Carmel Valley director Francine Garton was born ‘to teach and inspire children’

Director Francine Garton, ARAD, AISTD, began dancing at an early age and at the age of 14 won a scholarship to the prestigious Legat Russian Ballet School in southern England. She then continued her training at the Northern Ballet College where she graduated as a dancer and qualified dance teacher gaining honors in her examinations. Garton worked alongside some of the most respected dancers and choreographers in the business. She danced professionally and continued her love for dance by opening her own studio in Manchester England.

In 2001 the next challenge on Garton’s dance journey was opening the Royal Dance Academy in San Diego. Her move to the U.S. allowed her to share her expertise, knowledge and love for dance with children in San Diego. Her nurturing, caring attitude is viewed as a major factor in her success. Her dancers adore her and she is very proud that she has created an intimate, creative and homely environment to dance for children of all ages and abilities. Garton ensures that every child at the Royal Dance Academy is cared for. She is like a “second mom” to her students and works consistently to ensure that the Royal Dance Academy continually evolves and stays at the forefront of the dance world, providing many wonderful opportunities for young dancers.

In September 2011, the Royal Dance Academy (

) will be opening its brand new premises in Carmel Valley — a state-of-the-art facility with four professionally-equipped studios. Garton is excited to be able to create such an amazing place for the families of San Diego.

  1. What brought you to this area?
I fell in love with San Diego the first time I came here on vacation. I was determined that this would be the place for my family to live and my children to grow up. It is paradise!

  1. What makes your work special to you?
I feel extremely lucky that I wake up every day and get to do something that I love. I really do believe that teaching is a gift. Many people may have experience or qualifications but that doesn’t mean they are great teachers. I connect with children, nurture them and teach them not only dance but the many qualities, disciplines and life lessons that are part of growing as a dancer and a human being. I thrive on taking the beginning recreational dancer to the most advanced level.

I make all dance classes fun for children whether it is a once a week hobby or a lifetime ambition. I ensure that myself and my staff make a difference to every child who walks through the door, whether they dance once a week or 10 times a week. I am so passionate about teaching and creating a beautiful place for children to dance and feel at home.

There is so much going on in the world and the pressure on children today is intense. I feel that I have created a place where my students can forget any troubles they might have and escape into the fantasy world of dance. I am very particular on sparing no expense when it comes to the quality of what I offer. People see the difference in my teachers, office staff, facility, brochures, recitals and costumes etc. I try to set a standard that goes above and beyond what is expected. I know I have done my job well when students — many years after they graduate — still write to me, visit me and tell me that my dance classes and studio have helped them become successful in their lives. I love motivating children to work harder and inspiring them to reach for their goals no matter what they may be.

I feel so proud when I know I have made a difference in the life of a child.

  1. What would you still like to achieve professionally?
I am in the process of my third expansion in 10 years in Carmel Valley. I would like to continue to grow the Royal Dance Academy so I am able to continue to offer all the dance styles, acting classes and musical theatre classes so that all students can have their choices of styles and teachers. I want the “ Fame” school of New York but in Carmel Valley. I would like to travel more to guest teach, but with the studio so busy and my four young children, it is something I am hoping to do in the future.

There is a lot more to teaching than just dance steps or knowing how to dance. I often think that I would like to start a business that helps teachers learn how to teach, how to communicate with children of all ages and parents, how to teach musicality, how to motivate themselves and inspire their students so that they bring out the best in them.

I have been told that I am good at communicating with teachers, helping them believe in themselves and challenging them to become better teachers and role models. I really enjoy this so maybe one day I will become a “motivational speaker” for dance teachers!

  1. Who or what inspires you?
Celine Dion and people with fantastic artistic talent. I love watching people who were born with natural talent become such a major success story. She comes from a big, working class family like me . When I see her in concert, I cry when she sings the first note. It’s crazy but the woman is blessed with her unbelievable voice. Often, society expects children to follow an academic career when they really want to become an artist. The words “when are you going to get a real job” are often used. My mum and dad are also a big inspiration to me as they allowed me to follow my dreams and be happy. In our life it was never about the money as we didn’t grow up with any, it was about being happy, working hard and using your God-given talent to the best of your ability.

  1. If you hosted a dinner party for 8, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Margot Fonteyn, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Simon Cowell, Celine Dion, Princess Diana, Alex Ferguson, Michael Jackson, My husband Billy.

  1. Tell us about what you are currently reading.

Nothing right now as I’m so busy getting the new studio ready. I read everything from romantic love stories, biographies, motivational books, self-help books and dance magazines.

  1. What are your favorite films?
“Carlitos’s Way,” “Titanic,” “The Sound Of Music,” “Love Story,” “The Holiday,” “Pretty Woman,” “Legends of the Fall,” “Meet the Parents,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Scent of a Woman.”

  1. What do you do for fun and what is your favorite vacation destination?
My ideal treat is a day at the spa. I enjoy going out to dinner with family and friends and I love just doing nothing and hanging out with my children at home. We love Punta Mita in Mexico and Hawaii.

  1. Please describe your greatest accomplishment.
Bringing four beautiful children into this world. On a professional note, building a business from scratch two weeks after moving to San Diego. Being a mother, wife, teacher and business owner is challenging but I am grateful that I have accomplished all so far.

  1. What is your motto or philosophy of life?
I am a great believer in following your dreams and making it happen. You can be whatever you want in life, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Being a good, honest person gives you a clear conscience.