I hear that a lot. A student (and sometimes a parent) will ask “Miss Teri, how did you start In Sync?” or they will say “It’s so cool that your dream came true”… Well… Let’s talk. Owning my own dance studio was never my dream. I was not a dancer who loved to dance, found a spot, ordered a sign and hoped that children would sign up. Nope. That’s not what happened.
As time goes on, I realize, the children and families we have at In Sync really don’t know my story at all. Time passes so quickly. I forget that these are entirely new families with no real connection to who I am or my journey. SO here goes…
I was not a childhood dancer. I took one season of ballet and tap when I was in kindergarten. (I have the photo of the lime green costume with silver sprayed tap shoes to prove it!) My only real memory of that class was my teacher trying out new line leaders to make the class circle during the recital routine – she yelled at me and told me I would never be a good leader – and then gave the line leader job to someone else. Needless to say, that young dance experience was less than inspirational. I didn’t take a dance class again until my junior year of high school! A school friend begged me to come and watch her class, so I did. And the rest is history…
Until that fateful day in my junior year, I was a gymnast and a cheerleader. I loved moving, tumbling, singing, and dancing. Even though I was cut from the youth pop warner cheer team for being “too small” (hehe), I tried out again the following year and finally made it. I went on to cheer in high school and was the captain and choreographer for that team. There wasn’t a dance team at my high school back in the 80’s! Still no dance classes….
Finally my friend (Evette, wherever you are, Thank You!) convinced me to go to class with her at her studio and I did. I loved it and was immediately hooked. That studio took me in and I went right into their advanced classes. I was so used to choreographing for cheer teams that I moved along quickly and before I knew it, I was teaching at that studio.
I think I was there every day, helping, learning, teaching, making friends, traveling to regional and national competitions, performing. I had found a dance family.
Now, I have always been a hard worker. My dad brought me to get my “working papers” when I was 14 and I started working right away. I had many jobs. I worked in a bakery opening and closing, working on holidays, baking and selling. I took writing on a birthday cake very seriously! I cold called homes selling newspaper delivery. I worked at the Hallmark store creating displays for gift items and greeting cards. And I babysat any chance I could get. I saved and saved and saved my money.
When I graduation high school, I was torn about what to do. By that time, I loved dancing but I didn’t have enough experience to go to a conservatory. A dance career was too risky and I really liked a stable job. What I did love was children. I loved making them smile. I loved nurturing them. I loved the idea that I could maybe help children as a career. So I decided to follow that path and get a Child Psychology degree. Which I did.
From 1989-1996 I filled my life with experience. I danced all through college. I danced in my college dance company and eventually declared a dance minor. I continued to teach dance all through college as well – at one point I had 7 different teaching jobs and was still in school full time! I went back to my high school and took over their newly founded dance team and continued to teach there for many many years. I continued to teach at my home town studio. I coached the cheer team at Curry College. I coached the dance team at Harvard University. I ran a dance program at a gymnastics school in Scituate. I was a regional dance teacher for Kinderdance and went into over a dozen local day cares and preschools every week. I taught dance in so many local after school programs that I can’t even count! I eventually auditioned for Universal Dance Association and after one year of not making the cut, I finally made it onto their national staff of teachers as well. I spent 7 years traveling the world teaching dance camps, performing, events, competitions, workshops and mentoring coaches with UDA. My experience glass was full and somehow… that child psychology thing never really manifested…in the traditional way…
As a dance team coach, I ran a lot of fundraisers. One of our most successful was “A Day with the Dance Team”. We invited local children to come and spend the day with the high school dancers. We taught them routines and had fun all day and then we all performed together at the football game that night. This was successful for a few years in a row. Parents would always ask if they could do more… so I decided to create a mini dance team. I created the In Sync Dance Team. I stayed up for many evenings creating a logo (at the 24 hour Kinkos) and coming up with a plan. I rented the aerobics studio at a local gym and we would practice with the In Sync Dance Team on Sunday mornings when there were no aerobics classes scheduled. Eventually, there were too many kids signed up, so we added another. And then another. And then another. And In Sync Dance Company was born!
Parents would say that they were finally having FUN in dance class. I was focused on building these kids up to be good people full of self esteem and confidence. I was really doing my child psychology work through my dance classes. My mission was still the same – the delivery was different.
Later that year, another local coach heard of my success and approached me at a dance team competition. She had a small dance school in Milton but wanted to sell it and move away. My naive dance-loving self said “Sure!” After much hustle and stopping short of begging a dozen banks for a loan, I started In Sync Dance Company in Milton. There is another novel I could write about the transition from old studio to In Sync…but that’s another topic for another time.
The night before my big grand opening in Milton, I was out with my friends (hey, I was 26 years old!) and I met my husband, Paul.
So here I am, 26 years old running a studio in Weymouth and Milton, still working a million jobs to make ends meet, traveling, choreographing and teaching all over creation. At one point I took an over night job processing stocks in a bank from midnight to daybreak, I would literally nap in my car and then go to the studio to teach. I was hustling, people!
I taught every class and loved every child. I never in a million years thought this would be where I ended up but here I was. A series of circumstances and situations that brought me to this place. Pretty remarkable. I knew I loved children and I knew this was one way for me to reach them – maybe even change their lives. This might actually work.
Paul and I got married in 2001 and we knew we wanted to be parents. I had spent so much time with families and children – I knew what I wanted! Phew…what a rollercoaster ride! After much waiting, we were finally blessed with my son, Jake, and then less than two years later with my second son, Nick. Nothing could have prepared me for parenthood. Nothing.
One thing that was obvious to me was that I could not keep working the way I was and be the mom I wanted to be. So I started hiring staff. I needed help! Good, loving, caring people who knew what was important to me – because I knew not all dance studios were the same. We were different and we needed the right people. So I surrounded myself with likeminded people and prepared for the ride of parenthood. (which I am still riding…sort of like the tea cups, sort of like the round up…some times like a river cruise but mostly a merry go round).
Now, I really started to change my philosophy. Families are what matter. Connections between your children are what matter. Finding people who are good role models for your children are what matter. Because you know what? Life is hard and stressful and they need all of the help they can get. So I started to really focus on giving families what they need. Again, the original mission is the same and the delivery is different.
Eventually, people were drawn to that. I could feel it. Everyone could feel it. Transformations in our students were obvious. We outgrew our two studios in 2009 and merged both studios into our Quincy studio. And here we are.
And I am still hustling – working to make In Sync Center of the Arts a second home for all of our families – working to be a great mom to my boys – working to mentor other studio owners to find the path that works for them – working to stay creative and business savvy in a world that wants to pull you in different directions by the minute!
I love sharing my story. I love talking to young people about following their dreams and also listening to what the universe is telling you to do. I love being surrounded by little people expressing their feelings inside my studio. I love providing a good livelihood for other artists and teachers who share my mission. I love watching our families come through our doors and sit in our waiting room laughing, chatting, hugging, reading, working, just sharing our space. I love knowing that on hundreds of family calendars someone wrote “class at InSync” and is taking the time to visit us. I love watching friendships develop and survive for years. I love nurturing young people for years and then watching them grow wings and fly off to live their lives. I love it all.
That’s my story…in a nutshell. That is my version of the answer to “Miss Teri, How did you start?”
I think it’s important for all of us to remember our stories. It connects us to the “Why?” of today. Right now…I have 20 minutes to get to school to pick up Nick. I am putting away work for a while to go and do what I ultimately love to be – MOM.