Gotta Dance making all the right moves: Thriving Redmond studio to kick off 20th season

Redmond’s Gotta Dance begins its 20th anniversary season on Sept. 2, offering ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical and hip-hop classes for ages 2 to adults. Formerly located on Redmond Way, Gotta Dance moved into its present, 12,000-square-foot facility at 17945 NE 65th St. seven years ago and serves more than 700 students. Not even the Great Recession has diminished the popularity of its programs, according to owners Mari Ann Lawler and Maggie Mitchell-Wagner.

Guest world-renowned choreographer Alex Little

Redmond’s Gotta Dance begins its 20th anniversary season on Sept. 2, offering ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical and hip-hop classes for ages 2 to adults.

Formerly located on Redmond Way, Gotta Dance moved into its present, 12,000-square-foot facility at 17945 NE 65th St. seven years ago and serves more than 700 students. Not even the Great Recession has diminished the popularity of its programs, according to owners Mari Ann Lawler and Maggie Mitchell-Wagner.

They attribute their success to good relationships with clients, word-of-mouth referrals and being active in the community. Reality TV shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance” have also brought in students of all ages.

Ballet is the foundation for all dance training and remains ever-popular at Gotta Dance. But hip-hop and lyrical/contemporary styles are now huge, too.

“Hip-hop didn’t exist 20 years ago,” Mitchell-Wagner mused.

“It was break-dancing back then,” Lawler agreed.

Mitchell-Wagner noted, “We just had our first adult hip-hop class this year and they were really good. They competed this summer and won at Dance Magic in Seaside, Oregon.”

Younger students from Gotta Dance also took part in Dance Magic this summer and advanced students competed in the West Coast Dance Explosion at the Mirage in Las Vegas. Dance team members at Gotta Dance are “handpicked based on ability,” Lawler explained. And they often work with guest choreographers from Los Angeles.

But although there are 100 dancers on that performance team, “you can choose to be a great recreational dancer at Gotta Dance,” stressed office manager Gayle Leyde. “You can take just one class or more.”

With 16 instructors and a wide variety of classes, there are programs to suit students at all levels, focused on either one type of dance or combinations such as jazz/ballet or tap/ballet.

Many younger students sign up for Gotta Dance camps in the summer to get a sampler, Leyde commented.

“And students can use make-ups, if they were sick or on vacation, to try other forms of dance,” Leyde added.

Within the past year, Gotta Dance has seen a big influx of male students.

Part of that surge was due to “Musical Theatre” dance workshops that were offered to teens auditioning for last fall’s production of “Pippin” at Redmond High School. Those were so well-received that they’ve become a regular part of the curriculum at Gotta Dance.

Whether students are passionate about performing arts or involved purely for recreation, “dance promotes physical and emotional growth and self-confidence,” Mitchell-Wagner stated. She said that maybe 1-3 percent of Gotta Dance graduates go on to the professional level but many continue to take dance classes in college and beyond, to reap the benefits of exercise, stress reduction and social interaction.

In addition to holding recitals at Redmond High School and Eastlake High School, Gotta Dance gives students other opportunities to perform in the community and provide service to the community.

Gotta Dance students have performed at benefits for Women’s Funding Alliance and Northwest Harvest and they contribute to programs like “Giving from the Heart,” collecting Christmas gifts for people in need.

“Every May, we do a specialty show with solos, duos or trios, for a charity that is connected to us,” said Mitchell-Wagner. This year, it was a fundraiser for a student diagnosed with a medical condition called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

To learn more about Gotta Dance, visit the Web site, www.gttadance.com or call (425) 861-5454.

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