By Karen Billing
When new dance studio Prodigy Dance Company opened its doors on Sept. 10, it was the realization of a childhood dream for 27-year-old owner Melissa Sanchez. She understands just how pinch-herself-real the dream has become — not when dancers’ feet are fluttering in her studio but instead when she’s left alone to reflect.
“I notice when people aren’t here, when it’s quiet. I think ‘Wow, I really did this’,” Sanchez said. “It’s everything I could’ve asked for truly. It’s amazing.”
Sanchez hopes that her new studio, located on Camino Del Sur in Torrey Highlands Plaza, will be a safe and nurturing environment where students can grow not only as dancers but as individuals. The studio offers youth classes in a multitude of dance styles and genres, as well as adult fitness classes.
As she’s only been open for six weeks, classes at Prodigy are small but Sanchez is finding she likes it that way.
“I realize that we still need to grow and we have the capacity for more kids, but I really want to focus on smaller classes because the kids grow so fast from special attention and it makes it so much more enjoyable to watch as teachers,” Sanchez said. “I grew up with a small studio that felt like home. The studio became a home away from home and that’s exactly what I want to build myself.”
Sanchez is a San Diego product, “such a hometown girl it’s hysterical.” She grew up in Poway and is a graduate of Poway High and San Diego State University.
“I couldn’t get away from home,” Sanchez said. “I definitely wanted to stay here and build a business here.”
Sanchez has loved to dance since she was 5 years old. She danced competitively with Studio West Dance Company and won first place in the national championships for five consecutive years.
Sanchez always knew she wanted to work with children so she thought she might become a teacher, but she couldn’t get away from dance. While at college getting her bachelor of fine arts in dance and preferred sciences, she performed with several companies, as well as with musical acts such as Beyonce Knowles, Michelle Branch and Carlos Santana.
Upon graduating, she worked as an instructor and choreographer before the opportunity arose to fulfill her dream of opening her own studio.
“I just decided to do it, I didn’t want to always wonder,” Sanchez said. “A lot of people said ‘Don’t do it, it’s a lot of work’ but I did it anyway, I ignored them.”
She was able to build the studio of her dreams with a lot of help from her supportive family.
She hand-picked the center for its family-feel, took up two spaces and built two dance studios with “amazing” floors. Sanchez said she cares a lot about joint health so she didn’t mind spending extra to have a really good sprung, floating floor that moves and bounces to cut down on dancer injuries.
While Sanchez continues to teach, she also has a loaded roster of talented instructors with the thinking that in order to be better, more well-rounded dancers, kids need to learn different styles from different kinds of instructors.
Her instructors offer classes in jazz, ballet, hip-hop, tap, contemporary, lyrical, turns and leaps, stretch and strength and acrobatics.
“Acro is the biggest hit of all of them,” Sanchez said of the class that teaches jumping, flipping and flexibility that can be an asset for any type of dance.
The new and exciting styles will always be a part of the Prodigy lineup — Sanchez still judges competitions which she thinks is a definite plus as she can keep tabs on what is going on in the dance world. Her co-artistic director Alex Blitstein also travels every weekend to do choreography and master classes, keeping current on trends.
“We’re hip, we know what’s in. We’re fresh and new,” said Sanchez.
In addition to having a wide variety of youth classes, Sanchez is hoping to build a strong fitness program in the mornings for adults. She has yoga and Zumba classes currently and wants to add Pilates and TRX training soon.
She also plans to do side-by-side adult and kids classes, giving parents the opportunity to take a class at the same time as their children.
Plans are for an annual recital to be held in June, but Sanchez stresses she doesn’t want her studio to be about forcing children to perform or compete against one another or other companies.
“Our focus is a really great recreational program,” Sanchez said. “I just want it to be a fun environment where kids can learn amazing training.”
For more information, call (858) 484-8032 or visit prodigydance.com.
Prodigy Dance Company is located at Torrey Highlands Plaza, 13350 Camino Del Sur, Ste. 3B, San Diego, CA 92129.