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The City Journals

For 50 years, Shellie’s teaches self-confidence through dance

Jun 23, 2017 11:34AM ● By Greg James

Dancers of all ages perform on stage in front of family and friends as part of the spring concert for Shellie’s School of Dance. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James |  [email protected] 

Shellie’s School of Dance has served the West Valley community for 50 years. It’s instructors, students and founder celebrated recently by showcasing their talents.

“It started in my mom’s basement when I was still in high school. I pushed the couch back and charged kids 50 cents an hour. We purchased the current studio and made a few changes, but it is where the dancers go today. I am very grateful that I can still do this and to those that have supported me through the years,” Shellie Pearson told a packed auditorium at her end-of-year dance concert.

The studio, located at 4175 S. 5400 West in West Valley, has been serving young women for over 50 years. Shellie’s School of Dance recently hosted it 50th annual spring concert titled “Dancing through the Decades”.

Pearson currently employs eight teachers and teaches dance to approximately 250 students each week. The dancers range from 3-18 years old and at times, including this year, she has offered a ladies class for more mature dancers.

The eight instructors have an accumulated 161 years of teaching experience at the school.

“I have been teaching for 12 years with Shellie’s. I started dancing when I was three years old at her school. I found a sense of self-worth at dance. Not only dancing but teaching. As a student and a teacher it is a safe place for me. I can leave the world at the door and know that through dance I can be me,” Shayla Stone said. “Shellie has taught us that the girls’ self-confidence is her priority.”

Pearson asks her teachers to help each girl feel important.

“She told us in a meeting once, ‘We do not know what is going on in these girls’ lives. The hug they get today from teacher might be the only one they get this week.’ That has really stuck with me all of these years,” Stone said.

Pearson has made the dancers a priority, over choreography, money and costumes. She insists it remain a recreational dance school. The girls that have desire to learn more can audition for Jazz Attitude, the school’s performing team. They perform at senior centers, at the Dickens Festival and Festival of Trees. 

Its classes are held after school on weeknights. The dancers are separated by age and ability. The school’s mission statement says the dancers will learn technical and creative skills. They boast of teaching three generations of family members and many of their students have participated in junior high, high school and college dance, drill and cheerleading programs.

“Shellie has always encouraged the girls to do more. If they want to play softball or run track they can. We are flexible enough to allow them to dance too. Dance can be such a creative release for our girls,” Stone said.

This year’s spring dance concert included one unexpected moment. Several former dancers, instructors and parents broke out into a flash mob in the middle. Pearson was overwhelmed as she wandered the stage to give each participant a hug.

“I danced for 15 years, and I always wanted to do my best for Shellie, and I learned to always give it the best I can,” Shellie’s School graduate Bethany Taylor said.