Teen opens dance studioPublished 8:58pm Monday, January 16, 2012
Fulfilling a dream she’s had since she was barely able to walk, Gabrielle Sherman has opened her own studio, Fierce Dance Academy.
In fact, her business precedes being able to drive.
Gabrielle, 16, is a junior at St. Joseph High School.
Her studio, where she teaches on Saturdays, is above her mother Cheryl’s store, Red Raven (462-9144), in downtown Dowagiac.
She started small two weeks ago, working with five students headed to competitions in April and May in Grand Rapids.
“This is my 13th year dancing,” Gabrielle said Monday. “I started when I was 3 in (upstate) New York. Then my dad moved us to Alabama, and I danced there for a few years. I’m the captain of the St. Joseph pom team,” which performs at basketball games Tuesdays and Fridays and downtown in the summer.
She selected the name “Fierce” and a tiger image “because I never wanted it to be about me. It stands out from everything else. I think of tigers going to get what they want as fierce. Like my dancers. They want something, and they’re really dedicated, giving up their Saturdays to be here all day, working hard.”
“I have my permit” to drive, but “I’ve been so busy with dance, I haven’t taken the driver’s test for my license. I’m fortunate that my mom has the store here and drives here anyways. I’ve wanted a studio since the small one I went to in New York. So when the opportunity came with the storage upstairs, I jumped on it. Everything had to be painted. It was the color of drywall. There had never been paint on it. I spent an entire day vacuuming in between these cracks” of the hardwood floor.
A team that included her parents, her boyfriend, both of her brothers, best friend Logan Warsko of Dowagiac and her brother transformed the space into a dance studio in a week and half.
“We pulled it together quick because if we spent a month on it, my kids weren’t going to be able to go to competition,” Gabrielle said. “If we place in regional competition, we can go to nationals in Vegas, Ohio and Panama City.”
“I still dance myself,” she said.
She also does choreography.
“In March, we have choreographer Charles Lawrence coming for two days that’s open to the public. He’s going to choreograph one of my solos so I can compete along with my kids, including a duo with Logan.”
Gabrielle said her mother put her into dance because “she needed something to separate me from her to slowly ease me into being ready to go to kindergarten. The studio was called Off Broadway and my teacher’s name was Ellen. My class was at lunchtime. I immediately loved it. I only did ballet. Today, I love hip-hop and jazz and upbeat music. When I got older, I progressed into jazz, tap and lyrical. I got into hip-hop in Alabama because it was really big in the South. In seventh grade, we were Georgia state champions,” competing in a tri-state area which also included Tennessee.
“I don’t get a weekend because during the week I’m making up dances and in my basement trying to figure out things my girls can do. If they have questions, they write me a little message on Facebook. I’m on top of my school work. This is what I want to do.”
Fierce Dance Academy plans several fundraisers to assist with travel and costumes.
• A pancake breakfast at Dowagiac Moose on M-51 North from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 28 for $6
• Truffles for Valentine’s Day (three in a box for $5), order by Feb. 4 at Red Raven, when there will be a bake sale
• A port-a-pit barbecue Feb. 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Red Raven, with half a chicken or a pulled pork sandwich for $9.