Our Story – Part II

Upon arriving in Augusta in 1991, Emilie began teaching International Latin at Augusta Ballroom where she let them know that she planned to open a ballroom dance studio herself soon. It was not long until she met Teena Marie who had recently moved to Augusta, too. Emilie and Teena shared a vision of opening a ballroom dance studio.

After several months had passed, they decided to move forward with their dream. As luck would have it, the Augusta Ballet School had a space they were not using at Le Pavilion in Martinez. So, with no significant overhead, The Ballroom Dance Center was born with Emilie’s kitchen table becoming their office space.

Emilie had a truly diverse resume which included her dance and theatre background and over 10 years as a college administrator managing educational programs. Teena had a strong dance background, since she had grown up in a dance family which ran and taught at Arthur Murray Dance Studios. With their shared passion for dance, they set out on their mission to touch the lives of everyone who entered The Ballroom Dance Center with the joy of dance.

To dance, you need a dance partner. Their first dance partners were Peter Powlus, the choreographer at the time for the Augusta Ballet, and Jaime Burcham, a dancer with the Augusta Ballet and a comic actor.

Shows and dance parties have always been a part of the studio. However, since the size of the studio at Le Pavilion was about the size of the small ballroom at the current location, the shows were done at local hotels, and dance parties were held at the YMCA and the American Legion.

Over time tenants at a property can change, and sometimes it is not for the better. When this began to happen at Le Pavilion, it was seen as the perfect opportunity to take the studio to the next level and to take more control over their future.  After talking to a financial advisor, the wheels were set in motion. Emilie secured an SBA loan and a commercial loan. Construction of the current studio began in 1998, with Emilie spending the next year overseeing the construction of the 5,000-square-foot studio. At this point, the second chapter in the history of The Ballroom Dance Center began to unfold. With added space, shows and dance parties were able to be held in house.

Emilie and Teena enjoyed almost ten great years of working together, but after a time, their professional goals began to go in different directions. With that, they went their separate ways. This would begin the third chapter in the history of the studio.

Also, during this time, Emilie began to attend a church in Augusta where she met authentic Christians who really lived a life of integrity, peace, excellence, and strength. Over the next season of The Ballroom Dance Center, Emilie began to see the hand of God in the studio’s success and excellence. She had been providentially blessed; all the pieces of her professional history were building toward a new goal and center. Her desire to achieve excellence in dance and customer service took on a deeper meaning with the end goal being to glorify God.

During this time, Emilie and Val Ganiev began competing professionally in the United States 9-Dance Division. They competed for seven years and were finalists in this division. Emilie also toured the United States, Argentina, and Brazil as a professional Argentine Tango dancer with Washington-based QuinTango with Harby Gonzalez, her professional Argentine Tango dance partner.

Excellence in dance while having fun has always been the goal of The Ballroom Dance Center. Emilie is passionate about all teachers becoming certified by a nationally recognized association. The ideal teacher in Emilie’s eyes is one who is enthusiastic about lifelong learning and can evolve with students, giving them excellent value for their investment of time, money, and hard work. Altogether, the teachers at The Ballroom Dance Center have 85 years of teaching experience and multiple certifications!

Over the last 20 years, the quality and scope of our original, Broadway-style theatrical productions have grown exponentially. Drawing on her lifelong love of history, humanities, and theatre, Emilie writes and directs the shows at The Ballroom Dance Center. With her unique background and skill set, she uses these talents to present ballroom shows that transcend a routine dance recital. These shows tell a story that can bring the audience from laughter to tears to everything in between during the same show. In recent years she has partnered with Tina and Alan Kendall who have brought considerable talent to the shows through writing, directing, and set design and construction.

A little over 10 years ago the Augusta Dance Challenge became a reality. It is a one-day pro-am competition-like event where judges write positive and constructive feedback on each student’s dancing. We now have ten studios from the Southeast that bring their students to this event.

Dance cruises have also been a fun thing to share with our dance family. The most recent cruise was in 2020 before the pandemic hit, which created a different type of challenge for the studio. We had to reimagine everything we did during this time. There were six weeks when not a single lesson was taught. We went from hugging and kissing to face masks and elbow bumps in a matter of days. We also started using Zoom lessons, which have proven to be a valuable teaching tool even now.

Joe, Emilie’s husband, was patient throughout the process of her starting the studio. He was her silent partner for 30 years, offering his support for her doing whatever she needed to do to run the studio. As everyone knows, when you have a dance studio, you do not exactly have normal hours. Joe’s patience, sense of humor, and gentle spirit were crucial to the studio’s success.

In recent years, both Joe and Emilie battled cancer with his death in the fall of 2021. Emilie experienced an amazing recovery after a year of chemo, radiation, surgery, and targeted treatments.

Over the years we have seen a small teaching staff and a large teaching staff, each size being perfect for the distinct phase of the studio. We have had amazing and talented teachers in each chapter of our story, with each one bringing their own teaching strengths to the studio. After 30 years, the studio and Emilie are still going strong. She sees herself as always teaching and dancing.

When asked what is next for The Ballroom Dance Center, she suspects God’s blessing, provision, and glory will continue to be expressed in the coming season. She also suspects that her worship dance team, the Glory Dancers, will be prominently featured. Stay tuned!