Helping two toddlers in light pink leotards, senior Peyton Jones demonstrates a plié, bending her knees slowly while her arms hug the air before her.
“Are you ready, girls?” Jones asks in an energetic voice. “We’re going to do a grand plié where we go down really, really far.”
The two girls, barely old enough to form full sentences, giggle and imitate Jones’ actions, wobbling and working hard to maintain their balance. At the top of a curved staircase, two mothers chat and watch their daughters from a balcony overlooking the wooden dance floor.
Twinkle Toes, a ballet class designed for toddlers, is just one of the many classes Jones teaches at Relevé Studios. But she is not just the studio’s teacher—she is the studio’s owner too.
Having danced her entire life, Jones first thought about opening a dance studio during her freshman year at Augustana.
“When I started college, it was something I was interested in,” Jones said. “I’m a busybody and I like to be busy, so I thought, ‘I should do that. It will give me something to do that will be really fun.’”
Last March, the studio became a reality when Jones and her friend Emilie Kennedy, a student at USD and a lifelong dancer herself, founded Relevé Studios together (named after the ballet movement when a dancer rises to their toes). Before opening the studio, both women had spent the last few years coaching dance teams and gymnastics, as well as dancing for the Sioux Falls’ Skyforce.
“We both are the type to not sit around for very long. So it’s a way to be constantly learning while also being able to do something where you’re not sitting in class all the time,” Jones said. “It challenges your brain in a new way.”
Teaching five to six classes a night—three days a week—while juggling a separate part time job, on top of being a student and a business owner, Jones juggles a heavy schedule. But the long list of responsibilities does not seem to daunt her.
Sitting with perfect ballet posture behind the desk in her studio office, Jones said, “It’s not as hard as I thought it was going to be. There’s a lot of nights where we don’t get a lot of sleep, but that’s just kind of the way it is.”
Those around her say she is the determined and energetic type of person who can handle being both a student and business owner. Just ask one of her housemates, senior Shi Almont.
“She is very self motivated and driven,” Almont said. “When she has a plan in mind, she goes for it. Nothing will get in her way, just like the dance studio. She just came home one day and was like, “Guess what guys? I got a business license.”
Jones says one of the most challenging aspects of owning a business is constantly confirming that her studio is up to government standards.
“In my brain I thought, ‘Okay, I’m gonna walk into this one place and they’re gonna give me all this stuff I need,’” Jones said. “In reality, you have to go to twelve different places and nobody tells you what’s going on… Once you get done, it’s like ‘great, we got it’, but then somebody will come knocking on your door and be like, ‘by the way, you’re not licensed for this now’ and you’re like, ‘I didn’t even know that was a thing!”’
Since diving into the life of a business owner, Jones and Kennedy say their philosophy is to take everything day by day. Now, less than 365 days since they first founded Relevé Studios, the studio has already moved out of their original 1,000 square foot location to accommodate for growing class sizes.
Relevé is now in a 4,000 square foot building located on Minnesota Avenue, a few blocks east of Augustana. Jones and Kennedy spent an entire month renovating the studio, decorating, painting all the walls and laying the new wooden dance floor themselves.
“Once we got a week or two in, we were like ‘Are we ever going to sleep again?’” Jones said. ‘“Is this going to ever be finished?’ But then, I don’t even remember when it happened, but suddenly we were finished.”
The new location features four different levels painted with soft pink walls and white accents. Above the long mirrors surrounding the shiny, wooden dance floor are large blackboards in Victorian frames.
The studio offers ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop and lyrical dance classes for children through age 18. They also have punch card classes available for adults to pick and choose what days they can make it to the class.
Erik Kafka, a nontraditional student at Augustana, enrolled his five-year-old daughter in ballet lessons in January.
“She will come home and she will show us what she’s learned,” Kafka said. “She will show us things such as when I watched, I think they were working on plié and grand plié.”
Jones said one of the most rewarding moments since opening the studio has been working with a student who uses dance as a form of physical therapy after she lost half her body movement following a stroke.
“We’ve grown to have a really good relationship,” Jones said. “This is what it’s all about: having a mom at the end of the day who’s like, ‘I’m so grateful that you guys take the time to do this…’ That part is really rewarding just knowing that somebody at the end of the day is really honest and appreciative.”
Jones will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She plans to go to graduate school to earn a master’s in counseling.
As for the future of the studio, she said, “I would like to [continue running it], but we’ll see. You just have to take it day by day and see what happens because life happens, you know.”
For now, you can find Jones either in class or teaching pliés and relevés to her students.
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