and Disney, Orlando, and she told me, “Now I am teaching the second generation of my first students!” Victoria, who also gets called “Mimi” by her students and her grandchildren who study with her, runs a tight but loving ship. For example, she does not permit inappropriate language, dance moves, clothes or behavior, and the parents thank her for it. But, she told me, “Once I had a student knock on my door at midnight because she needed my help,” and Victoria looks upon her students as family. She is also certified to teach by Dance Masters of America, an international organization of dance instructors.
Speaking of the Nutcracker, this year’s performance will be held at UNA on December 11th, so save the date! It will be a function of The North Alabama Ballet Company, which she formed 19 years ago. Victoria has this to say: “The North Alabama Ballet Company was formed because I wanted to give area dancers a chance to perform more than just at their annual recital. Since The Nutcracker, is a world renown ballet, I thought it was important for our students to be educated in the history of this production. So, I studied with the Appalachian Ballet Company, and then formed my own company. It’s a not-for-profit organization, and all funds raised go back into the company. Area schools are invited to see The Nutcracker as a field trip, and the students will get educated in the Arts and enjoy an elaborate production with beautiful music and costumes. Teachers can call now to reserve their space at 256-366-6136. This fall we will be attending various workshops to enhance our training, plus a special guest instructor will hold workshops here at our studios.” Victoria also wanted people to know that in addition to the performance of The Nutcracker, there will be a recital at UNA on June 11th of 2016.
In the spring the Company’s competition teams will be travelling and competing for cash prizes and awards. They have won many awards in the past, and hope to take home several prizes and scholarships this year as well.
What can parents expect their children to learn at the Dance Academy? Ballet, Jazz, Acro, Lyrical, Contemporary, Tap, Hip Hop, Cheer, Pointe, and Musical Theatre. Boys learn Hip Hop and tumbling at half price. There is a class called Diaper Dancers, and her youngest granddaughter is a graduate. Victoria especially designed this class when her granddaughter was born, and it is for babies age 1-3. The cost is only $25 per month.
Fall classes begin September 8th, and registration is going on now. If you register now, there will be a discount, and if you or your child are not quite sure about your choice, the first class is free. Victoria also does fundraisers to offset costs, and there is a referral program whereby you can get free tuition.
We finished our time by Victoria telling me the following: “Dance has been my life since I was 6 years old. I love children, and this beautiful art. Watching a child overcome shyness or just build the confidence it takes to perform in front of a large audience is so rewarding to me. It’s why I teach. I want to build strong, confident young adults.” If that sounds like what you want for your child or grandchild, then the Dance Academy in Florence or Athens may just be what you have been looking for. Come and visit, and ask Victoria any questions you may have. Enjoy the fruit of 29 years of experience and all the artistic grace, beauty, poise, confidence and creative expression possible at The Dance Academy.
The Dance Academy, Florence and Athens, AL
2801 Mall Drive, Florence
1207 East Forrest, Suite I, Athens
Phone: 256-366-6136, 256-614-5510
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner