SALISBURY — When Spencer Ann Brown saw the notification on her phone, she almost didn’t believe it was real.
“We were completely in shock,” Brown said.
The Instagram alert that rang Brown’s phone last week informed her that DIVE Dance Competition had named Salisbury Dance Academy their studio of the year 2021.
“This studio was amazing on and off stage, kind and polite behind the scenes, and went the extra mile to compliment other studios and dancers,” DIVE Dance Competition wrote. in a Facebook post announcing the price.
The information surprised Brown, co-owner of the dance studio with Kristie Thomas. She happened to be talking on the phone with Thomas at the time, who was a little worried after hearing Brown react to the good news.
“I thought something had happened, but then she started reading the article. I said, “You’re kidding me,” Brown recalled.
Being named Studio of the Year was an emotional moment for Brown and Thomas, especially because Salisbury Dance Academy is in only its first year of operation after opening last fall.
“For us to get this award means a lot because we’ve both been talking about it for so long,” Thomas said. “To be able to put our hearts into the studio and do this day in and day out after leaving our first job to come and do this, and the kids see how much we love doing this, that really means a lot.”
Brown and Thomas, both elementary teachers for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, opened the academy at 204 S. Main St. in early August after years of dreaming of running their own studio. Pandemic conditions initially forced them to limit class sizes, but the studio continued to add more students as restrictions eased and now has up to 85 students.
“It was pretty awesome because no matter what time of year, even in February, we were always getting signups,” Brown said. “We noticed things were calming down with the release of the vaccine, it seemed like people were more open to putting their kids back in that environment.”
The studio has five dance teachers, including Brown and Thomas, who teach classes in a variety of styles.
Although it only opened in August, the studio took part in five competitions in winter and spring, including one organized by DIVE in Kannapolis in early May. DIVE only announced Salisbury Dance Academy as the winner of its Studio of the Year award last week, which is part of why Brown and Thomas were so surprised by the honor.
That the studio won the award didn’t come as much of a shock to Monique Smith, whose 11-year-old daughter Josie and 15-year-old son Braxton both signed up for the Salisbury Dance Academy last year .
“It’s a great studio,” Smith said. “They promote positivity, which is what DIVE stands for.”
Salisbury Dance Academy’s already successful competitive season is not over yet. The studio will send dancers to both the Showstopper East Coast Finals in Myrtle Beach in June and the Starquest World Finals in Virginia Beach in July, while also hosting summer dance camps.
Coming to year two, Brown and Thomas have big plans for their studio. To accommodate its growing number of students, the academy is expanding upstairs.
“The largest class we’ve had is 20 kids and when you put that many in a dance hall it can get a little crowded,” Brown said.
Wallace Realty, owner of the downtown building, is currently renovating the second floor. When completed in August, the floor will house two additional dance studios, one of which will be used for smaller classes or private lessons.
Brown and Thomas don’t want their expansion to be purely physical. The duo also hope to continue adding more students.
“Our goal that we’re aiming for is to reach 100 kids next year,” Brown said.
Next spring, Brown and Thomas plan to hold their own dance competition. While the competition is still in its early planning stages, Brown and Thomas know it will be called Raise The Bar Dance Competition and will be staged in Salisbury, possibly at the Norvell Theatre. The duo are planning the competition for April and would like to host local and outside studios.