A young and upcoming Palmetto Bay dance studio is garnering the attention of the dance world, as much for its outstanding choreography and technique as for its move to a unique, flexible schedule that takes into account the students’ busy schedules.
Artistic Soul Studios, 17891 S. Dixie Hwy., and studio owner Ami Aguiar-Riley, received top honors for best choreography and best technique at statewide and regional competitions recently. But that’s only one of the reasons some students pass by dozens of dance studios on the way to Artistic Soul Studios.
“My daughter’s dancing and confidence have blossomed since she has been with Artistic Soul Studios,” said Doreen Furnari. “And the variety of class times is priceless as it allows us to coordinate attending dance class with homework and school dance team obligations.”
Artistic Soul Studios may be the only one in town that offers block and flexible class schedules so that dancers, particularly as they enter high school, can better juggle heavy homework loads, school dance team rehearsals and outside activities.
“I moved to the new format this year,” Ms. Aguiar-Riley said. “There is so much pressure on kids today. I decided to recognize the need for flexibility. They know that if they can’t put in studio hours on a Monday because they have a big test the next day or a school performance, they can put in more hours on another day of the week.”
Morgan Furnari is a freshman at Gulliver Preparatory where she also is a member of the dance team.
“Ami’s enthusiasm is contagious,” Morgan said. “I can’t imagine having to give up studio dance because I’m on a school dance team. When you dance with Ami you feel every minute of it. Her style makes you want to smile.”
While the studio offers traditional classes in ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip hop and tap (and special classes for peewees, ages 3-6), most classes focus on general technique and are offered in blocks of two to four hours.
“Some dancers will stay for an hour one night and then three hours the next,” Aguiar-Riley said. “And by concentrating on technique, we build strong dancers who are able to pick up new choreography very quickly.”
The flexibility allows students who are part of magnet dance programs such as New World School of the Arts and dancers who also take classes at Miami City Ballet and other local ballet conservatories to continue studio dance.
Suani Zenon, mother of 12-year-old Isabel, said the flexible schedule also allows her daughter to learn from the older dancers at the studio.
“She’s become very motivated by being in technique classes with older girls, and the studio has become like a family. It’s like she has a huge group of sisters.”
The studio’s company level competes at a variety of regional and national events, and its dancers, as well as its group numbers, consistently receive top honors.
Aguiar-Riley taught for years at several local studios before opening Artistic Soul in late 2008. She is an award-winning dancer, having performed in the SuperBowl XXXIV halftime show with Gloria Estefan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Stevie Wonder, and choreographed a piece for the Miami Beach Film Festival. In addition, she was chosen for the Season 7 Las Vegas auditions of So You Think You Can Dance. Also teaching at the studio are experienced teachers Xavier Dubrocq and Tara Allen.
Aguiar-Riley also belives it’s important for the dancers to give back to the community. The studio has participated in a number of fundraising walks to raise money for autism research and children’s cancer treatment.
The studio recently offered its “Bring a Friend” week, where aspiring dancers could come try classes for free. The offer is still good. For more information, call 786-347-9021, or stop by the studio after 3 p.m. on weekdays.