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Carolina Dance Academy celebrates 15 years

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Prayers, a passion for dancing, and an old Chevy is what the owner of Carolina Dance Academy, Dixie Elliott, attributes to the success of her dance studio. Fifteen years ago, her husband lost his job and they found themselves struggling to provide for their family. Elliott was working one day each week as a dance instructor, and she was pregnant with their fourth child, when her husband suggested selling his late-father’s 1976 Chevrolet Corvette so she could open her own dance studio. 

“I knew to the penny what I needed to open the studio. I had already talked to someone about renting a one-room space, but the floors needed to be redone, ballet bars needed to be installed, and mirrors needed to be hung,” Elliott said.

Elliott gave herself a deadline of July 1st because she knew that a successful studio should have students registered when school started. An offer of $13,000 came in for the car, but her husband turned the offer down hoping to get more. Elliott said her heart sunk because that would have been more than enough money; she only needed $9,000. She woke up July 1st and could not put her feet on the floor. 

“I literally rolled myself out of the bed July 1st and hit my knees to pray and cry out to God because my deadline had come and I didn’t know what we were going to do,” Elliott remembered.

She prepared herself to give the owner of the building his key back at 5pm that day. Right before time to go, Elliott’s husband called with the news that he had accepted an offer of $8,995 for the old Chevy. 

“God will always give you what you need,” she said laughing, “not always what you want.”

That began the fifteen-year legacy of Carolina Dance Academy in Manning, SC. After a failed attempt at building a website, using a Chinese restaurant’s template and listing the entire Chinese cuisine menu on her registration page, Elliott started the first year with 75 students. Since then, her group has grown to 212 students with a two-room studio, full gymnastics gym, and lobby to boast the trophies from competitions won. 

Elliott prides herself on being a person who builds relationships with her students and encourages them in all areas of life. The dance studio Elliott grew up in was her “safe place” during her parents’ divorce and she knows what it means to provide a similar space for others. 

“It’s heartbreaking what our young people are carrying. There’s so much pressure with academics, home life, self-esteem, girls who think they’re ‘too big’ or girls who think they’re ‘too small.’ There’s so much pressure to be perfect,” said Elliott.

Each year at the studio starts the same way for the older students. They write everything weighing on them on a piece of paper. Sometimes the students share what they have written, but sometimes they keep it to themselves. Elliott then instructs them to “take out the trash.” They ball up those papers and throw it all away. This exercise has opened a line of communication between her and the students, which allows them to build a special bond. The students also recognize bigger issues through this exercise and choose different organizations throughout the year to give to. They participate in Feed My Starving Children, they pick up trash in Clarendon County, and the refill the Blessing Box located in the heart of Manning. 

“Doing good for others makes you feel good about yourself,” Elliott said. “I’m more interested in raising good humans than raising good dancers, but I really do have great dancers!”

Carolina Dance Academy just celebrated their 15th Anniversary and Elliott said she is excited to see what happens with the studio. She has worked hard and had a lot of faith to build the program she has, and she does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. Registration is going on now for the coming dance season, which coincides with the school year. If you are interested in registering, please stop by the studio or visit their website; it now offers a “menu” of classes instead of Chinese cuisine!

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