Today we’d like to introduce you to Traci Greene.
Traci, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I began my dance training in Chicago, Illinois under the direction of Ballet Master Elizabeth Boitsov, of the Bolshoi Ballet. I continued my dance training at Whitney Young Magnet High School and was awarded an NAACP Act-So award for dance. My passion for dance continued through college where I was captain and choreographer of the Southern University Dancing Dolls and received a State Farm Miss Bayou Classic Presidential Scholarship. After college, I pursued my professional dance career in California and eventually New York City. There, I studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy where I received numerous awards in the areas of acting and dance before landing her my first International Broadway tour of a West Side Story. On tour, I was appointed the position of female dance captain by Tony Award-winning Broadway choreographer/director, Joey McKneely.
In 2007, I rejoined the cast of a West Side Story through special invitation in Paris, France in for its 50th Anniversary tour. I’m also proud to say that before moving to Houston, I’d danced professionally for many notable choreographers who shaped my career, including the acclaimed Broadway choreographer Donald Byrd, on the musical workshop of “The Color Purple on Broadway;” which was later produced by Oprah Winfrey. I continued to train, teach, and choreograph throughout the U.S. before settling down in Houston, Texas where I was employed as a full time dance teacher, for seven years, at two H.I.S.D elementary schools before finally opening The Houston Dance Lab in 2010.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t been easy getting to this point. When I opened my studio, I was newly engaged and had just accepted a new job as a full-time dancer teacher at Poe Elementary. It was difficult trying to balance the change in my domestic life, a promising new business, and maintaining the standards I’d set for myself personally and professionally. And, as if that wasn’t enough, somewhere in the interim, I thought it would be a great idea to start a 501c3 non-profit organization, the Lab Performing Arts Initiative, for under-served youth who wish to study dance. Yes…I am that over-achiever.
After three years, I realized that I couldn’t find the balance necessary to do it all successfully. I was truly running myself to the ground and felt that I couldn’t give my best to every venture that I was committed to. I, sadly, decided to resign from Poe Elementary to dedicate more time to my growing business and to my family. I started out with fifteen beginning level dancers when I opened the doors to The Houston Dance Lab. Now, we have grown into a studio that has dancers of varying skills sets and ages who dance competitively or take classes recreationally.
There are, also, the day to day or yearly challenges that every dance studio owner experiences that continue to challenge yet strengthen me. I remember the times when I thought of giving up and closing the doors. I thought that maybe I wasn’t built for this tumultuous and unpredictable business; that maybe it wasn’t worth the personal sacrifices that I’d been making. However, each year I look at our students and I can’t help but continue. They have grown from shy little young girls and boys (many of them with no dance training) into confident, assertive, responsible, and highly-trained young people. Each year, they mature technically and they willingly accept new challenges that my staff and I introduce to them. I am constantly teaching the benefits of being tenacious and resilient to my students and they continue to push through the disappointments and challenges. I realized that I couldn’t teach those lessons and not follow them myself. If I am going to lead by example, then giving up just isn’t an option.
So, it’s been worth it. My greatest pleasure is witnessing the joy that these young people have when they leave the stage. I remember that invigorating feeling. To know that, my staff and I, are even partly responsible for their happiness, has encouraged me to push through the minor obstacles that come my way. However, I definitely could do without some of the drama! Hahahahahaha!
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Houston Dance Lab – what should we know?
We teach classical ballet, jazz, tap, modern, contemporary, and hip-hop to dancers between the ages of 4 and 17. We accept children who are new to dance as well as advanced level dancers. Ninety percent of our students are in our award winning competition team program. We compete yearly in the spring and have won numerous judges choice and people’s choice honors, studio recognition awards, competition routine awards.
Our studio’s mission has always been to create well- rounded dancers. I discovered, while auditioning all over the country, when I was a professional dancer that being a well-rounded dancer was essential. There are so many amazing dancers out there. I quickly learned that a dancer could attend an audition for a tap musical and be asked to do a grand jete’. Or attend a contemporary audition and be asked to do a time step, burst into song, or demonstrate a double tuck! I know, it’s funny but…all too real. There are so many outstanding dancers out there. When the decision is difficult to make, directors may choose to eliminate you by seeing how well-rounded you are.
To be able to compete, it’s essential that our young people are well-trained and prepared for any level of competition. Our program is structured so that our students learn various techniques in numerous dance genres. I’ve learned that studying multiple disciplines has empowered our dancers. They can confidently walk into any audition and feel prepared.
I am proud of our student’s growth each year and our staff’s ability to develop young promising dancers quickly. I’m always complimented on how quickly we train our dancers in such a short amount of time. This has a lot to so with the individualized training, nurturing, and discipline that we have and the structure of our program.
In ten months, you will see a child who has walked through our doors with little to no dance training blend in with dancers who have studied for years.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
That’s a hard one. It’s difficult to narrow down to just one quality but I would say (in my experience) having vision, passion, and tenacity is essential. I am in a creative field, so having a vision is half the battle. You have to be “visionary” to create, to lead, to collaborate, and to develop a plan of action to achieve what you envision. Once you have the vison, you must have the passion for what you have envisioned and the tenacity to see it through to its completion.
- Monthly class tuition starts at $80 per month
- Address: 3939 Hillcroft Suite 160
- Website: www.houstondancelab.com
- Phone: 713.320.5121
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org