All the right moves
Lucy McLemore, The Dance Gallery 2
The last stoplight on the road to The Dance Gallery 2 stands between a cow pasture and some ranch land. If that doesn't seem like the typical studio location, that's because owner Lucy McLemore—known to most as Miss Lucy—isn't a typical dance teacher. “Once a passion, always a passion,” said McLemore. The view from McLemore's new studio, which sits on her sprawling rural property in Roseville, includes her home and garage—the latter which originally housed her school. McLemore first started teaching neighborhood kids out of her parents' garage when she was 14 and eventually discoed her way onto a cruise ship in the early '80s after winning an episode of Dance Fever. After marrying and having two children, the dancer decided to stay put and open a studio. McLemore, who also produces shows for Dance the Magic, a Disney-owned company, chatted with SN&R about dance moms, chewing gum and why her son is her biggest inspiration.
Is it tough working with parents?
Mmm hmm, I'll just say yes [laughs]. We're lucky though, because I do believe that when someone's meeting us for the first time and getting a feel for it, they either fit in to our family or they don't. It's nice because we sort of attract the same. Good community people, and if that's the kind of person coming through our doors, they do just fine.
Any crazy “dance mom” stories?
[No], since we don't, at this school, do competition—even though self-competition is encouraged—we want our students to push themselves, of course. We are pretty much all for one and one for all. We are for big productions, and including everyone equally. So we can have some dancers that aren't perfect or don't have the perfect dance figure, but we want everyone to have a chance to be in the front.
Focus of your studio?
Two of our most popular classes are our adult jazz fusion and adult tap classes. But we have children here from starting at 3 years old to high school age. We [also] have a student teacher program, where they can start at 13 as an assistant. We've incorporated it with the local high school's community service program. … I like that our kids can appreciate what they have and also give back to the community. I think that's really important to keep that ball rolling and it's just a really good healthy environment. That's what we are creating—more than just dance—and that's the advice we give to our adults, too. … We're not a competition studio but we give our students great opportunities.
[We have] a nonprofit organization, called the Dance Gallery 2 Parent Association. [Its members] couple with our student teachers and fundraise, so our student teachers can have wonderful experiences. For example we took a handful of student teachers to Florida to dance with the Newsies [cast] from Broadway, in [Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade on ABC]. I work for … Dance the Magic, a company Disney hires to come in and make programs for students of dance to get a taste of what a professional venue is like [by being] a cast member for a day.
Who’s your typical student?
It's mostly kids from the community and their parents. The [parents] love doing it. A group of adults from our jazz fusion class danced in the summer parade at Disneyland, along with some of our student teachers. You know there isn't really anywhere for them to go, if you've had dance training and you don't want to just got to the gym and do an aerobics class, you want something different. And if you're a dancer at heart you want a place to perform, so we provide that opportunity.
Student pet peeve?
I cannot stand if they are chewing gum. I don't want it in the studio, even the parents. I'll come to the front [viewing area] and say if anyone's chewing gum, and I'll see them [parents] start swallowing their gum.
Are you a fan of any of those TV dancing competition shows?
I would love to be able to watch them but … I don't get the chance. But they are all entertaining and they are all good … for our business because they are showing dance in a way that everyone can do it, not just the highly professional and that's what we believe. Anyone can have the dance experience no matter if you are good or not. My son, [who] is autistic, he wasn't the best dancer, but had so much passion for it and his mindset was, “OK, I'm going to the left, and 12 people are going to the right, how can 12 people get it wrong.” What he saw in the mirror was a professional, wonderful dancer and I think I learned it from him, more than from any class I've taken. … I learned more from my son's attitude about dance than anywhere else.
How did that influence you?
That's when I stopped doing competition. When I saw a young man with such a passion. He was the first one in the class, first one ready to go, the last one to leave, always helping out, helping the little ones tie their shoes to get ready for tap. I said, “This is what dance is doing for him. This is what I need to be doing for other people.” Not just share dance, but share this experience. My son inspires me, [he's] really how we became what we have become.