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SPARK graduate opens dance studio downtown

Kaitlyn Rabach | Friday, August 30, 2013

In  September, Velvet Canada, a graduate of Saint Mary’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) fourth SPARK program in South Bend, will open her own dance studio named DanceHipology, WEI director Martha Smith said.

“Velvet was a student of our fourth session of SPARK,” Smith said. “She came to us with a lot of enthusiasm. From the very beginning it was obvious that she meant business, literally. She participated in all of the sessions and by the end of the program she had finished her business plan and was ready to go forth with her idea. Now, she is the first SPARK graduate to open a brick and mortar business.” 

The eleven-week program SPARK is modeled after a San Francisco non-profit called the Women’s Initiative, Smith said. Both programs include intense training sessions on topics such as marketing, break-even points, mission statements, business plans, stress management, networking, record-keeping and loan information.

“We learned about banking, met with bankers and realized it is not that hard to start a business,” Canada said. “I learned being an entrepreneur is really just time, effort and knowing the right people.” 

Canada, who graduated with a Bachelors of Arts from Notre Dame in 2009, said she developed a passion for ballroom dancing while attending the University and has now been dancing for seven years.

“I have been a professional dancer for three years now and I cannot wait to share my passion with the South Bend community,” Canada said. “I really just want to share this passion with others and get others to get out there, shake their booty and have fun.”

Canada said for the past two to three years she has had a dream of opening a dance studio, and in December she decided to make this dream a reality. To move forward, Canada applied for the SPARK program.

“My boss saw information about the SPARK program in the newspaper and thought I would be a great candidate,” Canada said. “Turns out I was and the program really lit a fire under what I wanted to do in terms of opening a business.”

She said she is tailoring her studio toward hip-hop and ballroom dancing, but has several goals for the studio.

“My goal is to have a kids group that can cultivate the culture of hip-hop and realize it is not a thug thing,” Canada said. “You can dance to hip-hop with classical music of the popular hits of today. I also want people to know ballroom dancing is not something that has to be danced … with stuffy symphony music. There are some cool songs you can dance [to for] ballroom.”

Though tailored to these two types of dancing, Canada said her studio will offer a variety of different classes.

“We are going to have all different types of classes,” Canada said. “If you want to learn moves that a motown back-up singer would have to know, we are going to have a class for that. We are also going to have Zumba and hip-hop workout classes for people of all ages. One of my teachers is trained in Tae Kwon Do and he will be teaching a Martial Arts dance class. There really will be a class for everyone.”

Having been mentored by the SPARK program, Canada said she is looking forward to giving back to South Bend community and paying her mentoring skills forward.

“I came to this city seven years ago and can honestly say I have fallen in love with South Bend,” Canada said. “This city has a lot of talent and I would love to help dancers in anyway possible. Whether that is helping anyone that has a goal of being a successful dancer or someone that would like to open her own studio, I would like to offer my skills and experience.”

Canada said she is thankful to the SPARK program for giving her the extra boost of confidence to start her own studio.

“I have recommended others to do the SPARK program and will continue to do so,” Canada said.

Smith said SPARK represents an organization of community members investing in women who will eventually give back to the greater South Bend community. 

“Thanks to the financial support of KeyBank, 1st Source Bank, PNC Bank, NIPSCO, The Pokagon Fund, the involvement of dedicated community facilitators and SCORE volunteers, SPARK continues to pioneer and meet the needs of women-related causes,” Smith said.

To learn more about Dancehipology you can visit www.dancehipology.com or call 574-400-5408 to sign up for fall classes. The studio is located in the Emporium Building at 121 South Niles Avenue.

Contact Kaitlyn Rabach at krabac01@saintmarys.edu