(Michelle Felter, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Melissa Seiler wants her studio to be a sort of home away from home for students. She envisions it to be a place they can be comfortable, learn something new, and be proud of themselves for their talents.
"I want to the studio to be a place where kids don't have any worries. I expect the kids to treat each other with respect and courtesy, so they don't have to worry about peer pressure or being mistreated by others while they are here," said Seiler. "They can leave all their cares at the door before they come in and enjoy themselves during their time here."
(Michelle Felter, Staff)
Seiler purchased the school from Simmons in 2001. In August, Seiler renamed the studio, to better reflect her vision for the studio's direction.
"I just want to expand it because my degree is in performing arts, and I can teach a little more of everything else," Seiler said. She plans to add music classes -- vocal and instrumental-- in addition to acting classes and other courses that involve theater experience.
Seiler said she is in the process of looking for other instructors and is open to any ideas. "We're looking for a little bit of everything," she said.
However, she's going to be quite selective of the staff.
"When you love something as much as I love my business, it's hard to trust it with just anybody," said Seiler. "Especially when there are children involved, you want to work with the best."
She envisions making the studio a bit of a one-stop-shop to learn all kinds of fine arts skills. That's not only because Seiler sees the need to give children that opportunity, but also to prepare them.
"For my degree, I had to take acting classes, perform in shows, do set design and more," said Seiler. "I had nothing to go on when I went to college and kind of had to learn as I went along."
But even if someone doesn't wish to pursue performing arts as she did, the classes can still be helpful. "At SEMO, if you are in any athletic department, you have to take a dance class," she said. "Just for the balance and gracefulness you get."
In the seven years Seiler has owned the studio, she's worked to get boys more involved. Last year, she had an all-boys class for the first time.
"We do things to where they are learning ballet, but they don't know it, because they're doing exercises with weights," she said. "Boys have a different kind of muscular ability that girls don't have."
And when the boys perform, she makes sure to find routines that aren't "girly," such as "Sharp-Dressed Man," "Hit the Road, Jack," and "Bad to the Bone."
Several adult classes are also offered. And, Seiler has also added an element of competition to the dance school, with Melissa's Dance Diva's, a competitive dance team.
While bringing new areas of arts to the school, Seiler said she is looking to collaborate with other community groups, especially the Little Theatre. In fact, that was one thing that gave her the idea to add a theater and acting section to the studio.
"I was eating at Susie's one day, and I overheard people at another table saying (the Little Theatre) can find actors, singers and dancers, but it's hard to find anyone that can do it all," Seiler recalled. "It would be nice to be able to teach all that in one place."
Seiler said she also wants to work with children with disabilities, both mental and physical. That will open doors for children who may not have the opportunity otherwise, or help some realize a talent of which they were unaware.
"You see it all the time," she said. "Children who lack in some areas excel in others."
The current staff includes Seiler; her sister, Melanie Alexander, who teaches preschool and pre-cheerleading classes; and Brandie Maddox, formerly of the Kansas City Ballet, who teaches several ballet classes at the school. Seiler's mother, Carolyn Belk, is the office manager.
The studio is located at 124 N. Kingshighway in Sikeston. Phone number is 472-4443, and the best hours to get in touch with staff are from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. A Web site is under construction and can be found at www.mspadance.com.