After 25 years of teaching dance in Miami, Maria Verdeja School of theArts has opened a brand new studio in Pinecrest on January 18. This facility is the fourth location for the school, joining studios in Coral Gables, Kendall and Key Biscayne. In addition, MVSA teaches afterschool dance in seven local elementary schools, bringing the school’s total number of students to over 700. Owner Maria Verdeja has become a local institution in the dance world, having now taught three generations of dancers who have performed at the annual Coral Gables Tree Lighting event, Key Biscayne Winterfest, the Three Kings parade, numerous charity events throughout the year, and the school’s centerpiece End of Year Show held at the Gusman Theater every Spring.
The Pinecrest studio is a completely new 3100 sq. ft. facility, located at 8181 S.W. 117 St, at the site of the old Mercantile bank. If all goes according to plan, the school will expand next year to include another 1500 sq. ft. once the property next door becomes available, making space available for up to 350 students. A classically trained ballerina, Verdeja was born and raised in Coral Gables and is a first generation Cuban American,. She started dancing ballet at the age of 5 and rapidly progressed in skill and technique, training with the late Martha Mahr, and eventually finishing as the top American dancer in the Prix de Lausanne competition in 1983. After graduating from the University of Miami with a degree in Education, she joined the Miami City Ballet in its inaugural year, and then two years later left to open her own dance school in 1987. In addition to classical ballet, the school teaches other dance forms such as Lyrical, Jazz, Tap, Flamenco and Hip-hop, and also offers music lessons on a private basis. While concentrating in children’s dance education, adult classes in dance, fitness and Zumba are also held during the day
“My goal”, says Verdeja, “is to reach as many children as I can and introduce them to the beauty of dance. Our philosophy is to make dance a fun, fulfilling and healthy activity for kids which will become something that they will carry forward into their adulthood. Not every child will become a professional dancer, but we have specialized classes and advanced programs designed for those young dancers who have the talent and dedication to pursue that goal, and over the years, several of our dancers have made it into professional companies” Recently, dancers from MVSAhave won first prize for Jazz at National Competitions in Las Vegas and the Gold Medal for Classical Ballet at theAmerican Dance Competition in Daytona Beach, and have been accepted to prestigious summer dance programs for aspiring young professional dancers.
“May we all dance through life” is Verdeja’s motto, and she tries to live up to it every day. “I am so grateful to our wonderful staff of professional teachers, some of whom were among my original students at the beginning. Every day walking along the street I see current students, former students who are now parents of students and even grandparents, who remind me what a positive impact dance has had in their lives. Nothing makes me happier in my own life than to know that I have been able to give them something so beautiful and lasting, and I hope to continue on for many years to come.”
8181 S.W. 117 St. Pinecrest,
FL 305.448.6717 • www.mariaverdejadance.com