Dynamic Dancers Create Outstanding Program At Studio West Dance Academy



Studio West Dance Academy, under the passionate direction of Stephanie Wood and Mary Cecelia Zechmann, is keeping the beautiful art form of ballet alive and accessible to Olympia area dancers.

Stephanie and MC (an affectionate nickname) have created an impressive, enviable business partnership built equally on their love for dance and mutual respect for the other’s skill set.  It’s a marriage of business and passion that’s quite remarkable and often rare.

“We worked together as dance instructors and appreciated each other’s teaching styles,” describes Stephanie when talking about how the duo met.

Four summers ago, Studio West jumped into the dance scene opening in West Olympia.  In just a few short years, the dance academy has grown to over 600 students with 14 dance instructors and 4 administrative staff.

In the fall, Studio West will offer 90 classes.  Dancers from age two to seventy-two register for a wide variety of classes, including ballet, jazz, tap, modern and hip-hop.  The complete 2012-2013 class schedule can be found here.

The pair opts to cap class sizes to keep the number of students manageable for the instructor.  “This also ensures that the students are getting the attention that they need,” adds Stephanie.

While the rapid growth of Studio West may be surprising, Stephanie and MC were quick to note that they still personally know most of the parents.

“Our focus is to see kids grow up and improve.  Maybe a student chooses ballet as a career or opts to teach – whatever the path, we hope that they always stay connected to dancing,” summarizes MC.

Studio West fosters training by providing advanced students with the option of assistant teaching in beginner classes.

MC focuses her instruction on the youngest students, preparing kids for Stephanie’s  intermediate and advanced classes.  Complementing and balancing each other’s skill set is one explanation for the success of Studio West.

In addition, the pair is not afraid to take risks to advance the dance academy and the experience for their students.  “Stephanie was cruising online and found a complete, professional Nutcracker set including costumes for sale by the Nashville Ballet.  We chatted and opted to jump on the sale.  Most ballet studios spend 20 years piecing together a full set,” says MC when reminiscing about how their school has progressed quickly.

“We’re not afraid to take a risk because we believe so much in what we do,” adds Stephanie.

Now, Studio West is adding a pilates studio to complement ballet instruction.  Rachel Tudor and Valerie Van Horn-Cotey are instructors in the new Studio West Pilates Center located just down the hall from the dance studios.

“Pilates is hugely beneficial to dancers,” explains Rachel.  “It’s a beautiful marriage and integration for ballet students.”

“Any professional ballet school has its own pilates studio as part of its program.  It’s exciting to be able to offer pilates right down the hall,” adds Rachel who is both a Studio West dance teacher and pilates instructor.

Val comments that the pilates studio will also be open to adults interested in improving their athletic performance.  In the boutique space, the pair will be housing a full set of pilates apparatus for private and duet instruction.

The recently renovated space is comfortable and inviting.  The pair believes that the space should inspire both dancers and teachers.  A beautiful space, high quality dance instruction and a convenient location is what attracts parents and students alike.

The pair is passionate about dance and their business.  “Whether it’s sending an email to a parent, planning the class curriculum, or choreographing our next show, we love what we do,” explains MC with a huge smile.

“I love connecting with the kids and watching their growth,” describes Stephanie who has been instructing dance students for 14 years.

Studio West dancers offer four performances annually – Nutcracker in December (performed at The Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts), a spring full length ballet, end of the year All School Spring Showcase, and Dance to Make a Difference – a community event to raise money for charities local and abroad.

“Our dance academy has the perfect balance of professionalism and down-to-earth, high quality instructors.  Our teaching environment is stellar,” says MC.

“And, it’s because of our relationship,” says Stephanie about her path carved with MC.  “If we didn’t have mutual respect for each other, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

The young, vivacious women business owners have a flurry of daily tasks and activities to keep Studio West moving smoothly.  But, not even for a minute, do they forget their mission to share their love of dance.

“Our classes have old school discipline with a modern edge.  We expect a lot from our dancers, both on and off stage,” summarizes Stephanie and MC.

The pair sincerely loves the art of ballet.  It’s clear that dance is what defines Stephanie and MC’s lives.  But, it’s the joy of teaching others that brings it full circle.

Studio West Dance Academy

1025 Black Lake Blvd SW

Olympia, WA 98502



Studio West Pilates Center


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