BY JENNIFER CROWLEY
Jena Morey and Amy Sullivan have been friends since childhood. The women, now both in their early 30s, first bonded over a mutual love of dance. The girls took classes together for a number of years at the Terry Fyke Studio of Dance, then located on Main Street in Scottsville. When it came time to go to college, Amy focused her studies on dance while Jena majored in accounting. The two remained close and over the years often talked about a desire to open their own studio to share their passion for dance with others. In the summer of 2015, this is exactly what the two women did, naming their new venture Stilla Dance. And as if written in the stars, Stilla found a home at 30 Main Street, the same building that the co-owners were dancing in some 15 years earlier. Stilla will also be participating in Scottsville’s Parade of Lights on Saturday, December 2. The full schedule of family friendly events is shown below.
A Nurturing Environment for Creativity
The name Stilla is based on a Swedish word which means ‘to make quiet; to *calm*; to reduce to a state of peace,’ and while that may seem contrary to the physical movement that happens in a busy studio, the women share a belief that it is only from a place of serenity that true creativity can blossom. Today, only two years after opening its doors, Stilla Dance is a thriving small business with nearly 100 students, evidence that the creativity is most certainly flowing and touching students as young as 18 months and as old as 60 years.
While most students live in the immediate Scottsville/Wheatland community, others come from as far away as Hilton and Geneseo to receive instruction. As expected, jazz, tap and ballet are student favorites; the studio rounds out its offerings with classes in contemporary dance, musical theatre, lyrical dance and beginner classes for toddlers. The duo is always interested in pushing the creative envelope in order to differentiate itself from other studios. As one example, this fall Stilla offered its first hip hop class exclusively for boys and is currently exploring a jazz class for adults this winter. Each summer Stilla offers a variety of weekly camps to keep current students engaged and offer new students experience with the studio and exposure to the performing arts.
Yin and Yang
The growth of the studio over the past two years can be largely attributed to a highly complementary skillset and long personal relationship between the co-owners. Amy is an adjunct faculty member at Roberts Wesleyan; it is her likeness that provided the inspiration for the studio’s illustrated logo. She focuses on the more artistic aspects of the venture while Jena, who works full time at RIT coordinating financial operations for its global campuses, focuses on the management of the business.
“I started to dance when I was five and stayed with it until I was a young adult. Amy and I were actually in the first dance group that went to Disney World with Terry Fyke and those are some of my most favorite memories. As a result my younger sisters developed the same fondness for dance that I had and I have been lucky to live vicariously through them,” explains Jena. In fact her sister, Colleen, just completed a pre-professional training program at Broadway Dance Center in New York City, something Jena feels incredible pride around. Colleen will soon start to work with Stilla’s competitive dance team.
Most of the studio’s other instructors hold dual degrees in education and dance. And thanks to such a team of talented teachers, Stilla is finding increasing success with its competitive dance teams, particularly in the tap discipline. “The more we grow, the more we can offer, and the better we all get,” Jena offered. She added that only last week, two of Stilla’s students were selected to receive scholarship money at a dance convention. “It’s so nice for our students to be recognized for their hard work and it gives Amy and I a strong sense of accomplishment.”
Finding the Balance
As for what keeps Jena focused on working two very different jobs, it comes back to the satisfaction she receives from watching students grow, which is evident in the studio’s stated mission statement: to inspire and nurture creativity in each student we have the privilege to teach. “My motivation is seeing each dancer achieve their goals and hopefully experiencing some of the same excitement Amy and I felt dancing as children and teenagers that stayed with us into adulthood.”
Anyone interested in learning about Stilla Dance class offerings should look at www.stilladance.com for further information.