Francine Garton’s desk has a card on it that reads: “If you can dream it you can do it!”
For the effervescent owner of the Royal Dance Academy in Carmel Valley — a successful 13-year endeavor that continues to draw students — her latest dream was to open a unique studio that offered arts instruction across all disciplines.
It would be San Diego’s version of “New York’s ‘Fame,’” Garton said in her signature Liverpudlian accent. And now that dream has been realized.
From 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4, the grand opening of Garton’s second school, the Royal Academy of Performing Arts in Sorrento Valley, will showcase an impressive new facility that is a concrete expression of her vision.
A free, festive afternoon with music, dance and acting demonstrations, opportunity drawings, gift certificates, free classes, voice and music trials and children’s activities is planned. There will be tours of the 15,000-square-foot building, which includes five dance studios, rooms devoted to vocal recording, music, acting, ballroom dancing, public performances, yoga, Pilates and gyrotonics, professional-level dressing rooms, conference rooms and a viewing lounge with screens that stream real-time video of the activities from each class.
Technologically advanced, with professional-level sound and light equipment, each studio also has CCTV cameras and all classes are video-recorded onto DVD so that instructors can replay them and track a student’s progress and improvement.
Its hi-tech innovations, though, do not detract from the ambiance of the academy, which feels like “a home away from home for students,” said Garton. There’s a homework room, a tutoring room, and coming soon, a healthy snack bar offering fresh fare, “all within a professional environment where the students understand that they are here to learn.”
Garton’s dream bubbled up from the concept that all budding artists could attend the academy to learn in their respective disciplines with the best teachers available to them. “They could be 3-year-old beginners or adults looking to stay fit; here anything is a possibility,” Garton stressed.
An important aspect of the academy’s mission is to facilitate a feeling of well-being for the student from the inside out. “Besides engaging in the art of whatever their field is, and besides keeping fit, physically, we want to promote the emotional and mental side of that art,” Garton said.
Building self-esteem, instruction in healthy nutrition, teamwork, and how to handle successes and setbacks are part of the academy’s approach.
“You might be a great ballet dancer or actress or a fantastic pianist, but the mental side of dealing with this in the real world could be challenging,” Garton explained. “So we instruct our students on how to deal with jealousy, how to deal with competition, how to deal with social media. These are skills that will help in their future careers and their future lives.”
Garton, a native of Liverpool, England, came to California in 2001. She believes that she was born to teach and inspire children, she said. She trained at England’s Northern Ballet College, where she graduated as a dancer and qualified dance teacher, and understands the importance of quality teachers.
As such, the academy employs the “best of the best instructors in their field,” she said. Faculty will include a life coach who will give students positive tips for both their art expression and their daily life. Parents will be invited to meet with the coach and share any concerns that they may have about their child.
Mary Murphy from “So You Think You Can Dance” recently toured RAPA’s facility, and according to Garton, commented, “This is a studio like no other, with state-of-the-art equipment and space that will turn dreams into reality!” And with Garton’s contagious positive attitude, she is likely to be proved right.
Royal Academy of Performing Arts is at 11494 Sorrento Valley Road, San Diego. Call 858-259-RAPA (7272) for information and class schedules. Children and adults of all ages and levels are welcome to take classes, and everyone is invited to the open house from 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4.
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