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Dance to a dream

By on January 27, 2020 in Arts with 0 Comments
Becca Allen at the barre: “There’s a real sense of family.” Photo by Mike Irwin

‘I’ve known since middle school that I wanted to run my own dance studio’

By Susan Lagsdin

When Becca Allen opened Next Step dance studio in 2008, she realized her own life was a series of judiciously calculated moves — and a few unexpected ones — that culminated in a dream. 

So the name “Next Step” wasn’t chosen only for its dancerly connotation. “It sounds crazy, but I’ve known since middle school that I wanted to run my own dance studio,” Becca said.

She’s danced since the age of four with many instructors, and through lessons and competitions learned to love not just the art but the strong sense of community and shared passion that’s palpable in a studio setting. 

Many of her students feel that same draw, including a few who for 12 years have learned from her and now teach alongside her.

“There’s a real sense of family,” Becca said, “and some of the girls — especially in the competition groups that practice 10-15 hours a week — are here for more hours than they may see their parents.” 

They may not all envision a dance career, but they love the friendships and the teamwork.

Becca’s own young life (as Rebecca Romero) was a full program of multi-art experiences: in addition to cheerleading she competed in regional and national dance competitions, was an award-winning vocalist and acted and danced with Leavenworth Summer Theater. 

She was on stage under the lights for most of her teen years and now figures her life list of involvement in theatrical productions is at 50.

The next step was professional performance, Hollywood style. Shortly after graduating from Cashmere High School and enthusiastically supported by her family, Becca headed south for three years of rigor and expectation, auditioning for bit parts and big parts, often getting the gig. She signed with the prestigious John Robert Powers Agency, took master classes and trained with top TV choreographers. The life of a dancer/singer/actress was good.

Next step, from frenetic to a little more relaxed. Time to take a breath. For a few good reasons (including a crush and steadier work) she returned home to Wenatchee. “I think I could have stayed working in Hollywood for a few more years,” she speculated, but with no regret for the change-of-pace move or the untenable crush. “I truly believe that things happen for a reason. I needed to be here.”

Three years after Becca re-established herself in Wenatchee by teaching dance and choreographing musicals, a local ballet teacher contemplating retirement called, offering to sell her a dance studio in the old Cascadian Hotel ballroom complex.

Becca was 26, single, respected in her field, world-wise and totally ready to make her next big move. A leap. The answer was yes.

“I knew absolutely nothing about business, but I’d been in studios for years, so I figured it out for myself,” Becca said: finances, facility, contracts, scheduling, staffing, promotion. “When I started the studio, it was my ‘baby;’ I slept upstairs and worked all the time.” 

Now there’s a long wall of shiny competition trophies and a jam-packed week (daily from 3 to 8) offering dozens of dance opportunities from ballet to Broadway, jazz to hip hop.

“Being an artist and then switching gears to being a business owner required a balance,” she said. “I’ve learned by trial and error.” Learning to flex with unanticipated changes and learning to delegate were tough but have become second nature.

Another wise step? Corralling chaos. “For the first four years Next Step produced three ‘grand scale’ dance productions a year. Then for years we did it twice. Now we do just one a year in June, and it’s much better for the performers.” Stress level is down, quality is up, everyone’s breathing easier.

It’s not all dance and studio management. Becca loves the timing of another big move: she first met her husband-to-be Rick amid renovating the studio that summer of 2008. Their next big step was marriage, and a few years after that one, starting a family.

Since her two children, now ages 3 and 6, were born she’s learned yet another kind of tricky footwork. With her parents’ help and her teaching compacted into two long days a week, she’s balanced responsibilities so she can dedicate herself fully to both business and home. 

“I change hats when I walk in the house. I love having time with my kids… my own family brings me back to another kind of reality.”

After 12 years in the business, Becca’s pleasure in her dance family grows exponentially: planning classes with a colleague who was once her student, watching a toddler… toddle and knowing from experience how strong and graceful she can grow to be, getting a phone call from an alum excited to be cast in a New York show — she delights in seeing the people she cares for taking their next big step.

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