SWANTON –– Hip hop, jazz, ballet, modern and contemporary dance are just some of the offerings that a pair of familiar faces to dance students are teaching at a new studio for children and adults.
Michelle Little and Rachel Bilodeau opened Studio 3 Dance & Fitness last September, in the same location as Bertrand Electric, on Rte. 7, in Swanton.
For now, classes run anywhere from three to 15 people in the 600 square feet of space that Studio 3 occupies. Class schedules are on the Studio 3 Web site. Tap and Zumba fitness classes will be added to the mix this fall, when Studio 3 doubles its space to 1,200 square feet, by switching business space with Bertrand Electric.
Business demand necessitated the larger space, according to Michelle and Rachel. Fifty students signed up for their first week of sessions, only four weeks after they occupied the building. “It was very quick,” Michelle said.
The response excited them. “The phone calls keep coming in to this day,” Rachel added. “It’s still very exciting.”
Rachel and Michelle opened their Studio 3 flagship studio in Colchester, on April 1, 2010. They had known each other for 20 years through Electric Youth studio, in St. Albans, where Michelle taught tap and Rachel was a student – but never Michelle’s.
In 2009, the two informally mulled the idea of opening a studio together, after Michelle lost her mother to cancer. In a funk, Michelle declined at first, but Rachel was going to move forward.
The following winter, Michelle stumbled upon vacant spots in a Colchester plaza. She contacted Rachel, and Studio 3 was born. The Colchester studio doubled in size in its second year of operation; Michelle and Rachel are looking to expand it again.
Initially, they did not intend Franklin County for a second Studio 3 site. As they kept fielding requests, they realized they had demand.
“There are plenty of clients here,” Michelle said. “There is such a need for diversity in the arts.”
When this fall hits, Rachel will assume fitness class duties, in addition to her dance instruction. Studio 3 has a total of five instructors in Colchester and an additional three in Swanton.
All Studio 3 dancers also perform in an annual recital and at non-profit functions, such as the Puppets in Education, Special Olympics opening ceremonies, and the Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society.
Philosophically speaking, Michelle and Rachel opened Studio 3 for another reason: to instill in local dancers that they should give back to their communities, no matter where they live. They also provide all their students with “loving, caring and nurturing” leadership, they said.
“The leadership sets the culture for any organization,” Michelle said. “We are excited to expand in Franklin County.”