Today we’d like to introduce you to Shanna Kirkpatrick.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Shanna. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I open my studio in 2006 with humble beginnings. My church let me rent our gym and I had less than 20 students that first year with portable ballet barres and mirrors. I had to set up everything we needed each day and tear it all down at night but I was so thrilled to be doing what I loved! After two years we moved into a retail location and by the time we left that location we had 350 students. We built our current 10,000 square foot facility in 2013 and added a music program to our school in addition to expanding our dance programs. This year our staff of 15 will have the opportunity to serve over 800 music and dance students.
In addition to dance classes and music lessons, we offer a myriad of special services, programs, and opportunities including Darby’s Dancers (a free class for students with special needs), Chara Cares (meal delivery to our dance moms with a new baby), our Bravo Card program (local businesses honor our dancers’ dedication to the performing arts by giving them discounts on items and services), and free community classes like Wiggle Wednesdays!
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?
I have learned that when you do anything of meaning or value there will be mountain tops and valleys along the way. Most recently, like many businesses, Hurricane Harvey has been a struggle for our families, with 1 out of 3 homes in our area having being flooded. During that week, our staff worked diligently to try to care for those families and match families that wanted to help with families that needed help along with providing free childcare. Our classes were canceled for over a week so our team and families could reach out to our community and take care of what really matters, loving and serving others.
Please tell us about Chara Christian Dance Academy.
At Chara, we want to be known for giving our students and their families an experience like none other. Chara is the Greek word for “Joy” and our motto is “Experience the Joy of Dance and Music!” We offer our clients so much more than just music and dance lessons. We offer them peace of mind when it comes to costumes and song selections, positive role models who love their children and teach with integrity. We work to preserve the dignity of childhood with age-appropriate choreography.
Chara works to provide a place for every dancer, from the recreational student to the competitive dancer, the drill team hopeful to the future Dance Performance major, a place to grow in excellence and place where they feel loved, valued and accepted. In addition to classes in ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and contemporary we offer our low-key Performance Company to recreational dancers looking for a bit more. Dancers who are aspiring for excellence can audition for our Competitive Teams. We are also home to Friendswood Contemporary Ballet, a semi-professional dance company that works to expose students to the world of professional dance and broadens the scope of the performing arts in the Friendswood community.
One of the things I am most proud of is to be a small part of the fabric of the Friendswood community and be able to give back to it. My husband is a fifth-generation Friendswood-ian. His grandparents, Frank and Mary Brown, founded Friendswood in 1895 and he is associate pastor at the first church here, Friendswood Friends Church. My children attend Cline Elementary which is named after their great-grandfather who was a member of the school board and passionate about education. What a gift it is to be able to carry on their legacies by investing in both faith and education in our community.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Some of my favorite memories from childhood are being at my dance studio with my family growing up. I am the oldest of four girls who all danced and our mom was the office manager to help pay for classes and the many costumes that come with that. My dad was a Houston firefighter so dance was really a luxury for us. I am so thankful for the gift they gave me and the sacrifices they made to give us the experiences and training we received. My youngest sister, a drill team director in Katy, and I have both gone on to build careers because of those sacrifices.
What has been given to me is a large reason that my husband and I started a non-profit called Part of the Art this year. Chara Christian Dance Academy gives over $20,000 a year in scholarships and I know that financial constraints are a large factor for a lot of families which prevent children from being able to experience the joy of dance and music lessons. Part of the Art has broadened our giving base and enables children of public servants and single parent homes, foster children, and others with little financial power an opportunity to be, just like our name says, a part of the performing arts! Seeing Part of the Art dancers building the same great memories that I did growing up and being able to give back to children in my community has become my newest heart song as a business owner.
- Weekly Dance Classes start at $50 per month
- Address: 101 Hunters Lane
- Website: www.charadance.com and www.friendswoodcontemporaryballet.com
- Phone: 832-569-4065
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/charadancefwd
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/charadance
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/charadance
- Other: www.partoftheartfoundation.com